The Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria has been following developments on the #EndSARS protests in various parts of the country, with keen interest.
These agitations, which began as an online movement, saw our youths in large numbers moving to the streets to demand for end to police brutality, by terminating the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Police. The Federal Government responded by disbanding the SARS formation as requested by the protesters, with a promise to follow up with other steps for reform. Following the resolution of the National Economic Council (NEC), state governors have also began constituting judicial panels of Inquiry to probe reported cases of police brutality in their respective states.
While it is clearly condemnable for the security outfit of a State to engage in brutal violation of fundamental rights of its citizens, the Council as an Islamic organization does not agree with violent protests that have the potential impact of destabilisation of the polity, and creating civil strife as the best approach in seeking an end to the incessant violation and breach of fundamental rights.
Furthermore, it is our considered opinion that the #EndSARS protest will not necessarily translate in any fundamental changes in the police force, or bring an end to security violations of citizens’ rights. Rather, what is required is a complete overhaul of the Nigerian security architecture, to raise public confidence that the government is serious in addressing the myriad of security challenges to the lives of ordinary citizens.
The Council however notes that despite the government’s demonstrated commitment to address the concerns raised by the protesters, these protests continued unabated, in spite of calls for restraint by voices of reason, giving credence to the belief that there is more to the protests than ending police brutality.
It is unfortunate and disheartening that some individuals, including notable Christian clerics, rather than cautioning their followers and help contain the escalating violence, they instead aggravated it through their unguarded utterances. We strongly believe that those utterances, sometimes from the pulpit, helped in turning what was presented as a patriotic undertaking into a religious and regional conflict as we are witnessing now.
Armed mobs have attacked Muslims and their places of worship and businesses around the country in the name of #EndSARS protest. This was clearly seen in places such as Apo and Dutsen Alhaji in Abuja; Port Harcourt in Rivers State; Sabon Gari in Kano; Aba in Abia State and various locations in Lagos State, among other places. There were attacks on Muslim businesses in Jos, the Plateau State capital, including a branch of Jaiz Bank Plc, an Islamic bank. In Kano, many shops were looted and razed, including a newly opened Galaxy Mall on Igbo Road. In Lagos, prominent Muslims were attacked and their businesses torched. The Oba of Lagos had to be rescued out of his palace and the building looted and razed down. It is not difficult to see the motives of the mob.
We wish to state categorically:
- While we always preach and counsel our congregation on the importance of living in harmony, the Council wants to state categorically that we will no longer fold our arms to watch others taking monopoly of violence by attacking innocent citizens around the country.
We invite Nigerians and the international community to observe the deliberate and provocative attacks on security personnel and national assets. This is an act of economic sabotage and a clear invitation to anarchy by the so-called protesters and their sponsors, and the massive attack on Lagos businesses and infrastructure is a clear testimony to this.
We condole with the families of the deceased police officers and all other victims who lost their lives in the hands of the callous protesters. We condemn in strong terms the barbaric way in which some of these security personnel were killed for no offence other than serving their country.
Governments at all levels must take decisive steps to ensure cessation of the ongoing atrocities and bring to justice all those who have hands in the attacks on innocent citizens. Government must live up to its responsibility of safeguarding the lives and property of all citizens, wherever they may be.
All those who were affected should be adequately compensated, and killers of those who died must be brought to justice in an open and transparent manner.
The reforms for the Nigerian Police Force as announced by the government must be holistic, taking into cognizance the genuine concerns raised by Nigerians to ensure we have a police that meets citizens’ aspirations.
We further remind all that the primary responsibility of government as enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), is to ensure security and welfare of its citizens. Muslims have suffered more than any other group in Nigeria from the brunt of insecurity that had resulted in colossal loss of lives and property and economic deprivation, because of banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram insurgency. As the #EndSARS protests were raging, 20 people were murdered in cold blood by bandits in Zamfara State. This has made it pertinent for the government to use all possible means to end the incessant killings, and rise to her responsibility of securing the country in general, and the northern region in particular.
To the international community, we urge for restraint, impartiality and commitment to truth and fairness in taking positions on issues affecting Nigeria. We are deeply concerned about the one-sided positions often taken by Nigerian allies, such as the UK, US, Canada etc, without recourse to verifiable evidence.
It is the view of the Council that, we must all come back to our senses, and return to Allah SWT, seek His forgiveness from various sins perpetrated in our societies.
We call on Juma’ah Imams to urge their congregations in their Friday sermons to refrain from violence, lawlessness and civil disobedience, as well as educate the faithful that peace, security and stability of the polity are among the fundamental objectives of the Shari’ah.
Finally, we call on all Muslims to intensify prayers for peace, unity, security and harmony, and immediately start Qunut and other supplications in our Five Daily Prayers, seeking Allah’s intervention in the affairs of this country.
We pray Allah SWT will expose all evil plans and their perpetrators against this country and its interest.
Nafi’u Baba-Ahmad, mni