Barely minutes after the Inspector General of Police (IGP) announced the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), police officers across the country meted out more brutality to protesters.
In Abuja, police continued to spray water cannons at citizens and began to use trucks to ram into cars and people on the streets, leaving several protesters and bystanders severely injured.
In Ogbomoso, Oyo state, at least four people are feared dead after police officers opened fire at protesters. It should be recalled that on Saturday, Jimoh Isiaq, a protester, was killed by officers of the Nigeria Police Force.
These extreme brutalities took place simultaneously and have continued despite the live broadcast of the IGP Mohammed Adamu who announced the dissolution of the defunct police unit.
Convener of Nigerian Digital Summit, Wale Adetona said, “The Police has failed to call its men to order. The announcement by the IGP has not changed anything. Peaceful protesters are being killed in Ogbomoso under Buhari’s watch.”
Humanitarian, Sally Suleiman tweeted, “They are killing people in Ogbomoso, tear gassing and people in Abuja. They haven’t dissolved or ended anything.
“We still have to fight for #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality,” she added.
The directive announced by Adamu ordered that all officers and men of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad be redeployed with immediate effect.
Meanwhile, the directive did not clarify the processes and the new destination of redeployed SARS officers, raising fears officers could continue with their impunity.
Similarly, Nigerians are emphasizing on the need for justice for victims of human rights violations.
Nigerians have also raised concerns with the gaps in the announcement by the police chief.
Amara Nwankpa, the director public policy initiative Shehu Musa Yaradua foundation in a series of tweets said dissolving SARS is a great first step but that takes citizens only 10 per cent of the way.
Nwankpa added that we need to retrain the officers who have to interface with citizens. Reform police processes to be citizen-friendly and hold those who have been accused of harming citizens accountable.
Eyo Ekpo in his response said an “investigation” conducted by any organisation into itself has a well-known name whitewash.
“Nothing but a judicial inquiry chaired by a retired or serving Justice of the Supreme Court will suffice and I see that the National Assembly has still said nothing about a hearing,” he added.
Cheta Nwanze, the Lead Partner at SBM Intelligence described the process as a repeat of previous events.
Nwanze said “Three things: #EndSARS has happened before, so this is not the time to slack. They will cynically release these rogue policemen on the population to raise the tempo of robberies.
“Demand for #ReformPoliceNG. Demand for #BuhariSpeakToNigerians. Demand for #NigeriaTransparency,” he added.
Demands by Nigerians
In response to the IGP’s announcement and subsequent attacks on citizens by the Police, Nigerians have listed their demands.
They are demanding an Executive Order and a public announcement by the President that SARS will be scrapped as well as a deadline date by which SARS operatives must hand over their identity cards and weapons.
The people are pushing for plans and timelines for implementation to be annoucned by the government.
In a circular co-signed by protesters on social media, five top demands were made to mirror the five resolutions earlier announced by the IG.
The demands are as follows:
- 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).
- In line with the new Police act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
- Increase Police salary so they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and properties of citizens.
An announcement is not enough – Nigerians
This is not the first time the IGP ordered the immediate disbandment of the SARS but no further action was taken. In January, 2019, the SARS was dissolved and disbanded following online protests.
“The only thing ended now is the word and the structure of SARS, all those behind the atrocities that caused the protest will simply be deployed to other units and a new structure that will deal with SARS’ mandate will be created”, said Ibrahim Muhammad, an Abuja based lawyer.
Amnesty Nigeria has also reacted to the disbandment of the SARS saying it “falls short of demands for accountability and justice for abuses committed by the unit and the police in general”.
The nonprofit stated that the disbanding of the SARS “must be supported by addressing the underlying issues that has allowed impunity to thrive.”
The organisation demanded “immediate and unhindered to SARS and other police detention centres by oversight bodies such as PSC, NHRC as well as lawyers and other human rights defenders”.
Amnesty further requested that all police officers involved in any form of brutality should be investigated and prosecuted.
“Immediate investigation and prosecution of police officers who have been accused of grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment,” the Amnesty said.
Another Twitter user with username @4GOODGEOFF said the officers should never be deployed to any police unit. They should instead deployed to the military unit to fight terrorism.
“Redeploying this set of SARS officers into other units of police force is like messing up the other set of police.
“For me I will suggest all the officers under the disbanded SARS unit be redeployed into the Millitary unit where they will be more useful in fighting terrorism,” he tweeted.
Demand shared by Savvy Rinu.
Nigerians are expressing a sense of uncertainty about the directives and look forward to clarity and end to police brutality .
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