To Douse Tension, Senate Urges Buhari to Address Nigerians

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•Demands probe of extra-judicial killings by police

By Deji Elumoye

The Senate yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address Nigerians on the two-week-long #EndSARS protest by youths, which has spread to different parts of the country.

It also called on the federal government to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to probe extra-judicial killings of operatives of the disbanded Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

These were part of the resolutions arrived at by the Senate in the wake of a motion entitled, “EndSARS: Need for comprehensive and holistic reforms,” moved by a former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi.

The Senate stressed the need for the president to be concerned about recent developments in the country, especially the ongoing protests by the youths, saying that part of what was going to address the issue immediately was for Buhari to address the nation on the issues.

While calling on all tiers of government to put in place and sustain policies and programmes of socio-economic reforms that raise the standard and quality of life of Nigerians, the Senate urged the federal government to implement all the five-point demand of the #EndSARS movement and protesters with necessary timelines to rekindle confidence in the government.

It also appealed to the #EndSARS movement and protesters to suspend their actions and embrace genuine dialogue in order to give the government the time and space to meet their demands.

It urged the youths and others to approach the National Assembly committees on constitutional reforms in order to secure far-reaching and holistic amendments that are vital to reshaping the federation to make it an inclusive and viable polity.

The Senate while appealing to Nigerians to resort to use of legal and institutional channels of resolving conflicts and disputes urged the police and other security agencies to operate strictly in accordance with the rules of engagement appropriate to a democratic environment that abjures the use of aggressive and brutal force against peaceful protesters.

It also urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to ensure holistic and comprehensive reforms of the police to include improved welfare, training and medical insurance of all members of the Nigerian Police Force.

Earlier in her motion, Olujimi, who came under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules had traced police brutality in Nigeria to the colonial era when the force was mainly used to suppress dissent against colonial rule.

According to her, “Some of the documented police brutalities in Nigeria during the colonial era are: the killing of 21 miners and wounding of 50 workers during the Enugu Colliery strike of 1949; suppression of the women’s riot (December 1929 – January 1930) in the Eastern parts of the country, which led to the death of 55 women and serious injuries to more than 50 others; and the quelling of the Tiv riots of 1960 where 19 civilians were allegedly killed and 83 injured.”

Olujimi stated that despite the constitutional provisions establishing the police force based on Section 214(1) of the 1979 and 1999 constitutions, police brutality continued during the post-colonial era.

“The police were used as an instrument of oppression by politicians in the first and second republics, in order to harass and keep themselves in power.

During the military rule, the police were used to suppress popular protest and agitations against military dictatorship,” the lawmaker said.

She added that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was created in 1992 as a unit of the Nigerian Police Force to deal with crimes such as robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping amongst others.

She recalled that in June 2020, Amnesty International in a report; ‘Time to End Impunity’ documented that between January 2017 and May 2020, there were 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial killings of Nigerian citizens by SARS.

She, however, expressed concern that “the latest #EndSARS protest, which has assumed a global dimension, began on October 3, 2020, when the video of a SARS officer who allegedly shot a young Nigerian in Ughelli, Delta State, surfaced online.”

The lawmaker added that “despite the disbandment of the SARS unit by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, and the promise of implementing the demands of the protesters towards reforming the police and ending brutality, the address by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 10, 2020 and the appeal of the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, to the protesters, the protests have increased in intensity and violence with socio-economic activities paralysed across Nigeria with some compatriots losing their lives in the ensuing melee.”