General overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mr Enoch Adeboye, has declared support for youth protesting against police brutality and excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The protest, being staged across major cities, has rocked the country for more than three days. The demonstration was stirred by social media discussions around #EndSARS, a trending hashtag.
Many Nigerians have shared their horrendous experiences in the hands of operatives of the police unit, ranging from extra-judicial killing and extortion.
Although the unit was disbanded on Sunday and replaced with the new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) on Tuesday, Nigerians have refused to end the protests.
The protesters have demanded halting the use of force against protesters, unconditional release of arrested citizens, prosecution of officers culpable of extra-judicial killings, amongst other demands.
Meanwhile, Mr Adeboye, on Wednesday night, pledged his support for the youth demanding an end to the police unit and the attempts to ‘recycle’ the officers of the disbanded unit into a new one.
“Our daughters will not be able to prophesy and young men will not see visions if we don’t keep them alive. I support the youths in this peaceful protest as they ‘speak up’ to #EndPoliceBrutality #EndSARS #ENDSWAT,” the clergyman wrote on Twitter.
He also shared a statement of solidarity issued by the assistant general overseer in-charge of administration and personnel, Johnson Odesola.
“The Redeemed Christian Church of God identifies with Nigerians presently protesting against police brutality and the abuse of power by the very institution established to protect them.
“The church declares its understanding and appreciation of the concerns and grievances of the youths and the generality of Nigerians and calls for an immediate end to police brutality in the country.”
While stating that the constitutional responsibility of the police is to maintain law and order, Odesola highlighted the need for the police to constantly align their strategies with the needs of the people.
“While noting that many innocent lives have been lost through unnecessary brutality and wrong application of force, the church calls on the government to not only restructure the police but to also re-orientate the officers towards modern ways of policing.
“The church welcomes the disbandment of the SARS, and notes the establishment of a new outfit called the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) but advises that it should not become a case of old wine in a new bottle.”
He, however reiterated the church’s call on government to take urgent steps to tackle the rising rate of unemployment, decay in the nation’s educational system and the general harsh economic situation in the country
Also, he appealed to the youth to comport themselves orderly as, “they have been online and in major cities across the federation and express their grievances within the confines of what God and the law of the land allows.”