Amidst controversy over lack of Federal Governments commitment to youths demand during the youth uprising, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has denied delay in meeting with various demands listed during the crises.
In address Thursday titled, “The EndSARS Protest And Its Aftermath” Mohammed noted that it is no longer news that the EndSARS protest last month degenerated into mindless violence after it was hijacked by hoodlums.
He said however that in the aftermath of the protest, there are lingering issues which became imperative for him to address those concerns and to take a holistic look at such issues.
The Minister recalled that the five demands of the youths included among other things immediate, release of all arrested protesters, Justice for all deceased victims of Police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families, setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days.
Others were that in line with the new Police Act, there should be psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded
SARS officers before they can be redeployed and increase in Police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.
He said that in line with those requests, and that though the EndSARS campaign had barely begun last month when the Inspector-General of Police announced, on October 11th 2020, the immediate disbandment of SARS across the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“A day later, on October 12th, 2020, President Muhamadu Buhari addressed the nation, stating: ”The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people. We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice.” Mohammed recalled.
Also, following up quickly on that, the IGP on October 13 2020, ordered all defunct SARS personnel to report at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, for debriefing as well as psychological and medical examination.
The officers were to undergo this process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties.
The medical examination was carried out by the new Police Counselling and Support Unit (PCSU).
Going further “On October 13th 2020, the presidential panel on the reform of SARS formally accepted the five-point demand of the #EndSARS protesters.
On October 15th 2020, the National Economic Council (NEC) directed the immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units. The panel will include representatives of Youths, Students, Civil Society Organizations and would be chaired by a respected retired State High Court Judge. The panels have six months to complete its assignment.”
The Minister listed other decisions by NEC on the demands, that State Governors and the FCT Minister should take charge of interface and contact with the protesters in their respective domains and State Governors should immediately establish State-based Special Security and Human Rights Committees to be chaired by the Governors in their States, and to supervise the newly-formed police tactical units and all other security agencies located in the States. This will ensure the protection of citizens’ human rights.
Members will also include Representatives of Youths and Civil Society, as well as the head of Police tactical units in each of the States, establishment by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights, of a Human Rights Public Complaints Team of between 2 to 3 persons to receive complaints on an ongoing basis and that team would be established by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights as well as State Governors to immediately establish a Victims Fund to enable the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.
Mohammed also said that on the Federal Government’s response, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission was directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force.
“You can see, from the above, that the Federal Government was not only responsive but was also very responsible in its handling of the demands of the EndSARS protesters.
The five demands were met (some with an immediate pronouncement and others by kickstarting the process of meeting them). Despite this, the protest continued and the demands kept expanding, until the protest was hijacked, leading to unprecedented violence characterized by killings, maiming, arson, looting etc.”. He regretted.