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Nigerians Speak On Life After Coronavirus Lockdown

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The easing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown brought about a sense of relief and excitement for most of the citizens of Nigeria.

People had hoped that life would go back to being normal but it seems that there is no guarantee that it would ever be possible.

In an exclusive chat with Information Nigeria, some residents of Lagos state opened up about the effect of the lockdown on their lives and businesses as well as how they adapting to life post lockdown.

The Genesis of the lockdown

There has been a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases over the past few months. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, there are now 50,488 confirmed cases and 985 deaths, at the time of this publication.

The first case of the novel coronavirus was recorded on February 25. The index case was an Italian man, who had arrived into Lagos from Milan on a Turkish Airlines flight and he was said to have traveled to Ogun state where he spent two days before he was eventually isolated.

The lockdown was imposed on 30th of March in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the cessation of movements in these three major cities for an initial period of 14 days so as to contain the spread of the deadly disease.

Businesses, schools and churches were shut down.

Markets were only allowed to operate for a few hours.

Days into the lockdown, some Lagos residents had begun complaining about lack of food and lack of electricity.

Read Also: Zero Social Distancing, No Face Masks – Lagos Computer Village Steadily Breaching COVID-19 Protocol

The government came up with solutions to cushion the effect of the lockdown which was subsequently extended for two weeks.

Albeit, it was partially put on hold, some businesses commenced operations from May 4. During this period, many people had already been laid-off from their jobs due to the fact that companies were shut down and were not allowed to operate. There was also an alarming rise in armed robberies and gang warfare cases in communities.

On April 27, Buhari declared an overnight curfew from 8 pm to 6 am across the country. In June, the federal government extended the second phase of the eased lockdown by 4 weeks and lifted the ban on interstate travels. However, it could only be done outside curfew hours with effect from July 1, 2020.

The second phase of eased lockdown was extended by an additional one week on July 27. On August 6, the federal government announced the extension of the second phase of the eased lockdown for the third time. Hence, an extra four weeks was added.

The burning question; How are people adapting to life post lockdown?

“Although I accepted that this is going to be the new norm, I still find it difficult to adjust to virtual environments. Learning virtually is not as easy as you might think.“

A 300 level student of Bowen University, who pleaded anonymity, revealed he sent back home during the lockdown and he is still trying to adapt to the virtual learning environment.

The lockdown caused a shift in people’s lives and daily activities.

Another resident, Mariam, a civil servant said she hasn’t fully adjusted to life post lockdown.

“I’m still to trying to grasp the concept but I’m trying and I’m not so sure I’m adapting now but ask me in a few more weeks and I might have an answer.”

Many have also gone ahead of accepting that the coronavirus is not going anywhere and it still remains in our midst. People have been forced to make some changes to their social habits.

Taking precautionary measures such as wearing face masks and using hand sanitizers shouldn’t be compromised.

A medical practitioner, Sandra Sanchez has advised people to take precautionary measures.

“I’m in the medical field and I can’t stress enough the importance to wear mask and follow CDC regulations. This is not going away any time soon,” she said.

Companies and organizations have security personnel stationed at the entrance to administer temperature checks and hand sanitizers before people can gain entry into the premises.

“We are to only allow people with face mask to enter.” a tall dark security agent named Musa told Information Nigeria.

Zainab Balogun, a female Corp member, says;

“Nothing has changed about my life, the slight difference that I can no longer go out to eat at eateries because they now do takeaways. I’m also getting used to having nose masks and remembering to use hand sanitizers frequently. Also, I no longer go for CDS“

Mr Matthew, a secretary, disclosed the new ‘norm’ in his place of work.

”In the canteen, we are to sit apart from each other and anyone without face-mask won’t be allowed into the office premises. We are also to wash our hands when we get to work”

Read Also: With Thousands of Cases Recorded, Some Nigerians Still Believe Coronavirus Does Not Exist (Video)

Unfortunately, some people believe the virus doesn’t exist as markets are usually flooded and roads remain busy.

Abidakun Opeyemi Augustina, a female resident of Lagos state, revealed she has discontinued the use of her face mask.

