By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the five-point demand of the #EndSARS protesters, who kept their activities aflame in some major cities and state capitals in the last few days.
The President’s approval came just as the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, created a new unit called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team to replace the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The IGP said the new body will take-off with new operatives different from members of the disbanded organization.
At a stakeholders meeting yesterday, the IGP agreed to meet the demands, which include halting use of force against protesters and unconditional release of arrested citizens. The demands were forwarded to the President for approval.
The meeting, organized by the office of the Inspector General of Police and National Human Rights Commission, 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.
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.
A communiqué of Stakeholders’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) said:
“Following the public protests regarding various forms of human rights violations by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the consequent disbandment of the unit by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, there arose the need for stakeholder engagement to build trust and restore public confidence in law enforcement.
“The agitations also brought to the fore, the need to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“The Forum was addressed by the Inspector General of Police and the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission.
“The Forum collectively: welcomed the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; Reaffirmed the constitutional rights of Nigerians to peaceful assembly and protest; Further affirmed the sanctity of life of every Nigerian and the role of the Police in protecting this right; Affirms that the five-point demands of the protesters and the ENDSARS movement are genuine concerns and will be addressed by the Government.’’
According to the communiqué signed by the Inspector General of Police and Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, the Forum noted that 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 Forum further notes that the proposed reforms should be anchored under the basis of the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad which was jointly authored by the National Human Rights Commission, the Federal Ministry of Justice, and the Nigeria Police Force.
“The Forum affirms that reform proposals for the Nigerian Police Force will be based on Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and existing legislations such as the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, the 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.
“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 one 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 will be supported by the National Human Rights Commission and other civil society organisations.
A statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said the new unit would fill the gaps arising from the dissolution of SARS.
Mba said recruitment has commenced for operatives of the new unit, stating “prospective members of this new team will also undergo psychological and medical examination to ascertain their fitness and eligibility for the new assignment.
“They are to commence training at the different Police tactical training institutions nationwide, next week.
“While personnel from the Police Commands in the South-East and the South-South will be trained at the Counter-Terrorism College, Nonwa-Tai, Rivers State, 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.
“While reaffirming his irrevocable commitment towards the successful and holistic implementation of the Police reforms, the IGP enjoins members of the public, particularly protesting citizens to exercise restraint and allow measures being put in place to come to fruition and engender a Police Force that would meet the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry.”
The IGP also ordered all operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to report at the Force Headquarters, Abuja for debriefing, psychological and medical examination.
Mba said the order was in accordance with Section 18 (10) of the Police Act 2020.
He also said the officers were expected to undergo the process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties.
“The medical examination will be carried out by the newly set-up Police Counselling and Support Unit (PCSU), which shall henceforth engage in psychological management, re-orientation and training of officers of the Force deployed for tactical operations and other duties.
“The Unit, which is domiciled with the Force Medical Department and coordinated by the Force Medical Officer, has its membership drawn from amongst psychiatrists, psychologists, medics, pastors and imams, Public Relations practitioners, Civil Society and other Human Rights groups with relevant qualifications and expertise.”
Protests Spread Across Country
Reports monitored in Abuja yesterday, showed that prominent Nigerians, including politicians, artists, businessmen and women took to the streets asking the Federal Government to not only scrap, but bring those found culpable of killings to book.
#EndSARS Take Over Lagos Streets
Economic activities in the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos, were disrupted for two days running yesterday, as protesters in clusters, went around causing traffic jam along major roads.
Two persons, including a police inspector, were reportedly killed in Surulere and businesses quickly shut down with people scampering to safety.
Addressing thousands of youths at the Lekki Tollgate, the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, called for calm and for other residents.
He said their voices had been heard and that he would take their demands to the President at a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Villa
Sanwo-Olu said he identified with the EndSARS campaigners, noting that their agitation touched the essence of democratic freedom.
Some Lagos-based artistes at the Lekki protest are DJ EniMoney, Ex housemate Omatshola of Big Brother Naija, Dancer Poco lee, Charles Okpocha, among others.
Popular actors, Yomi Fabiyi, Adeniyi Johnson, Shoneye Olamilekan, Lala Dapo, Funke Etti, and Seyi Edun also joined the protest at Ikeja.
Bearing banners that read, “Nollywood is saying: #justiceforJimohIshaq and others, #Endtotureinstations, #Endpolicebrutality and #ThankyouforendingSARS,” the actors said the police force needs a reform.
Protesters in their hundreds, wore black T-shirts and rallied at the Berger Bridge, Wuse. They blocked the road while chanting: ‘End police brutality now.’
The blockage of the road paralysed vehicular traffic in the area as motorists made U-turn to avoid getting caught up in the resultant gridlock.
Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Spokesperson, ASP Mariam Yusuf, said she was not aware of the incident.
# EndSARS Protests in Ibadan
Protesters in Ibadan, capital of Oyo yesterday refused attempts by Oyo State Deputy Governor, Rauf Olaniyan, to address them.
They besieged the Oyo State Secretariat, Agodi Ibadan in what could be described as a massive protest.
The protesters bearing placards and singing various solidarity songs said they were continuing the #EndSARS campaign despite disbandment of the unit by the Inspector General of Police Muhammed Adamu on Sunday.
When the deputy governor arrived for an address, the protested shouted him down, insisting on listening only to Governor Seyi Makinde.
Attempt to convince the protesters that the governor was on official visit outside Ibadan, also fell on deaf ears as they insisted on waiting for his arrival.
The protest is the second in four days, leaving the secretariat under heavy security presence.
Workers and visitors into the secretariat were shut inside while all restrictions to vehicular movement were causing heavy gridlock within and around the secretariat.
The protesters assembled in strategic locations across the capital city, including Iwo Road, Ojoo and Mokola as early as 7am before leading a peaceful walk to the state secretariat. Convoys of exotic cars, motorcycles also joined in the procession.
Port Harcourt Protests
The situation in Port Harcourt was worrisome as protesters stormed streets in defiance to Governor Nyesom Wike’s directive.
The youths who converged opposite the Pleasure Park at Aba Road began their procession carrying placards and chanting “End SARS” insisting the Governor had no right to ban peaceful protests.
Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji, one of the protesters, lashed at Wike for barring residents from staging an #EndSARS protest in the state.
The state government had in a statement the previous night, bared residents from engaging in any peaceful protest, saying: “Anyone who participates in any protest will be made to face the law”.
Wike said the Federal Government had disbanded SARS, hence there was no need for the protest.
The movie star disagreed with the governor’s decision and took to Twitter to blast him.
“Your moustache says it all. You could have chosen to be any kind of leader you wanted. You chose to be a dictator. Do you have children?
That’s a shame. Leaders Will Be Held Accountable for every loss of innocent life in their State”.
Protests in Enugu
Award winning musicians joined #ENDSARS protest seeking for the reformation of SARS and end to police brutality, assault and maltreatment in the country.
In Enugu, where the protest is ongoing, Chinedu Izuchukwu Okoli aka Flavour joined other protesters who are furiously demanding an end to the operations and activities of SARS. Also joining him was Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike, aka Phyno and another Igbo rapper Zoro