A press release of the Jesuits of North-West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus on the occasion of the #EndSARS protest across Nigeria
SURULERE, Lagos, 20 October 2020:
In consonance with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), the Jesuits of North-West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus have observed with great concerns, the poor handling of the youth-led #EndSARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) protest across cities and towns of Nigeria by the Federal Government and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), and wish to remind the Federal Government and the NPF that:
- Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of every Nigerian;
- That the #EndSARS protest is not only aimed at ending SARS, but also at ending the impunity, lawlessness, corruption, and abuse of power by the NPF, other armed security agencies, and some government officials in Nigeria;
- That the #EndSARS campaigns are a profound expression by the youth of Nigeria over bad leadership, lack of access to basic social amenities, increasing poverty, and loss of hope for a better future;
- That the #EndSARS demonstration is a request by the youth for the Federal Government to look at the poor working conditions of the police force, the need for better training and psychological assessment, and improved remuneration;
- That through the #EndSARS protest, Nigerian youth are demanding accountability, transparency, equity, justice, reforms, and fairness not only in the criminal justice sector, but also in the economic, social, and political sectors of Nigeria. They want to have a nation where, as one of the protesters puts it, “the son of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody.”
Harkening to the injunction of Proverbs 21:13 not to shut our ears to the cry of those around us as well as standing on the Jesuit mission “to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future” (Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, no. 3), we the Jesuits, in registering our solidarity with the youth of Nigeria, call on the Federal Government to take the demands of the youth seriously and to respond through concrete, accountable, and measurable actions. We call for the arrest and transparent investigation as well as prosecution of SARS, Police, and military officials who have been accused of extrajudicial killings, torture, extortion, and other unlawful acts against Nigerian citizens.
We condemn, in the strongest terms, any use of force and intimidation by security personnel against the youth.
We call on the Federal Government to institute sincere reforms in the criminal justice system to guarantee accountability, protection of citizens’ rights, fairness, and access to justice for all on the basis of equality.
We commend the youth for their courage and zeal and ask that they continue to conduct themselves peacefully and avoid any violent act or threat of violence throughout the protest.
Lastly, we recall the words of Pope Francis who calls “young people … the fertile and new soil” with which God blesses nations and affirms that they “speak to us and challenge us, they make us realize the lights and shadows of our community, and with their enthusiasm they encourage us to give responses in keeping with our times” (Message to the 20th Latin American Meeting of National Youth Pastoral Leaders, Peru, November 2019). As an institution rooted in the Catholic tradition of faith and hope, we recommit ourselves to engendering the processes of justice everywhere in the world and especially those that the young people of Nigeria currently challenge us to embrace, processes without which our prosperous and peaceful future as a country remains unattainable.
Rev. Fr. Chijioke Azuawusiefe, S.J.
Director of Communications
North-West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)