”I never took all those serious. I wear mask to avoid police drama and other embarrassments. I moved on since”

Speaking on how he survives post lockdown, Mr Alao said he relies on the money gotten from the N-Power Forum.

“It’s been God, I am N-power dependent, I didn’t know the government will disappoint us even after using us to win 2019 presidential election,” he said.

A dark-skinned lady, who identified herself as Deborah Ayodele, lamented about an increase in the cost of transportation.

The civil servant said;

“I am a government worker and I was asked to resume after the lockdown.
I earn 32k every month and by the time some deductions are made I am left with about 17k.

The cost of transportation and feeding before the lockdown was approximately 1k per day.

I always board the BRT buses from Ketu to Fadeyi at the sum of 100naira but the fare was increased to 300naira.

Now, I spend about 1500 everyday even the bike trips of 50naira now cost 100naira.

You can imagine me using that 17k for the whole month. Work has also been dull lately because only a few people come to work.

 I was supposed to go for my convocation and also get my BSc certificate so as to get promoted at work but that was put on hold because of the outbreak and lockdown”

Eva, a human Resources specialist, says;

“Life after lockdown has been tedious as well as interesting, Tedious in the sense that I have to battle with waking up early and the traffic involved, hence interesting because I have to see faces after so long even though I have been working from home.” 

At the end of the day, people are still trying to recover from the lockdown but it won’t be an easy task especially with the social distancing measures.

Special Reports

Why The Price Of Onions Soared To New Heights Across Nigeria (Exclusive)

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Why Price Of Onions Soar To New Heights (Exclusive)

Onions on display at Yaba market. Picture Credit: Information Nigeria

 

By Damilola Ayomide, Amaka Odozi

In the average Nigerian household, onion is an important food item. This is because it is the main ingredient in the preparation of virtually every Nigerian meal. It is also known for its healing abilities – particularly in the treatment of the common flu. The sudden spike in the price of onions has become a cause for concern because it is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables in the country.

Notwithstanding, there is still a rise in demand as consumers continue to purchase the vegetable due to the fact that it is needed in food preparation. Owing to its essential value, the sudden and inflated price increase has created discomfort for many Nigerians. In reaction to the recent development, consumers have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction over the surging prices as well as the deteriorating quality of the kitchen staple.

From Twitter users developing novel hashtags and memes in an attempt to make light of the unfavourable situation to Facebook users creating posts on the pains of getting a good bargain at the market, it becomes necessary to shed more light on the reasons for the sudden increase in price and how Nigerians are adapting to the situation – especially considering the hike in other essential social amenities.

A biennial crop, onion cultivation is a large agricultural industry with its main production occurring in the North East and North West states such as Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Plateau, Bauchi, and Kebbi. This is why Nigeria, according to statistics, is the sixth highest-producer of green onion. As regards the production of dry onions, Nigeria sits at the eleventh spot.

The main varieties produced in Nigeria are the Red Creole (which is popularly called purple or wet onions among sellers and consumers); the White Creole (which is mainly used as an ingredient for Fried Rice); the Red Tropicana (which falls under the category commonly called dry onions); the Bombay Red (which is another variety commonly known as dry onions); and the Green Bunching (the spring onion that doesn’t grow into a bulb-like its counterparts).

 

The Problem

In Lagos state, these varieties are readily available for purchase at regular big and small open markets – large retail malls are equally not exempted. To find out why the prices have shot up, Information Nigeria journeyed down to Yaba market, Lagos state to carry out a market survey.

The steep increase in the prices, it was gathered, is as a result of high demand for the edible bulb, flooding in the farms and poor storage facilities. Flooding in the farmlands has led to crop damage and limited supply of onions in the market. Onion is considered as a semi perishable crop, yet it is a delicate product to store due to its high-water content. Thus, poor storage facilities have contributed to the loss of half of the total produce.

These conditions have translated into high prices for traders and distributors, who intend to reap their profits and cover the cost of buying the crops inadvertently affecting the end consumers as they are forced to dig into the pockets to be able to afford the edible bulbs.

