*Warn against use of force on protesters
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have said that they are fully in support of the ongoing action by Nigerian youths who are seeking end to Police brutality and general reform of the security system.
The bishops who spoke under the auspices of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said #EndSARS protest was a true representation of the problem in the country and was morally justified.
A statement stigned by its president, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, the Bishops
said almost everyone in the country had been a victim of Police brutality and the injustices perpetrated by officers of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
The Clerics who threw their weight behind the protesters, said the youths were asserting their constitutional right by demanding for justice and peace for all from “extra-judicial killings, unlawful arrests, profiling of youths as criminals, the invasion of youths privacy by searching phones and laptops without any warrant or any just cause, and the incarceration of many of the youths in the SARS custody without trial”.
“EndSARS goes beyond the SARS and it is morally justified. We support the youths who have taken this step and we caution that they are allowed without any intimidation to exercise their right to peaceful demonstration and should not be provoked or incited to violence,” CBCN said.
The statement made available to newsmen late Saturday evening in Abuja, said that disbanding SARS and setting up a new outfit called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), shows poor judgment on the part of the Federal Government, adding that it is either they are not willing to allow peace and justice prevail, or totally lack understanding of the enormous problems at hand.
According to the Bishops, Nigerians were demanding a total reform of the nation’s police force, adding that there was hardly any Nigerian who has not directly or indirectly encountered the crude and inhumane treatment of the SARS officials.
The statement reads in part: “We the members of the CBCN have followed the protests with keen interest and call on the Federal Government of Nigeria once again to listen to the cry for justice so that peace can reign in our country. The protest seems to have a life of its own and it is spreading all over the country; this shows that most Nigerians are facing the same oppression and brutality inflicted by the SARS.
“We urge the Federal Government to fulfil its primary constitutional responsibility of securing life and property of every Nigerian and provide opportunities for our children to realise their God-given potentials.
“The audacity and impunity with which the SARS officials have been operating all the while is a manifestation of the failing State of Nigeria. Various bodies and patriotic Nigerians have expressed the opinion that just ending the SARS will not solve the enormous problems of Nigeria, because it is futile treating symptoms of a disease when the root cause is known”.
The Bishops blamed centralized Police Force in Nigeria as being primarily responsible for the lack of grassroots accountability for the crimes perpetrated by the SARS and their likes.
“We reiterate that restructuring this country is a desirable path to be towed given the various developments in this nation. The knee jerk reaction of the administration by abolishing the SARS and setting up the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team portrays either the absence of an understanding of the entire problem or a lack of sincerity to address the problem.
“The Nigerian Government must realise that what the youths, on behalf of Nigerians, clamour for under the code name #EndSARS is a total reform of the entire Police Force and not a change of name; they call for a reform of all our government institutions and a reform of the entire nation. They are asking for a system that will be hard on crimes and criminals in the society within the ambience of the law, while at the same time treating every human being, citizens and visitors alike, with respect and dignity.”
The clerics further demanded justice for all victims of the SARS and police brutality, a review of the welfare of the policemen who have been badly deprived by the system, infrastructural development of police barracks, investigation of fraudulent practices by past and present top police officers especially payment of entitlements to families of deceased officers.