The Young African Women Congress (YAWC) Network Global Leadership has held a meeting to discuss the current crises in Nigeria. The global meeting which took place virtually via Zoom and lasted for two (2) hours saw the participation of the YAWC Network Council Chair, the Global President and Vice President of YAWC Network and the Chapter Executives of the various countries. The main issue discussed was the ENDSARS protest in Nigeria, the background, the facts and the way forward.
It has been widely reported, the shooting of some protesters of the #ENDSARS movement who were gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. The massacre has led to an outrage within and outside Nigeria. As part of the role of the YAWC Network to contribute to the development of the continent, the YAWC Network Council called for an emergency meeting to discuss the matters arising and give recommendations to all major stakeholders to take the necessary actions to help restore calm.
Giving the background to the protest, the President for YAWC Network Nigeria Chapter, Ms.Mary Ogundimu revealed that the demand by the Youth to disband the Special AntiRobbery Squad (SARS), a unit in the Police Force started with an announcement on the 2nd of October 2020, just a day after the nation’s Independence Day celebration. SARS was accused of excesses in the line of their duty which the citizenry was not happy about.
Governments initial response to the matter was the changing of the name SARS to SWAT – Special Weapon And Tactics Team (SWAT). Protesters who obviously were not pleased with government’s intervention kept on with the protests with a clear message to disband the
unit in totality. The protests remained peaceful until pockets of violence were recorded from some protest grounds. The massacre that took place on Tuesday 21st October 2020 at Lekki in Lagos was at its most heightened stage, leading to global outrage.
Discussing the matter and paying heed to facts and the legalities of the cases, the YAWC Network Leadership resolved that, the government truly needed to have an open and honest dialogue with the Youth involved in the protest. Even without a leader as has been reported, protesters could be engaged in a face to face approach through selected interim leaders, as well as through media communiques. In that same vein, the Youth in their best interest of bringing the matter to an end are expected to open up to dialogue with authorities and be willing to have consensus which is in the wider interest of Nigeria as a whole.
In the face of the dialogue, it would be prudent for government’s initial intervention of changing its name from SARS to SWAT be relooked at. While protesters also demand for total disbandment of the unit, obliterating its existence, and sending members home, a better option could perhaps be to repost the reoriented members of the SARS/SWAT into other security agencies. This however, must be done in a holistic manner, not leaving room for any form of brutality wherever they find themselves. Leaving a disbanded unit withculprits not having any job to do could amount to creating a more serious future problem as members of the disbanded group could find other dangerous means of operating against citizens.
The Young African Women Congress (YAWC) Network is the biggest movement of young women to address issues of women and development in Africa. The Network which is open to all young women within the age limits of 18-45 years seeks to empower women and set
them out as changemakers to influence change in their immediate environments with rippling effects on the continent. There are currently Chapters in 7 countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Kenya and Uganda.