Presidential Panel Accepts Five-point Demand of #EndSARS Protesters

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•Protests spread to Port Harcourt, Owerri, Akure, Ibadan, Yola, Enugu, others
•Soldiers assault ARISE TV crew, brutalise protesters in Abuja
•IG creates new unit to replace SARS
•Sanwo-Olu sets up N200m fund for victims

Our Correspondents

The Presidential Panel on Police Reforms has agreed to the five-point demand of protesters against police brutality, which included halting use of force against protesters and unconditional release of arrested citizens.

Other demands include justice for the victims of police brutality, including payment of compensation, and the psychological evaluation of policemen, including increasing their salaries.

Despite these concessions, including the dissolution of the rogue police squad, SARS, the protests yesterday spread to Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Ibadan in Oyo State, Akure in Ondo State, Owerri in Imo State, Ilorin in Kwara State, Enugu in Enugu State, and Yola in Adamawa State.

The protesters also sustained their campaign in Lagos and Abuja, where soldiers yesterday brutalised some of the youths, including the ARISE NEWS Channel crew.

But the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, set up a new outfit to replace the notorious SARS even as the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu set up N200 million fund to assist victims of police brutality.

The meeting with stakeholders was convened by Adamu following directives by President Muhammadu Buhari on the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and immediate response to yearnings of citizens.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement issued yesterday said the meeting, organised by the office of IG and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), was a multi-stakeholders’ forum attended by leaders and representatives of civil society organisations in Nigeria, activists from the entertainment industry and the #ENDSARS movement and development partners.

Adesina said a communiqué signed by Adamu and Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, said the dissolution of SARS presents an opportunity to embark on comprehensive reforms aimed at repositioning the Nigerian Police Force as a modern, responsive and citizens-centred law enforcement organisation.

The communique said the proposed reforms would be anchored under the basis of the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of SARS, which was jointly authored by the NHRC, the Federal Ministry of Justice, and the Nigeria Police Force.

It affirmed that reform proposals for the Police would be based on the constitution and existing legislations, such as; the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act, 2019, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 the Anti-Torture Act, 2017, and the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2010 amongst others.

The communique acknowledged and accepted the demands of the protesters: “Following the dissolution of SARS, the Forum calls for the following immediate steps to be taken in restoring public confidence and trust in the Police: An order by the Inspector-General of Police to all state commands to halt the use of force against protesters; unconditional release of arrested protesters and citizens; open communication and outreach to citizens to establish trust and confidence and a roadmap for the implementation of the White Paper of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the SARS.

“The Forum welcomed the proposal to set up an Independent Investigation Panel to look into the violations of human rights by the defunct SARS and other segments of the Nigerian Police.

“The Forum agrees to the setting up of this independent panel by the National Human Rights Commission within the next week – an open call for memoranda from members of the public whose rights have been violated by the defunct SARS and other segments of the Police will be released by the commission within one week.

“The Forum recommends the psychological evaluation, training and retraining of disbanded SARS officials prior to re-deployment.

“The Forum resolves to set up the following technical sub-committees to design an implementation roadmap and work plan for the implementation of the White Paper: Training, Capacity and Re-orientation; Logistics: Infrastructure, Communications and Technology; Arrest, Detention, and Investigations; Regulations, Oversight and Accountability and Financing and Partnerships.’’

The communiqué stated that sub-committees would be supported by the National Human Rights Commission and other civil society organisations.

Adesina said the Ministry of Police Affairs and Police Service Commission were also present at the meeting that affirmed that the five-point demands of the protesters and the #ENDSARS movement are genuine concerns and will be addressed by the government.

IG Sets up SWAT to Take over from SARS

Meanwhile, the IG, Adamu, has set up a new police outfit to take over from the disbanded SARS.
It is known as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team and will fill the gaps arising from the dissolution of the defunct SARS.

In accordance with Section 18 (10) of the Police Act 2020, the IG ordered all personnel of the defunct SARS to report at the Force Headquarters, Abuja for debriefing, psychological and medical examination.

A statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said: “The officers are expected to undergo this process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties.”

Mba added: “The medical examination will be carried out by the newly set-up Police Counseling and Support Unit (PCSU), a unit, which henceforth shall engage in psychological management, re-orientation and training of officers of the Force deployed for tactical operations and other duties.

He said the SWAT members would commence training at the different police tactical training institutions nationwide next week.

He said personnel from the Police commands in the South-east and the South-south would be trained at the Counter-Terrorism College, Nonwa-Tai in Rivers State, while those from the police commands from the North and the South-west will be trained at the Police Mobile Force Training College, Ende, Nasarawa State and the Police Mobile Force Training College, Ila-Orangun, Osun State, respectively.

Solders Brutalise Protesters as Protests Spread

Nigeria Army yesterday brutalised and inflicted injuries on scores of EndSARS protesters at the Three Arm Zone in Abuja.

The protesters were manhandled by soldiers stationed at the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers at the Eagle Square, when they tried to march to the National Assembly to present their grouse to lawmakers, who were in a plenary session.