Consumers Groan Over Skyrocketing Price Of Onions

A trader at the market seller said: “It’s not our fault too. We had to increase the retail price because the wholesale price was also increased by over 50%”, Idowu said. “A big bag that used to be N80,000 is now N150,000.

“This will definitely affect the retail price. Five bulbs of wet onions used to be N100; it’s now N300”, she added.

Another lady, Blessing, said that a big basket of onions cost N60,000, so she and another trader split it into two and pay for half which cost N30,000, so they are selling it in bits due to its limited supply. Blessing said the onions are imported from the north.

Market reaction

While some people have resolved to their fate, others have found alternatives to save money. With the continuous increase in the prices, people are not so generous with their servings of the edible bulb.

Mrs Adenuga, 35, was met with shock on visiting the stall of her usual seller in Yaba market as her budget could no longer purchase the usual quantity of onions. Information Nigeria met her haggling with the middle-aged female trader who could be heard saying that the prices of the dry onions (Adenuga’s favourite) had all gone up.

“I thought it was a joke when my colleague told me that onions are now gold. I decided to close early at work to come see things for myself. How do I cope now? This government doesn’t want us to eat at all.”

“A big bag that used to be N80,000 is now N150,000. This will definitely affect the retail price. Five bulbs of wet onions used to be N100; it’s now N300”.

A ready answer met the question of why the wholesale price is now almost twice its previous.

“COVID-19 pandemic. It has affected everything, with onions not left out. The planting season was when there was a mandatory lockdown – I’m talking about the months of February, March, and April. So, what were we expecting? It’s not just onions, it’s tomatoes, pepper – everything.”

Ms Uche Nwabuzor could not purchase onions at the open market that same day. The exorbitant prices greatly displeased her. After haggling with almost five sellers, she gave up the pursuit. Information Nigeria asked her why she chose to forgo the perishable crop considering that the sellers all beckoned on passers-by with trite phrases like ‘my colour’, ‘come, I have what you want’.

“It’s not that I don’t want to buy. I can’t buy at that price rate. I know my budget. But even if I want to exceed it, it shouldn’t be at the current rate.”

Asked of an alternative, she replied: “I’ll try spring onions. And if I can’t get that, then I’ll try the big malls – I hear they sell it in bundles. A bundle should be fairly worth the price.”

Kayode Bello, when asked of alternatives he has found so far in the absence of the perishable vegetable, he said that: “the consumption of onions is common in this country, that makes it look there are no other alternatives. Onions can be substituted for garlic which is among shallot, having the same function.”

Madam Sola, the owner of Madam Sola’s local restaurant in Sabo said that: “I use onions to cook my meal despite the price increase but I reduce the portion of onions I use in each meal so that it can go round. And besides, not everybody enjoys onions.”

Miss Adenike, 24, said: “I no longer buy onions at the market because I can get it at a cheaper rate and in more quantity at the shopping mall. Imagine, how can I buy 3 small pieces of onions for N200?”

With the country still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic as well as the chaos and unrest which rocked the month of October, onions ought to be the least of all problems.

There is a dire need for the government to provide support to farmers in building more storage capacity and also offer more solutions to bridge the gap.

 

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Ikeja Electricity Officials Caught In Prepaid Meter Fraud

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Ikeja Electricity Officials Caught In Prepaid Meter Scam

Prepaid Meters

By Gbenga Odunsi, Lagos

The electricity regulatory body in 2018 introduced a law directing power distribution companies (DisCos) to furnish consumers with more prepaid meters. While many Nigerians are yet to be allotted meters, despite paying in full, some have complained of exorbitant billings.

“The officials came to my house, promising to fix my light and provide me with prepaid meter. This was on 15 May 2019, but as I speak(October 2020), I have not seen any meter. I went to their office in Ikeja to know why my meter has not been delivered, despite making full payment. But, on getting there, I met other people who had come to lay the same complaint, 35-year-old Joy Edna told Information Nigeria.

In April 2018, a new regulation on meter asset provider service says customers are not supposed to pay for meters.

According to the regulation, “DisCos shall conclude the procurement process for the engagement of the first set of MAPs within 120 days from the 3rd day of April,” MAPS regulation states.

