#SARSMUSTEND: How Government Can End Nationwide Protests

by Jude Obuseh

As protests against police brutality and calls for the reform of the force continue to spread across the country’s major cities and towns, the need for the Federal Government to come up with adequate emergency responses to the critical issues raised by the protesters has become all the more expedient.

Despite the measures so far taken by the authorities such as the proscription of the notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, who went on to announce the formation of a new Tactical Unit in its place, assent to other demands made by the protesters such as the release of all protesters in police custody, and a promise to commence investigations into past cases of extra-judicial killings by the police, the protests have not shown any sign of abating, due to the following reasons:

1-.Nigerians view the proscription of SARS as just scratching on the surface of a much more visceral sore; a placatory effort by the authorities to subtly quell the ongoing demonstrations; a damage control strategy so to speak.

2-.Nigerians view the rank rot in SARS as a minute reflection of the endemic decay permeating the entire Nigerian Police Force, due to the fact that other units in the force are as culpable as SARS of most of the reprehensible issues raised by Nigerians.

3-.Nigerians fear that SARS could be reinvented in another form, despite the IGP’s pronouncement, due to the fact that some supposed reforms in the past did not yield positive fruits as the rogue unit continued to wax stronger in its highhanded, largely extra-judicial activities.

4-. Nigerians are of the conviction that disbanding SARS will not automatically turn all police men into saints overnight as the same officers will be absolved into other units of the police force, or into the new unit that would be established to replace SARS

5-. In all, Nigerians feel that the problem of the police force is not just about the structures, but about the negative orientation of the operators of the structures. Nigerian Police personnel act with too much impunity that supposedly places them above the law. Nigerians want to see a police force staffed by individuals who work within the ambit of the law, have proper training and respect for the civil populace, the tax payers who pay their salaries and expect to be treated with some level of respect; a professionalized police force that is a friend and protector of the civil populace.

However, if the following confidence building measures are taken by the authorities, the protests will abate and ultimately come to an end.

1-Government must give listening ears to the demands of the protesters and be seen to be working assiduously towards addressing the major issues raised. This will act as a confidence building measure that would give room for further negotiations on the way forward, as the public has become accustomed to viewing promises made by the government with askance.

2-.The Federal Government must ensure the safety of protesters by ordering the security operatives to exercise restraint in the face of provocation, as recent reported cases of shooting of unarmed protesters by police operatives have further increased public opprobrium and apathy towards the force, estranging the public in the process.

3-.Government must immediately launch full-fledged investigations, through the instrumentality of a genuine judicial commission of inquiry, not one in the mold of the rubber stamp Ayo Salami Judicial Commission of Inquiry, to probe cases of past extrajudicial killings of Nigerians by police personnel and ensure that those found culpable are subjected to the brunt of the law to act as deterrent to would-be perpetrators of such heinous offences.

4- The Attorneys-General should be allowed to take over the prosecution of past incidences of extra-judicial killings by police operatives, as the 2020 Police Act forbids the prosecution of cases in civil courts by the police.

5-. Genuine steps, not damage control measures, must be taken by all stakeholders to commence a comprehensive reformation of the entire police force, which has been the main thrust of the ongoing protests.

If these measures, alongside others deemed necessary by the government, can be immediately activated, the ongoing nationwide protests will gradually recede, as most of the demands of the protesters would have been addressed.

God Save Nigeria!



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