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#Endsars Protests: Police Reforms Remain a Mirage Two Years After

Not much has changed ever since, despite the sweet platitudes of the government during the #Endsars protests.

Reacting to the 2 years anniversary of the protest, the Executive Director of Sterling Centre for Law & Development, Deji Ajare said the outright failure of the Government to look critically into the demands and implement reforms to bring them into fruition is an indication of the fact that the government has not learnt any lessons from the protests.

“Two years ago, Nigeria witnessed its biggest historical public demonstration led by young Nigerians, a demonstration that was triggered by the alarming rate of police brutality, which then metamorphosed into a full-blown protest and demand for police reform and an end to police brutality.

“In response to the demonstration the Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo gave a public speech in which he assured the protesters and the public that government will swing into action to ensure that their demands were met and the wrongs complained of addressed. The National Economic Council also issued a directive that Judicial Panel of Inquiry be set up in all states of the Federation to investigate allegations of brutality in the various states.

“Furthermore, with the approval of the President, the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was completely dissolved on the promise that none of its former personnel will feature in any Police tactical units, and a new unit the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) was set up in its place.

“While the protest lasted, a lot happened, there were cases of arrest of protesters, of key leaders of the protest, lives were lost, properties were vandalized but for the first time it seemed that the Nigerian Youths were able to present a united front and with one voice demanded for change and for action from the government.

“It is clear from all indications that not much has changed ever since, despite the sweet platitudes of the government during the protests, including the “disbandment” of the SARS, as many personnel of the dissolved unit were merely absorbed into other units.

“The outright failure of the Government to look critically into the demands and implement reforms to bring them into fruition is an indication of the fact that the government has not learnt any lessons from the protests and its unfortunate end-which led to massive loss of lives of innocent citizens, law enforcement officers and properties worth about Twenty Billion Naira. Till date, many of the protesters are still languishing in jail, being prosecuted on very flippant charges while many others have been pushed to exile.

“The SWAT unit which was supposed to replace SARS has remained a floundering baby. Also, there is no single known case of any prosecution of the officers who were responsible for the pre-protest brutalization and extra-judicial killings, officers such as James Nwafor, who has allegedly been given a safe passage to evade justice. Even where there have been some actions, such actions have been merely face-saving slaps on the wrists of the offenders.

“Despite the directive of the National Economic Council to the States to set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry, only 28 states did set up panels, those that did either did not complete their assignments, and where they did, their reports were not made public, neither have any of their recommendations been implemented.

“More importantly, the welfare of members of the Police Force remains at a worrisome state, which was one of the core demands of the #EndSARS protesters that the welfare of the officers be improved to a good standard and to a point where they will not be induced by their appalling penury into acts that denigrate the image of the force.

“As we commemorate the protests and remember the lives lost from it, both of protesters and law enforcement agents, we take liberty of this day to call on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Attorneys General of the various States to obtain the reports of the various panels and make them public and to implement their recommendations.

“We also call on the Police Service Commission to ensure that new or recent cases of brutality be investigated promptly and officers found culpable, appropriately sanctioned.

“In addition, we call on all arms of the Federal Government to ensure deep and impactful reforms to improve the welfare of the officers of the Police Force, including their service remunerations, accommodations, promotions, pensions and post service concerns, including for those who die in service and their families.

“Finally, we call on all members of the civil society, including the media, activists, academia, etc. to identify police Reforms as a key part of their advocacy and to push the policy and lawmakers to ensure they put in place enduring reforms for the betterment of Nigeria and of all Nigerians, so that the lives that were lost during the protests will not be in vain”, he stated.

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