“DisCos shall conclude the procurement process for the engagement of the first set of MAPs within 120 days from the 3rd day of April,” MAPS regulation stipulates.

Investigation by Information Nigeria uncovers the failure of the DisCos in meeting this deadline, and millions of Nigerians without prepaid meters are afflicted with the exploitation of estimated billing.

 

Why use prepaid meter

Whether you are a house or flat owner, renting or a landlord there are many benefits to using prepaid electricity over normal billed electricity in your home or office. Prepaid electricity means you don’t get bills in the post at the end of the month and many people in Nigeria using prepaid electricity now would never want to go back.

When you are using postpaid electricity (get billed at the end of the month) you are not aware how much you are using a day, a week or an hour. A prepaid electricity meter has a readout which displays your units as well as the level of power consumption. This allows you to better monitor how much electricity you are using and therefore budget better every month.

With a prepaid meter, a consumer can recharge N3000 worth of power and effectively manage it for three months by switching off appliances. This, however, doesn’t favour the DisCos as they tend to make little or no profit from this. Estimated billing allows them to charge based on assumed, rather than actual, electricity consumed, hence, they issue estimated bill of N30,000 each month, even if consumption is not more than N3,000.

Read Also: #EndSARS: Nigerians Recount Horrible Experience With Thugs In Police Uniform

 

Prepaid meter intentionally made scarce

Tonye Akinwande, a 43-year old landlord in Lagos who spoke with Information Nigeria, says the officials of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, IKEDC are culpable of prepaid meter scams in Lagos. According to the estate surveyor, the prepaid meter costs N38,000, and payment is made in full, after which another sum of N5000 must be paid to open an account with the electricity department.

Mr Akinwande says as a landlord, there is a need to install the prepaid meter for all his tenants in the three different houses he owns within the city, but all attempts to purchase the devices proved abortive as officials of the electricity distribution company continue to frustrate his efforts.

“A 3-bedroom flat would be given an estimated bill of #20,000-#25,000 a month, only to find out that the flat isn’t even using so much appliances.

“The prepaid metre device cost #38,000 for one, and would not be issued to you until you have fully paid for it – that’s if you are even issued one.

“This means as a landlord in Lagos, I have to install the meters for my tenants, one per flat, Where would I get that kind of money?

“I was made to understand one prepaid meter costs #38,000, I paid for 8, then I was made to pay another #5,000 to open an account with the electricity department for each of the meters.

“People are yet to realize that this is a ploy by IKEDC to frustrate and further discourage people from purchasing the device because they make a huge amount of profit from estimating electricity bills.

“The prepaid metre is intentionally made scarce so that individuals would not get hold of it and put an end to the menace of estimated billings.

“The officials know that if you are able to purchase the metre and recharge #2,000 worth of power, if managed well, it would last you for more than two months, hence, their foot-dragging to issue out these meters.”

 

Ikeja Electricity Officials Caught In Prepaid Meter Scam

Prepaid meter

 

Computer drops long names

Chidinma Umunna could not believe her ears when officials of IKEDC told her husband that the computer dropped his name because it was ‘too long’.

She gawked in disbelief at the total amount they had been charged for estimated electricity consumption. The tall, plumpy, dark-skinned lady laments over the shoddy activities of IKEDC officials in the issuing of prepaid meters to electricity consumers.

According to the banker, her husband had paid for the device in 2018, but he is yet to be issued a meter.

“The officials appear to me as scammers, she says.

“In a country where there are rules and regulations, you find government officials bury themselves in financial shenanigans, thinking they are above the law.

“What would it cost IKEDC to produce prepaid meter that has been paid for since 2018?

“We keep hearing the meters are not available but they will never tell you not to pay for it.

“Among the numerous excuses that were given to us was that my husband’s names are too long that the computer had to drop it.”

“The officials sit in their offices and draft figures according to whatever wave swept through their heads.

“We keep getting estimated billings of over N25,000 in a modest two-bedroom flat.

Friends that I explained my situation to ask could not believe their ears, they kept asking if we were running an industry inside the house.”

