On Oct. 8, a series of demonstrations against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force erupted in several cities across the country.
The protests were sparked by a video trending online showing a young man allegedly fired by SARS operatives at Ughelli, Delta; an accusation the police denied.
With the hastag # ENDSARS, the overwhelmingly young rebels demanded the abolition of the unit and the end of police violence.
The protests seem to have been accentuated, by most accounts, by resentments built up by previous and recent alleged cases of extra-judicial killings, intimidation and extortion by SARS operatives against civilians.
Worthy of note, the Federal Government had waded in with a view to seeking a sustainable and soothing solution until the crisis snowballed into street protests.
It is unconstitutional and illegal and should be investigated and charged by those involved in this act.
“ Today, I had a meeting with the I-G and we reviewed some of these issues.
“The president is very concerned about it; he wants to see a reform.’’
On Oct. 10, Osinbajo met again with I-G, Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, and Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), to identify the next steps towards addressing Nigerians’ concerns regarding SARS excesses.
Subsequently, the vice president and the I-G briefed Buhari, who gave the I-G more instructions on the matter.
Buhari said he was frequently updated on reform efforts to end police violence and unethical actions, and to ensure that people are completely accountable to the police.
The President urged all people to demonstrate greater tolerance and patience as the government continues to do its utmost to protect Nigerian lives and property.
“I spoke again with the I-G tonight; our commitment to reform the police should never be in vain.
“I am being updated periodically on the reform efforts underway to end police brutality and unethical actions, and ensure that the police are completely accountable to the people.
The I-G has already given my firm orders to answer Nigerians’ complaints about these excesses conclusively and to ensure that erring staff are brought to justice.
I call for patience and calm, even as Nigerians openly exercise their right to make their opinions known peacefully.
On Oct. 11, as the protests raged and neared crescendo, Nigerians got appeasing news from the I-G; he declared the dissolution of SARS across police commands in the country.
Adamu said that the dissolution was in response to the yearnings of Nigerians.
He said that all officers and men of the defunct SARS will be redeployed.
The I-G claimed that the force was aware of the country’s need to tackle armed robbery, abduction and other violent crimes, which was the former squad ‘s core mandate.
As part of measures to prevent a recurrence of events that led to the dissolution of SARS, a ‘Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum’ is being established,” he said, “As part of measures to prevent a recurrence of events that resulted in the dissolution of SARS, a ‘Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum’ is being formed.
‘In addition, the force is an investigative team including civil society groups and human rights organisations collaborating with the police to investigate suspected cases of abuses of human rights,’ Adamu said.
”We sincerely regret the loss of life of the young man in Oyo State during the recent protests. ”I have directed that the circumstances of his death should be investigated thoroughly. ”Meanwhile, it is necessary to recognise that the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hardworking and vigilant in performing their duties. ”The few bad officers should not be permitted to tarnish the image and prestige of the force, ” the president said. Osinbajo, on his part, said that there was a strong message of government’s commitment to ensuring reforms.
He said that it would duly investigate and prosecute those who had committed unlawful actions.
“And that whatever replaces SARS is something that is acceptable, and comply with all tenets of the rule of law.
“ I think these are deep issues that we are all concerned about; I don’t think one person is more concerned than others.
“In many ways, I have also been involved with many young people seeking to settle these types of disputes that have been published.
“I think it’s a good time for the police and all of us to try to change the police force; we’re all committed to it,” he said.
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta described the dissolution of SARS as a welcome development in his reaction.
Sharing similar sentiments, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State Governor, said the disbandment of SARS by the I-G was a victory for Nigerian youth.
The dissolution of SARS was backed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Senate Chief Whip, and Orji Uzor Kalu.
Moreover, Buhari, Osinbajo and the I-G applauded the dissolution of SARS by the Voice of Nigeria Youths (VONY), a youth organization.
Temilade Okesanjo, founder of the party, congratulated Nigerian youths for lending their voices online and offline to the need for # ENDSARS and reforming the agitation of the Nigerian Police Force.
Nonetheless, though appreciating the responsiveness of the government, some protesters say that more pragmatic measures were required to soothe their rage.
They seek immediate release of all detained protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and adequate compensation for their families; setting up an independent body to monitor the review and prosecution of all allegations of police violence within 10 days.
The protesters also demand that psychological assessment and retraining of all disbanded SARS, in accordance with the new police act, should be carried out before redeployment.
They also called for better salaries for police officers and for the police to be properly trained to improve the protection of citizens’ lives and property.
Perceptive observers say that the government has been reasonably responsive in handling the issue.
They hold that investigating and bringing to book all ex-SARS operatives involved in extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses will go a long way in suppressing the flames in the streets.