•Supervise new tactical team, establish fund for victims
•IG cautions personnel on use of force
•Again, hoodlums attack demonstrators in Lagos
Youths protesting police brutality for the past nine days got hefty concessions from the federal and state governments yesterday as the National Economic Council (NEC) rose from a meeting in Abuja and directed the 36 state governors and Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to take charge of negotiations with the protesters in their respective states.
Specifically, the NEC directed the governors to establish judicial panels to investigate alleged police brutality, supervise fresh tactical team being set up by the Inspector-General of Police, and raise a fund to compensate victims of cruelty by the defunct rogue squad, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
These directives, according to a statement by the spokesman of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Mr. Laolu Akande, were given at a meeting of NEC presided over by the vice president, and attended by state governors.
The judicial panels, which would be set up in all the states would include representatives of youths, students, civil society organisations and would be chaired by a respected retired State High Court Judge.
According to the statement, NEC specifically resolved that state governors and the FCT minister should take charge of interface and contact with the protesters in their respective domains.
NEC also directed that the state governors should immediately establish a state-based Special Security and Human Rights Committee to be chaired by the governors in their states, to supervise the newly formed police tactical units and all other security agencies located in the states.
It said: ”Regarding the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, each state government is to set up the panel, chaired by a retired High Court Judge, with other members selected by the state governor as follows: Two representatives of civil society groups; one retired police officer of high repute; one youth representative; one student representative; one representative of the state Attorney-General and a representative from the National Human Rights Commission.
”The terms of reference for the judicial panel is to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings; evaluate evidence presented/other surrounding circumstances, and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints; and recommend compensation and other remedial measures, where appropriate.
”The panel’s assignment should be concluded within a maximum of six months unless it shows convincing reasons why the state governor should allow an extension.
“There would also be Human Rights Public Complaints Team of between two to three persons to receive complaints on an ongoing basis. That team would be established by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights.”
Govs Want IG to Consult Widely on SWAT
Meanwhile, the 36 state governors have also called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, who warned his personnel against the use of force on protesters yesterday, to consult widely before taking further decisions on SWAT.
The governors pointed out that even though SWAT might be necessary and in good faith, the timing was inauspicious as the outfit may understandably be misinterpreted as a surreptitious move to dress FSARS in another garb.
After a meeting with the 36 states’ governors, Adamu was advised to halt further proceedings on the proposed SWAT until consultations with all stakeholders were done.
According to a communique of the meeting between the governors and Adamu, which was signed by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), and the Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governors stated: “The timing of the creation of SWAT is inauspicious as the mood of the nation negates it and may understandably be misinterpreted as a surreptitious move to dress FSARS in another garb.
“Governors agreed that there was a need for greater consultation with the public before any decision is taken; “Governors advised the IG to immediately convene a meeting of all stakeholders and agree on a format of engagement with all state officials in order to address concerns; and that state leadership should meet simultaneously nationwide, to address matters arising.”
It added: “The governors were unanimous in their support for the IG and endorsed his plan to carry out far-reaching reforms geared towards greater effectiveness, accountability and transparency; members called for increased regularity in the meetings of the Nigeria Police Council in order for it to effectively carry out its regulatory and supervisory roles as contained in the Nigerian Constitution.”
The communique stated that the governors emphasised that reforms must include the training and retraining of operatives on the rules of engagement with the general public, adding that policing in Nigeria must ensure freedom for all Nigerians to carry out their lawful and legitimate businesses anywhere in the country without fear of harassment, intimidation or molestation.
The governors advised that throughout the reform process, the room for consultation may include sessions and direct feedback from the public, stressing that there is no single solution that applies to all the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
It said: “The governors were unequivocal that all police officers who participated in the abuse or actions that might have led to injury or the death of innocent citizens must be fished out and brought to book while other Nigerians who have been adversely affected by police brutality or other actions that were injurious to them or their loved ones, should be compensated.”
They recommended that the IG, the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Council should immediately review the remuneration and emoluments of police officers and explore ways to fund this in order to incentivize and motivate police officers who have pledged themselves in service of the country.
According to the communique of the meeting, Adamu said that the SWAT would be strictly intelligence-driven and that it will be constituted to carry out tactical operations across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
It said the IG informed the governors that after a psychological and medical evaluation, SWAT officers will be trained and posted to all state commands – about 50 per state, where they will operate only on intelligence-driven operation.
Northern States Back Push for Police Reforms
In a related development, the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, has said that states in the north were comfortable with the operations of the disbanded SARS due to insecurity situation in the region.
Lalong stated this yesterday while speaking to State House correspondents, after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on the improving security situation in the North as well as the upcoming National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST).
He said what was needed was the reformation of the disbanded unit to enable it discharge its functions optimally.
Lalong stated: “When we see issues like this because most of the complaints vary from one state to the other. In one aspect, some people said they don’t want SARS, some said they want SARS but a reformed SARS. They want a reformed SARS because as far as they are concerned, some of these SARS operatives help them in addressing insecurity.