Tension rose when the demonstrators, who had earlier marched to the Eagle Square, crossed into the National Assembly side of the Three Arm Zone and were approaching the outer gate before they were repelled by the fierce-looking soldiers numbering about 10.

In the heat of the moment, scores of the demonstrators were beaten for challenging the order of the soldiers, who asked them to vacate the open space.

The soldiers also manhandled a cameraman of ARISE NEWS Channel for filming the protest and also seized his digital HD camera, the second camera of ARISE NEWS to be impounded by security operatives in the last 48 hours of the coverage of #EndSARS protest in the FCT.

The ARISE NEWS team was led by Mr. Ferdinand Duruoha.

However, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday joined numerous voices condemning police brutality of citizens on the peaceful protest of extra judicial activities of the Nigeria Police Force and other security of security agencies.

The President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata, in a press briefing in Abuja, said the body cannot be aloof in situations like this because history is taking records of the roles and activities played by individuals and groups, adding that the body is desirous of being on the good side of history.

Akpata, who condemned the clampdown on protesters of the #EndSARS and police reforms, said government at all levels must recognise protest as inalienable rights of citizens that must not only be guaranteed but respected at all times.

While warning that the body would not tolerate the use of live arms and ammunition against peaceful and lawful protesters, he urged the government and police authorities to bring to justice any officer found culpable.

Akpata said: “We call on governments at all levels to protect the rights of citizens participating in the peaceful protests across the country and direct the security agencies to cease assaulting, attacking, abusing or otherwise harassing or using force against citizens who seek to have their voices heard through peaceful protest.”

He called for an expedited auditor the various SARS detention centres across the country particularly that in Awkuzu in Anambra State, “the infamous human abattoir in Abuja and the notorious SARS detention facilities across Lagos, Port Harcourt and other parts of the country.”

The Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello, also yesterday identified with the protesters, calling for an end to the uncivilised behaviours of some bad elements within the police.

While addressing journalists at Government House in Lokoja yesterday, Bello explained that the call by the Nigerian youths was very apt at this critical time.

The protest hit Akure, the Ondo State, as some youths trooped to the streets, simultaneously in three different towns of the sunshine state.

In Yola, the Adamawa State Police dispersed a group of youths, who converged to protest against SARS brutality against youths across the country.

One of the organisers of the protest told THISDAY that the protest was meant to end police’s brutalities and molestations on the youths across the country.

“We wrote the police of our intending protest today but we were just gathering for the protest when the commissioner of police sent some of his men to disperse us,” he said.

In Port Harcourt, thousands of protesters defied Rivers State Government ban on all forms of protests and marched through some roads in Port Harcourt before laying siege to Government House.
The #EndSARS protesters also vowed not to leave the Government House gate until Governor Nyesom Wike comes out to address them.

The Rivers State governor later addressed the protesters and called for a total reform of the police and not just SARS.

Canadian-American musician, Celine Marie Dion, joined the league of international superstars who have sent messages of comradeship to Nigeria citizens.

“My heart is melting after reading what is going on in Nigeria…#EndSARS #EndPoliceBrutality,” Celine Dion posted.

The protesters also stormed the major roads in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital yesterday.

Led by some activists and youth leaders, they divided themselves into two. While the group kicked off the protest at the Iwo-road interchange and moved towards Agodi Gate to the State Secretariat, the other group converged in front of the University of Ibadan gate and walk through Bodija market to the Secretariat.

In Lagos, Governor Sanwo-Olu joined the protesters who had thronged the premises of Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja.

Reiterating his support of their demands, he received a signed letter where they listed out their demands to the government and police hierarchy on how to follow through about the disbandment of the SARS unit and an end to police brutality.

Asides Alausa, protesters also thronged areas like the Lekki Toll gate, FESTAC Town, Amuwo Odofin, Abule Egba and Yaba.

Other areas include in Oyingbo, Surulere, Ebute Metta, Oshodi, Mushin, Ketu, Ogba, Maryland, Ikeja, Chevron, Ajah, and Ajegunle.

However, Sanwo-Olu announced the setting up of a N200 million fund to compensate families of victims of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) killings.

Sanwo-Olu announced this while addressing the protesters.

According to him, the compensation fund will be completely supervised by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) appointed by members of the public.

Also the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, also promised that the lawmakers will make adequate provision for compensation of victims on the 2021 budget.

Jonathan Sues for Restraint

In a related development, former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday sued for restraint as the protests continued to spread across the country.

The former president in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said: “I implore everyone to exercise restraint as we walk through these challenging times.”

The former President stressed that no Nigerian life should be lost during peaceful protests. He stated this in a post he made through his social media accounts.

The message said: “No Nigerian blood needs to be spilled or life lost during a peaceful protest that seeks to advance our country. We may hold different views on national issues, but there is no doubt that most people desire the same thing for Nigeria: a place where we can all live out the full potential of our God-given abilities.

“I implore everyone to exercise restraint as we walk through these challenging times.”