A GOOD number of Nigerian youths have taken to the streets on #EndSARS protests which started on twitter, a social media platform when a video showing where officers of the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS), shot a man dead in his SUV vehicle and drove off with his car in Ughelli, Delta State.
DUE to the public outcry caused by the video which was trending with the hashtag #fEndSARS, a physical protest was on Thursday, staged in Lagos, demanding that the FSARS Unit of the Nigeria Police Force be scrapped. Subsequently, youths across various states of the federation including Anambra, Imo, Osun, Oyo,Ogun, Delta, Abuja, among others followed suite in the days that followed, making it a protest galore in the country during the week end.
HAVING gotten so much pressure from the protesters and international communities, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, announced on Sunday, the disbandment of FSARS, saying that all officers and men of the unit will be redeployed to other police commands, formations and units.
THE IG, however, promised to constitute a new investigation team that would involve civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights groups in the conduct of investigations into human rights violations.
THE IG, who spoke at a media briefing in Abuja, said a new policing arrangement would be put in place to fill the gap created in order to reinvigorate the fight against armed robbery, kidnapping and other criminalities.
ALSO speaking when popular musician, David Adeleke, aka Davido, visited him in his office on Monday, over the ongoing #EndSARS protests, Adamu assured that the training of a new police unit to replace the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad will commence next week.
HE PROMISED to investigate all cases of brutality by SARS operatives and bring the perpetrators to book and that with SARS being disbanded, there was need to set up a new structure to carry out the duties of a defunct police unit fighting violent crimes.
HE SAID the new outfit would be intelligence-driven, properly trained and only act on occasions that required their attention, among other things and urged the protesters to stop.
BUT instead of stopping, the protests continued to increase as more people and more states caught the fever. They, rather, started clamouring for President Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation and confirm SARS has been proscribed and equally insisted on extensive police reforms and the prosecution of culpable officers of the disbanded outfit.
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, in Abuja, declared the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), at the launch of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES) and directed that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts be brought to justice.
”I WILL like to use this opportunity to say a word on the recent genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force and in some cases extra-judicial killings and wrongful conduct of the men of the Nigerian Police Force”
He continued, ”The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people. We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice. We deeply regret the loss of life of the young man in Oyo State during the recent demonstrations. I have directed that the circumstances of his death should be thoroughly investigated.
”MEANWHILE, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hardworking and diligent in performing their duties. The few bad eggs should not be allowed to tarnish the image and reputation of the force,” the president said.
NEITHER the president’s address nor the IGP’s announcement of a new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team that will fill the gaps arising from the dissolution of the defunct SARS, with a promise that prospective members of the new team will also undergo psychological and medical examination to ascertain their fitness and eligibility for the new assignment, on Tuesday, could stop the protests, which as we write, are still raging in various cities.
THIS makes one wonder what the protesters are actually asking for since a journey that sets out with a destination should end when the destination is reached. Come to think of it, the protests are about disbandment of the police special unit, popularly known as SARS and since the authorities acted promptly in disbanding the special squad, and even went as far as setting up another one, it is expected that the agitators should go home except if there are other hidden agenda.
FOR avoidance of doubt, we are not by any means against the protests, but rather, we are giving kudos to Nigerian youths for standing their ground, demonstrating, insisting that their voices as citizens matter which is a sign of good things to come in a country like ours where citizens seemed to have lost hope in government.
OF COURSE, we see this as an opportunity for comprehensive police reform in the real sense of it as we are not ignorant of the fact that the personnel of the disbanded squad went off their duty lines and core mandate of combating armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country, and virtually became a terror gang with disturbing reports of wanton misdeeds, particularly against young people across the country and that same goes for some other personnel of the Nigeria Police who see their positions as license to impunity and all sorts of crime against the people they are supposed to protect and still get away with it.
WHAT we are saying for the interest of all is that the protesters and their supporters should appreciate the much that have already been done as regards the issue in question, be law abiding and give the ongoing process a chance to resolve all the current issues that have been canvassed by Nigerians. After all, before SARS, police had always engaged in vicious extrajudicial killings and there is nothing we are saying about SARS or police today that we have not said about other police units and some policemen in the past and nobody appeared to have listened or acted promptly until few days ago.
THIS does not mean that we are not aware that government has promised to fix SARS several times but did nothing but there is a need for caution at this point so that things don’t get out of hand. There is a need for the populace to understand that police officers are also not completely useless. They are risking their lives to protect us and we cannot do without them no matter our perception of them.
ON THE other hand, we commend President Buhari and IGP Adamu for being sensitive and responsive to the clarion call for disbandment of the special anti robbery squad. This is because no matter how one views it, their actions are unprecedented in recent history and equally praiseworthy.
NATIONAL Light however, is not comfortable with the automatic redeployment of the officers and men of the disbanded units without sanctioning the bad eggs among the squad and even regular police. What if the bad eggs in the disbanded SARS corrupt the good ones in other units where they are redeployed or the bad ones in other units corrupt the good ones from the disbanded SARS?
WE THEREFORE, call on President Buhari, police authorities and other stakeholders to seize this opportunity for comprehensive police reform, which should include increasing the strength of the NPF, comprehensive training and retraining of the police force with emphasis on modern policing standards including human rights, introducing specialisation in the police force, greater investment in equipment and forensic facilities that will enable the police fight crimes more effectively.
Others include upward remuneration of Nigerian policemen and a massive crackdown on corruption in the police force, accountability for policemen and women who have engaged in police brutality, among others.
URGENT actions should be taken to convince the protesting youths to get off the streets before the entire nation enters into a state of chaos; bearing in mind the ‘Black Lives Matter Protest’ in North America and Europe which started almost this way.
ABOVE all, the authorities should order a thorough investigation of the atrocities of policemen, not just those in the special unit which will lead to the prosecution of erring officers and commanders since all their sins cannot just be swept under the carpet.