The Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, has drummed support for peaceful protests against police brutality especially by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The #EndSARS protest which has gone global seeks the disbandment of the police unit over incessant cases of extra-judicial killings, extortion and harassment of citizens.
Protests have taken place in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities.
Nigerian singers, actors, politicians and other prominent individuals have joined the campaign both on the streets and the social media space.
Mr Bello, in his message to Nigerian youth on Saturday, described seeking an end to SARS brutality as a worthy cause that must be supported by all.
“Seeking an end to the brutal conduct against citizens by FSARS, other police units and the personnel of all security agencies is a worthy cause that must be supported by all,” the governor said.
He implored youth against violent confrontations with the police under any form or guise, whether during these protests or in any other circumstance.
“Taking the law into your hands is unwise, dangerous to the perpetrators and counter-productive to all desired outcomes. We will continue to work toward a new direction in the affairs of Nigeria in which all citizens can maximize the benefits of nationhood, including freedom from arbitrariness by agents of government,” he said.
He said, as governor and chief security officer of Kogi State, he had had cause in the past to order the arrest and prosecution of security officers whose misconduct and brutality led to injury and/or death of innocent citizens in the state.
“This is because I believe in the synergy between law and order and due process as safeguards for the absolute rights of citizens to decent treatment at all stages of encounter with law enforcement,” he said.
“On the flip side, I have also worked to improve general welfare for all security personnel and formations operating in Kogi State – in cash and in kind, rewarded outstanding service by officers and stoutly defended those falsely accused or unfairly victimized. This is because I believe there is a link between an officer’s job satisfaction and the value he or she has for the job. This, in turn, determines how a security personnel reacts to citizens while carrying out official duties.
“We also work as actively as possible to foster mutual respect between law enforcement and our citizens in every policing situation bearing in mind that cooperation always works better than conflict.”
The governor also noted that a small percentage of security officers persist in unprofessional conduct on the roads, tainting the image of the police and government.
“While I cannot immediately recall any incident of it, I wish to apologize as a leader for any error of omission or commission under my watch which has led to unlawful experiences in police custody by any citizen,” he said.
“I would engage with some of my colleagues, the police hierarchy and the leadership of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission on how to further facilitate progress on the order by President Muhammadu Buhari, since July 2019, for implementation of the Report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.”
Mr Bello said his administration had just established the Office of the Public Defender and Citizens’ Rights Commission (PDCRC).
He also directed the immediate setting up of a Human Rights Special Intervention Group (HRSIG) under the PDCRC to receive and resolve complaints of brutality by law enforcement anywhere in the state.