Over the week, security aides attached to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila killed a newspaper vendor in Abuja. The unarmed vendor, Ifeanyichukwu Elechi, father to a two-week-old child, was part of the vendors selling newspapers at the Eagle Square.
Gbajabiamila’s initial explanation of the incident was that the security aide shot in the air to disperse the crowd of people milling around. The explanation did not seem plausible. But even if it was true, it signals a bigger problem in the country – the way Nigeria’s security officials deal with conflict resolution.
The use of maximum force by the aides to politicians is fast becoming a pattern in Nigeria. Crowds are known to throng after political leaders- whether in protest or exhortation. However, many a time, things go awry. Crowds become frenzied; things get out of hand. Subsequently, security aides have to find ways to disperse the crowd. Unfortunately, one of their methods of crowd dispersal is by shooting at unarmed people. Some of them claim that they only shoot in the air, and one wonders why they need to shoot at unarmed people at all in the first place.
During the #EndSARS protests, Lagos politician, Abiodun Bolarinwa went to address the crowd of protesters, but he was not allowed. Reacting to this, he shot in the air and at people from his car. Despite overwhelming evidence that this happened, the Nigerian Police Force is yet to charge him for any criminal activity as they claim that no one came to complain. Instead, the 20-year-old journalist who recorded the incident, Pelumi Onifade was arrested by the Lagos State Task Force. He was later found dead.
Also, in September 2019, some students showing their grievances at the lack of electricity in Oye Ekiti community took their protest to a community program being held by the First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi and were shot by some of her security aides.
Also, a police officer attached to Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, former Lawmaker and Chair of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission shot an unarmed teenager in an Abuja Beer parlour.
This is a pattern and it shows that there is a problem with the Nigerian Security system and the culture of aides wasting innocent lives in defence of their principal. It suggests that perhaps some lives are more precious than others. There is no reason why any security aide should shoot at unarmed people in the name of defending a political leader. Shooting is maximum force; it suggests that the people being shot at are expendable.
Another factor that perpetuates this system is the fact that no one gets punished for these crimes. Too many people have gotten away with heinous crimes, and if they are not punished, this unfortunate pattern will continue. This crowd dispersal method is dangerous, and it shows that Nigeria has a culture of violence.
The violent crowd dispersal method being used by security aides of politicians is backed by power and impunity; it follows the same ubiquitous pattern. This method needs to be abolished across board and it has to start with politicians taking responsibility for the actions of their aides and not shielding errant aides.
“Ayọ̀délé Ìbíyẹmí is a lifetime student of Literature. He is also a reader who writes occasionally. For him, words are what makes the intractable world livable. Ayo tweets at @Ayo_eagles. He was a Wawa Book Review Young Literary Critics Fellow and won the 2019 Ken Saro-Wiwa Prize for Book Review.”