The Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), a Nigerian based think tank, has expressed dissatisfaction with the Nigerian government’s response to the #EndSARS protesters’ demands for humane policing and good governance.
The CDD also expressed displeasure that, despite the clear message sent by the protest, the government has shown no inclination to address the trigger factors, which, if ignored, could rekindle a similar experience in the not-too-distant future.
In a statement signed by Idayat Hassan, its Director, the nonprofit urged the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure holistic reforms of the Nigeria Police Force, before the end of his tenure, saying such reforms would be an indelible legacy he would leave with Nigerians.
“CDD is also worried that one year after, no single erring police officer or that of the Nigerian Army has been held accountable regarding the killing of peaceful and armless protesters during the protest, in spite of the panels of inquiry,” the organisation said in the statement.
“Of more heart-breaking is the Oct. 20 Lekki Toll Gate experience, which is still largely being denied and shrouded in official denials. We therefore, call for an Independent Panel of Inquiry to look into this, in the interest of justice and social cohesion,” the statement reads.
Between Oct. 7 and 22, 2020, Nigerian youths led a nationwide protest against police brutality, particularly the alleged atrocities of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), resulting in the disbandment of the police intelligence unit and the establishment of panels of inquiry across the country to investigate the matter and recommend sanctions and appropriate compensation for the victims.
According to CDD, field investigations revealed that approximately 80 people were killed in the ensuing mayhem, including 57 civilians, 22 police officers, and three soldiers. It said 137 police stations were burned, 71 public warehouses and 248 private stores were looted, and 1,137 inmates were released from Correctional Facilities across the country.
According to the Nigerian Inspector-General of Police, more than 1,117 of the 1,596 suspects arrested in connection with the violence and widespread looting have been charged in court across the country.
CDD went on to say that implementing recommendations such as adequate compensation for victims of police brutality and their families, holding erring police officers accountable, and ensuring the holistic reform of the Nigerian Police through an upward review of their salary structure, the construction of modern or the renovation of existing police divisional commands, and the provision of a health insurance scheme for personnel and their families, among others, would be critical to addressing the issue.
“Our record shows that out of the 36 states and the FCT, 29 states did set up the Panel of Inquiry to hear complaints against erring police officers, particularly personnel of the disbanded SARS,” it said.
“It is on record that 18 states have completed sittings, however, they did not submit the report of the panels.”
“Ekiti is the only state that has completed the process, made its report public, and paid all compensations awarded to victims. Lagos State, though suspended its sitting indefinitely, has reportedly been visiting the families and relatives of only the police officers that were killed in the protest for payment of compensations.”
The CDD said the imbalance needs to be addressed especially now that the country is desperately in search of peace.
“From our over two decades of field experience, working to deepen democracy, good governance and regional cohesion, a recurring component central to achieving sustainable peace and development remains social justice. And this is what the EndSARS protest was about. We therefore implore the government to ensure this is served to all concerned.”
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