“If there are bad ones, holistically, bring them together and reform them. Then, you work for them. So, our opinion and conclusion at that stage were that let us not just say that we are throwing away the baby with the bathwater. If there are good ones, you don’t chase them away. So, as SARS is banned, we are now looking forward to an opinion because most of the states in the North said no. They want SARS because SARS helps them. Borno said without SARS, he would not have been surviving today. Niger also wants SARS.”
Lalong noted that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) met on Wednesday and it is expected that it’s chairman to meet with the president on the issue.
Military Warns Thugs against Hijack of Protests
The military high command yesterday warned thugs and miscreants taking advantage of the ongoing #ENDSARS protest to unleash violence on peaceful protesters to desist from doing so.
It said attacks on peaceful protesters would no longer be tolerated.
A statement signed by the Coordinator of Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Maj. Gen. John Enenche, warned that acts capable of undermining democracy would not be allowed.
He said: “The armed forces of Nigeria and other security agencies have observed with dismay some violence-related protests across the country particularly the increasing number of attacks on peaceful protesters by thugs and miscreants.
“This unfolding event against peace-loving Nigerians will not be condoned. Hence, thugs and miscreants are hereby warned to desist from engaging in violent activities against peaceful Nigerians henceforth or face appropriate measures.”
A terse statement issued by the Nigerian Army had earlier warned trouble makers and subversive elements to desist from acts capable of undermining democratic rule.
It restated loyalty to the constitution and the president and affirmed its determination to defend the country and its democracy at all cost.
The statement signed by Army spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, said the military was committed to the sustenance of peace, security and defence of democracy.
Suspected Thugs Attack Protesters in Lagos, Govt Distances Self
The hitherto peaceful protests in Lagos became volatile yesterday when some armed thugs penetrated the chain of protesters and unleashed mayhem.
Armed with cutlasses and other sharp weapons, the thugs had taken the protesters by a surprise given the success the former recorded on Wednesday in repelling the hoodlums.
Brought to the protest grounds in Alausa in buses, the hoodlums unleashed mayhem on protesters without recourse to their right to protest.
At the end of the attack, scores of protesters sustained varying degree of injuries including some that had deep cutlass cuts on their heads, shoulders and even body.
With no weapon to match the brutal strength of the hoodlums, the protesters gave way and fled to different directions, with the injured lagging behind.
After the hoodlums left while singing victory chants, the protesters regrouped and began to attend to the injured.
One of the champions of the protest, Ms. Aisha Yesufu said: “They bring in thugs to disrupt election and scare voters away. They are bringing thugs to attack protesters demanding for Nigeria to be a better nation and you are supporting them because the protesters are stressing you. You are Nigeria’s problem.”
Reacting to the incident, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, distanced the government from that attack, reiterating its stance on democratic principles.
He said: “I strongly condemn the attack of peaceful protesters by armed and unscrupulous elements trying to cause chaos in Alausa today.
“My government will never tolerate the attack of protesters. Security agents will immediately protect peaceful protesters from miscreants.”
Addressing allegations that the state mass transit was used by the thugs, he said: “I have received reports involving a bus in our state bus service.
“Our buses will never be involved in such activities and I have instructed the state team to get to the root of it. I will address our residents live today on developments.
“I understand the atmosphere of distrust in which things are happening and how rapidly the situation has escalated, but I need to let every Lagosian understand that our government believes firmly in democratic ideals and will continue to act in accordance with our belief.”
Meanwhile, the Feminist Coalition, a group of young Nigerian feminists formed in July 2020 with a mission to champion equality for women in Nigerian society with a core focus on education, financial freedom and representation in public office has raised millions in support of the campaign.
Giving an account of what has so far been raised as at yesterday, the coalition said: “We have raised a total sum of N62, 643, 663.05, $11,474.34 US dollars; 5,595.89 Canadian Dollars, 5,733.49 pounds, 875.42 Euros, 1,256.70 Ghana Cedis, 53,016.60 Kenyan Shillings and 1.28827988 Bitcoins.
Giving a breakdown of the figures expended already they said the coalition has supported 100 peaceful protests in 25 states, paid N759, 080 in medical bills for injured protesters, donated N400, 000 to the families of victims murdered by police officers while protesting peacefully, paid N500,000 in legal aid and spent N11,367,500 on supplies including food, water, mask among other things.
FCTA Bans Protests in Abuja
In another development, the Federal Capital Territory Security Committee has banned #EndSARS protests in Abuja, the nation’s capital, for alleged violation of the COVID-19 protocols.
The FCT Administration said it was concerned that despite the scrapping of the SARS by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, last Sunday, the demonstrations had continued, causing inconveniences to law-abiding citizens.
The resolutions of the meeting were contained in a statement titled,’COVID-19: FCT Security Committee prohibits street demonstrations,’ signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the FCT minister, Mr. Anthony Ogunleye.