ON THE MATTER OF SARS: An Open letter to President Akuffo Addo

By: Emmanuel Acquah0 comments

I write to further engage your kind attention on the nerve-wracking situation in Nigeria which is affecting the long-cherished peace and stability, a pillar for the socio-economic transformation of Africa although protestors have held their horses.

Your Excellency, for two weeks, Nigerians were on the street protesting. What was meant to be a peaceful protest ended fatal. Amnesty International reports that 56 people have died since the protest began on 8th October 2020. The Nigerian Chamber of Commerce announced that the country has lost about $2 billion since protesters took to the streets. The fear is that a spillover across the sub-region and the continent could be seen if the situation is not brought under control sustainably. 

Your Excellency, on October 18, 2019, the Africa Centre for Entrepreneurship and Youth Empowerment (ACEYE) called on the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) to mitigate unemployment in Africa. ACEYE posited that this was one of the sustainable means of fighting violent extremism in Africa.

We have come to this path before.  This time, not on the terrorism, instead at the height of upheaval by young people of Nigeria, are reports of intimidation by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Although now banned by the President of Nigeria, protestors yearn for justice for the victims affected by Police brutalities.

Your Excellency, we should be interested in what the cause of the problem is. This approach, in my view, gives no room for the politicization of the matter. It helps in identifying and addressing the fundamental cause of many youth protests. But as a country, we should be concerned about issues concerning our brother, Nigeria.  

Your Excellency, unlike the Arab spring which began in Tunisia, with street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire to protest the arbitrary seizing of his vegetable stand by police over failure to obtain a permit, the remonstrations in Nigeria were sparked by a viral video allegedly showing SARS officers killing a young man in Lekki. More incitement with the gentleman arrested for filming is a seemingly unhealthy interference by government in the lives of citizens.

Your Excellency, the Arab spring occurred under an authoritarian rule. Strikingly, the impunity with SARS is being perpetuated under a democratic rule. Both point to a common situation of oppression.

Fulani Kwajafa, retired Nigerian Police Commissioner who set up SARS has said the formation of SARS was to end violent crime but lately the police unit had been “turned into banditry”. This confirms the increasing threat large governments across the region poses to individual liberty, prosperity, peace and property.

Your Excellency, at the centre of all this controversy, are young people. If politicians are failing young people (about 65% of the population in Africa fall below 35 years), has democracy not lost its savour? What is democracy if it does not work in the interest of making the majority free?  Ten (10) years after the Arab Spring, governments who continue to interfere in the private affairs of citizens often use the law. 

Your Excellency, just as the Arab spring did not only affect Tunisia, but neighboring countries in the subregion and beyond, the West Africa States and the continent’s contingencies as a whole are not far away from the doom that once befell the continent. Africa has a golden opportunity now. Either to mitigate a civil uprising by addressing the root cause which has shown some early signs and dangers or provide which would cost the continent destruction of lives and properties. 

In your deserving capacity as the ECOWAS Chair, Your Excellency should work to revert an “Africa Spring”. Mr. President, this position makes you well-placed to champion a cause to destroy the oppressive elements which weighs the continent down. Ghana must show leadership, for example by freeing it legal education. This has a positive ripple effect on the “Ease of Doing Business” in Ghana (i.e., enforcing contracts). As renowned French Economist Frederic Bastiat puts it,” It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws.”

Your Excellency, If the law is perverted, its savour of morality is lost, when the size of governments increases in a deliberate attempt to solve problems affecting every aspect of human life then, solutions, no matter how good they may sound, will create duplicates of inevitable complex problems. 

Your Excellency, slavery is evil. Colonialism is wicked. Any style or system of governance, limiting humans to unleash their full potential is indifferent. If we have defeated the first two, we must eradicate the latter by churning a new path where freedom wins.

Your Excellency, just as the sages say,” Peace is costly but it is worth the expense”

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

Emmanuel Acquah.


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