 

Overcharging and overbilling prepaid meter users

In what appears to be a grand scam and illegal extortion by IKEDC officials — intentionally or through high powered negligence — metered a residential apartment with a device meant for commercial use. The effect of this is that the residential apartment is overbilled after each recharge.

Customarily, prepaid meter consumers are billed according to energy used. Consumers control what they use, and when they run out of unit, they can understand why it is so.

But, a prepaid meter consumer, Mr Babatunde Ayodeji, says whenever he recharges N5000, it doesn’t last more than two weeks – and it’s not as if power is constant.

According to him, IKEDC officials classified him on A1, instead of R2TP, which is the normal bill for a residential apartment with 3 phase.

After months of overbilling, Mr Ayodeji filed a formal complaint to IKEDC support centre via email.

After exchanging several emails since July, nothing has been done to effect or reclassify this consumer who lives around Ojodu Berger area of Lagos State. Having been overcharged for more than eight months, the power distribution company have done next to nothing in either rectifying their gross negligence or undoing their grand scam, after been found out.

“Aside email, I have also been to their office and spoke with a customer service agent who also confirmed the “fraud” and promised to push it to the appropriate department.

“Many residents are oblivious of this smart overcharge system but many just noticed their recharge doesn’t last despite the epileptic power supply they enjoy.

“We will recall that during the recently announced tariff change which elicited widespread condemnation from the public and labour unions, which was later halted by the government through the intervention of the national assembly, it required only a forty(40) digit token to move everyone up the higher tariff ladder.

“It is still a wonder why this same process cannot apply to effect a commercial tariff plan to a residential tariff, after all, it is all about the change in figure,” Ayodeji added.

Read Also: INVESTIGATION: ‘Attitude’ Of Health Workers In Ogun State General Hospital Killing Patients Faster Than Sickness

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Consumers rights and Obligation, empowered by the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act, 2005 clearly states that: all customers have a right to refund when over billed; all customers have a right to file complaints and to the prompt investigation of complaints; all customers have a right to transparent electricity billing; it is the customer’s right to contest any electricity bill, among others.

Further, Section 96 of the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act specifies that when a distribution company is informed during working hours that a customer’s prepaid meter is not operating properly, an authorized official from the company shall visit the customer premises within 24 hours to inspect and fix or replace it.

Five months after, Mr Ilori is yet to be reclassified on R2PT; yet to be refunded; while officials of IKEDC have continued to overbill him for electricity consumed, an egregious breach of the EPSR Act.

 

IKEDC, a failed agency — NERC is complicit too

The IKEDC has failed in its responsibilities to electricity consumers in Lagos and neighbouring cities. It remains to be seen if the officials will turn a new leaf from their corrupt ways.

Many Lagos residents are rocking the same boat with the above-interviewed persons, and they are dying in silence because they have no means to prosecute these dare-devil officials.

Again, Kabir Olatunde, an IT specialist residing at Airport road paid cash for the prepaid meter in February at IKEDC’s office in Ikeja. Nine months after, the device is yet to be delivered to him. He has lost every hope of ever getting the prepaid meter, after several failed assurances from IKEDC’s officials.

“I paid for the prepaid meter in February, before the coronavirus lockdown began, and I was assured the meter would be installed after five business days.

“It is close to nine months now and no meter in sight.

“I have tried all I can to ensure the device is installed but I keep getting empty promises from the officials, Olatunde told Information Nigeria.

Efforts to get reactions from Ikeja Electricity and Nerc proved abortive as emails sent to both agencies were not replied as at press time.

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Why Nigerians Protest Creation Of SWAT Police

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Why Nigerians Protest Creation Of SWAT Unit

In the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality, the inspector-General of police, Mohammed Adamu announced the disbandment of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

This decision was made after Nigerian Youths stormed the streets to take action and call for change. The Nigerian government had no other option than to yield to the demands of the people, who came out in their number to stage demonstrations and to request for the termination of the notorious police unit following reports that they were misusing their powers to inflict pains on innocent citizens.

The nationwide protests which gained momentum kicked off on October 8, after a video emerged showing SARS operatives allegedly shooting and killing a young man infront of Wetland hotel in Ughelli South local government of Delta State.

