Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have demanded comprehensive update from the Federal government on how it has so far addressed the causes of the #EndSARS nationwide protests.
They also demanded that the government should show how it has ensured victims of the #EndSARS obtained justice and compensation.
The demands from the CSOs are against the backdrop of the one year anniversary of the #EndSARS protest in October.
The demands were articulated in a joint statement by more than nine CSOs as part of activities marking the #EndSARS anniversary, made available to OPTIMUM TIMES.
In the statement, the CSOs said: “As different activities are being organised to mark one year since the protests, including the solemn commemoration of #LekkiKilling – October 20, Nigerians ask that the federal government take a step of reconciliation towards citizens:
“First, by providing an update on what has been done to ensure victims get justice and due compensation.
“Secondly, by providing an update on what the government has done over the past year to improve the welfare of police officers and ensure that our police force is equipped psychologically to enable civil interaction with citizens.
“Thirdly, provide an update on how the government is equipping the Nigeria Police Force with the appropriate tools to carry out their delicate task of securing lives and property alongside a concrete plan for consequence management when such a need arises.
“This anniversary is an opportunity, to foster dialogue on justice and peace, so we invite the state governments and the federal government to engage with citizens and protect them from violence in the fulfillment of their mandate as stated in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in Section 14 (2b) which states that the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government.”
The full text of the statement titled “Remembering #EndSARS: Lingering Socio-political Unease Calls for Government-Citizen Reconciliation”, reads:
“NPF’s excessive use of force has remained unchanged because many of the abuse cases have not been investigated. The inability of the state to investigate and hold perpetrators to account for their acts of terror on citizens have helped to build public distrust and resentment towards the men and women of the criminal justice institutions and state more generally.”
— Chris M A Kwaja, Ph.D
Policing, Police and the Feasibility of Their Reform in Nigeria
The call by Nigerian citizens at home and in the diaspora to end the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was a legitimate demand. This demand was informed by the apparent silence of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the federal government in dealing authoritatively with the inhumane and brutal actions of operatives of the SARS unit towards Nigerians, particularly the youth.
#EndSARS was and remains a call from Nigerians and well-meaning people globally who were tired of being abused and traumatized by the people empowered to protect them. It ignited an awakening in young Nigerians to their civic duty of demanding accountability from the government. The protest was a peaceful convergence of young Nigerians for two weeks across cities in the country until criminals took advantage of the national outcry and decided to rob, rape, attack people and police officers, and destroy property. This informed the immediate suspension of the protest by protesters who also became victims of these criminals. It is important that the efforts of patriotic Nigerian youths exercising their civic rights and duties in demanding an end to police brutality are not defined or undermined by activities of criminals. The right to peaceful assembly remains a fundamental human right and Nigerian youths still seek justice for lives lost, citizens maimed and properties destroyed.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was established in 1992 to fight crimes associated with robbery, car theft, kidnapping and firearms whilst keeping citizens and neighborhoods safe. It eventually became an integral part of the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID).
However, due to alleged (and confirmed) extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, extortion, torture, framing, blackmail, kidnapping, illegal organ trade, armed robbery, home invasions, rape of men and women, child arrests and other unprintable deeds, SARS came under heavy public scrutiny and was investigated several times in response to waves of public outcry.
All the reforms promised by the federal government in 2016, 2017 and 2018 failed to produce any meaningful outcome. Particularly in 2018, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo ordered a complete overhaul of the dreaded unit and the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Kpotun promised the nation a new security unit under the name, Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS). It seemed like a glimpse of hope, however, nothing changed!
Consequently, 2019 saw a far more terrifying SARS, targeting young, innocent Nigerians without respite. The tech community was especially hit, when young men with laptops and dreadlocks became easy targets for SARS operatives. These young people were subjected to unjust profiling leading to arbitrary arrest, detention, extortion and in some cases death. This was done under the guise of fighting internet-fraud, which was clearly out of their scope of operations.
Last year’s #EndSARS protests were triggered by the alleged killing of a youth in Delta State; a gory incident that was caught on camera. The video which was circulated on social media platforms brought back the conversation on the brutality of SARS operatives with young people sharing their experiences on social media. The online protest swiftly turned into major protests across cities in Nigeria with Nigerians, particularly young people, consistently taking to the streets for a period of two weeks.
A week into the protest, on October 12, 2020, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu disbanded the unit assuring the public of a new order in the federal security agency. They were renamed the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), an already existing unit within the Police. Unfortunately, the renaming simply reinforced the perception that the government was only interested in cosmetic change, nothing structural.
One year after the start of a series of events that would significantly change police-citizen relationships in Nigeria, it is evident that #EndSARS became a platform for young people to express their frustration with a security architecture that had failed in its primary purpose—protecting the lives and property of Nigerian citizens. However, this socio-political outburst was not to negate the hard work of members of our security agencies – police and military officers – who are constantly on the frontlines, protecting citizens and the integrity of Nigeria’s borders.
Indeed, it was in recognition of this that one of the #5for5 demands focused specifically on erring police officers—calling for the instituting of an iIndependent body to oversee prosecution of officers and the immediate suspension of all officers indicted in previous panels while prosecution commences. They include officers such as Yusuf Kolo (Abuja) and CSP Sola Aremu (Oyo) among several others whose negligence or direct action led to the death of protesters and bystanders. Two of the 5 demands focused on the welfare of the police officers, financial and psychological: (1) regulations for the Police Act 2020 to implement improved welfare for police officers and (2) psychological evaluation of disbanded officers before redeployment and ongoing psychological evaluation of police officers.
However, when bad apples are not removed from a basket, they invariably spoil the whole basket. Citizens felt that the leadership of the Police Force and the various government bodies responsible for them: the Ministry of Police Affairs, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Police Trust Fund and the Police Service Commission were not doing enough to discipline its erring officers and thus, show a zero tolerance for abuse and extra-judicial killings. This was also demonstrated during the protests as the morning SARS was disbanded, the police shot at and water bombed protesters in Abuja.
In the aftermath of the protests, the National Executive Council agreed that all state governments will set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extrajudicial killings. Only 29 of the 36 states set up Panels. Of the 29 states: (1) Kogi was inaugurated but has not had any sittings; (2) 3 states have concluded sittings and submitted reports; (3) 18 states have completed sittings but did not submit their reports; (4) Lagos was extended until October 19th.
As different activities are being organised to mark one year since the protests, including the solemn commemoration of #LekkiKilling – October 20, Nigerians ask that the federal government take a step of reconciliation towards citizens:
First, by providing an update on what has been done to ensure victims get justice and due compensation.
Secondly, by providing an update on what the government has done over the past year to improve the welfare of police officers and ensure that our police force is equipped psychologically to enable civil interaction with citizens.
Thirdly, provide an update on how the government is equipping the Nigeria Police Force with the appropriate tools to carry out their delicate task of securing lives and property alongside a concrete plan for consequence management when such a need arises.
This anniversary is an opportunity, to foster dialogue on justice and peace, so we invite the state governments and the federal government to engage with citizens and protect them from violence in the fulfillment of their mandate as stated in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in Section 14 (2b) which states that the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government.
The demand remains for a Nigeria that is equitable and just.
“The present generation has no other country except Nigeria. Let us salvage it together.”
(President, Federal Republic of Nigeria)
Executive Director, EiE Nigeria
Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa
Country Director, Amnesty International
Executive Director, Partners West Africa- Nigeria
Team Lead, Gavel
Executive Director, The Interactive
Programs Manager, NULAI Nigeria