By George Eze Emeghara
There have been mass protests by young Nigerians on the streets and the social media in the past two weeks. The unprecedented protest marches, which have gone on simultaneously in several locations both in Nigeria and abroad, have grabbed the attention of the world.
The protesters began by demanding that the Special Anti Robbery Squad ( SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force be scrapped. The unit has a terrible record of human rights abuses, extreme wickedness and impunity
Over the years its operatives have harassed, extorted and murdered thousands of Nigerians, many of them innocent. SARS has often been the accuser, the prosecutor, the judge, jury and executioner in its dealings with members of the public.
This impunity has caused SARS operatives to become very power drunk and callous, killing and maiming, and not being made to answer for their crimes.
It is these acts of impunity that have pushed the youths who are their main victims, to revolt against them. The Federal Government of Nigeria, shocked and frightened by the size and scope of the unprecedented protests quickly gave in, and declared that SARS had been scrapped.
A couple of days later, in a rather ill advised and thoughtless move the government announced the formation of another intervention unit named SWAT to replace SARS.
Apart from the issues they have with the name of the new unit which they said was plagiarised from America, the protesters believed that the name change was cosmetic and an empty gesture. They felt the government merely wanted to appease them and defuse tension so SARS could continue with their usual business under a new name.
The protesters had good cause to doubt the government’s sincerity.
Afterall since 2017, this same government had scrapped SARS four times following public outcries and nothing had changed.
They insisted that the new organisation be ” ended” as well.
As time went on they added other matters that should also be” ended” and a list of their demands have been submitted to the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.
There is no doubt that the government has been a huge disappointment.
The country is just not working for most of its citizens, especially the youths.
The rot, impunity, corruption and general disregard for the laws of the land displayed by members of SARS in particular, and in the police force, reflect what is happening in the Nigerian society.
Few are the Nigerians, including the protesting youths, who will not abuse the the privilege their position or job confers on them like the SARS men are doing.
Chances are that if most of the protesters are drafted to replace the policemen they are protesting against, things may not be different.
This is so because in their respective places of work or endeavour most Nigerians are exhibiting the same unsavoury, unpleasant, reprehensible and abominable conduct as the SARS men.
These have all contributed to dragging the country down to the level it finds itself today. No area or sphere of endeavour has been left unscathed or without blemish.
If you go to the market to buy a bag of rice, flour or cement which should weigh fifty kilograms from what is written on the bag, it can never weigh fifty kilograms.
The sellers open up the bags and remove some quantity and reseal or rebag the commodity.By the time they tamper with ten bags or so bags, they have and extra bag from short changing their customers.
Inferior or cheaper items are passed off as better made or more expensive ones, or mixed with the more expensive items, to increase profits and deceive people.
This practice of adulteration and short supplying occurs in almost every item sold in the country, sometimes with grave and fatal outcomes for members of the public.
From fuel, cooking gas, edible oils lubricants to perfumes, alcoholic drinks and medicines, there is hardly anything that is bought in this country that is not tampered with or short supplied.
The people who are selling them are Nigerians.
There is almost an epidemic of collapsing houses in the country currently. This is largely as a result of builders trying to cut corners and short change those who engaged them to build for them. In the process they substitute reinforcement or rods with cheaper ones of incomplete diameter and strength.They want to shortchange the person who gave them the job and make more money.
At the end the houses collapse and sometimes kill people.
The people moulding blocks want to use one tipper load of sand for one bag of cement to mould a hundred blocks per bag of cement when the standard should be thirty five blocks per bag.
The bankers won’t give loans without factoring in their personal interest or demands in addition to many other sharp and unwholesome practices that goes on in Nigerian banks.
Same goes for the holders of high office, civil servants and techocrats who won’t give any contract without factoring in what is coming to them or do anything unless they are induced to do so with bribes.
There are corrupt members of the judiciary, the police and other professionals. There are those who cook accounts, pad contracts and expenses.
There are hospitals that defraud their patients, collecting money for services not rendered or treatment not given. Some refuse to touch emergency cases unless they pay fat deposits.
There are those whose sole aim is to steal and cheat their employers. There are students who cheat in exams those who kill and maim fellow students in the name of cultism.
There are the lecturers and the university administrators who exploit the students sexually and financially, as well as mismanage or embezzle the funds meant for running the schools.
There are the fraudsters among the Yahoo boys.
There are the Pastors and priests who abuse the trust reposed in them by their flock in many ways. Then there are the arch criminals, kidnappers and armed robbers for who SARS was set up in the beginning.
One could go on and on, but to sum up, almost everyone in this country is up to one crooked racket or misdemeanor or the other in his or her area of endeavour.
What it indicates is that we are all SARS in one way or the other.
So, as we protest to end or close down a truly despicable outfit like SARS, we must also work to end or purge ourselves and our organisations or companies of all those nasty, terrible and wicked things we get up to in our respective little corners.
That is the only way we can build a nation which we all can be proud of.
George Eze Emeghara is a Nigerian journalist, writer and public affairs commentator based in the southeastern city of Owerri. Money Palaver is his weekly column for Nairaweb.ng.