‘Young People’ are often being targeted as they are constantly harassed either because of their looks and the type of gadgets and vehicles they make use of. Hence, they decided to take charge of their lives because they are tired of being oppressed and abused by the same people meant to be protecting them.

The #EndSARS hashtag goes back to 2017, and it started off as a Twitter campaign used by people to narrate their experiences of police brutality. The campaign elicited responses from people who have suffered at the hands of the rogue police unit.

SARS was founded in 1992 by by former police commissioner, Simeon Danladi Midenda to combat armed robbery and other grievous crimes but these particular set of mischief makers are known for extorting, killing, raping, and committing all sort of crimes and atrocities with impunity.

READ ALSO: IGP lists requirements for new SWAT operatives as training begins

Demonstrators have always insisted that they have no leader and they speaking with one voice despite the fact that some ‘people’ have tried to spin the narratives to cause a divide.

 

On October 11, the IGP revealed a new police unit known as Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team has been set up in place of SARS.

This idea wasn’t well-received by Nigerians probably due to the fast timing and this raised eyebrows.

Five demands of the youths

People are skeptical about the new police unit due to the fact that the government in general has not given them enough reason to trust and believe them in past. Many still believe the government doesn’t have the best interest of the people at heart.

The accuracy of the mantra, ‘Police is your friend’ remains arguable and far from truth thanks to the activities of the Nigerian police force.

Nigerians are demanding for the total dissolution of every tactical unit and a reformation of the Nigerian police force.

Protesters have also submitted their five core demands to the government and these include; immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice for the victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families, setting up  an independent body to oversee investigations into police brutality and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct, psychological evaluation and retraining of SARS officers before they are redeployed to other police units, and increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens. They are not accepting less and they also intend to tackle the bad governance and corruption in the country.

Five Demands Of #EndSARS Protesters

Five Demands Of #EndSARS Protesters

 

SARS TO SWAT

It didn’t take long before a photo of a man wearing the alleged SWAT Uniform began trending online despite the fact that people haven’t wholly accepted the unit.

According to the inspector general of police, Mohammed Adamu, former police officers from SARS will be part of the new unit but will undergo psychological and medical examinations to make sure they are fit.

“The officers are expected to undergo this process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties,” said Adamu.

Nigerians have stood their ground and have said ‘no’ to the creation of the new police unit.

People have also continued to agitate for an end to the tactical units.

Some Nigerians believe they are still the same set of people under the guise of a new name as they also cited how the government changed PHCN to NEPA but the issue of constant supply of light remained unresolved.

Efforts have been made to disrupt the peaceful protests. Is Nigeria truly a democratic nation if the people are deprived of their freedom to speak and be heard?

Protesters have said that they are tired of empty promises made by the government. The  Nigeria Police Force need to sit down and come up with a well-thought-out-approach that would bring relief to the citizens of the country.

Reactions trailing the decision 

https://twitter.com/obyezeks/status/1317153129507524612?s=21

https://twitter.com/princecasmir8/status/1319280618501410819?s=21

Oriola Topsy Seun

It was too early to make such decision citizens sees it as if it’s a old wine in new bottle. The IGP should have been patient enough since der is nationwide protest on this particular unit dey don’t have adviser and see the result of lack of patient we all bear it together even the IGP is not safe this time around and his family inclusive. May God deliver us in this country.

Owoicho Peter Ochola

For doing that shows their foolishness and insensitivity to the plight of their people. They think we are fools! No…!! Enough is a enough

Oche Mohammed Yusuf

Very good to go.

There must not be vacuum at any security space, rather the need for more fortifications, most especially when a unit is disbanded as the case with defunct SARS, there is a swift need for replacement.

For me, I say kudos to IGP for been proactive.

However, they must take into cognisance the insensitivity of their past actions.

Austin Ayodele

The swiftness in the change of SARS to SWAT means it’s just a change of name and that’s senseless.

 It remains to be seen if replacing Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad, FSARS, with Special Weapon and Tactics, SWAT, will bring any positive difference.

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