Saturday, 16 October 2021 07:20

#EndSARS: FG, States To Prosecute Indicted Officers - Warn against planned anniversary

After receiving reports from judicial panels regarding the EndSARS protests set up in 28 states across the country and the Federal Capital Territory, the National Economic Council has resolved that payment of compensation to victims should proceed with each state in collaboration with the federal government, establishing the modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the panels.

Equally, NEC, which is composed of all state governors in the federation and representatives of the federal government, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), also unanimously resolved to ensure the prosecution of persons indicted by the panels.

 

According to a statement by the media aide of the vice president, Laolu Akande, the council directed states to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their attorneys-general for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons.

“Where incidents in the reports relate to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC urged the Nigeria Police Force to take disciplinary action on the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020,” the statement said.

Also rising from the NEC meeting, members strongly advised those planning protests to mark the anniversary of the ENDSARS to reconsider the option in view of current security situation across the country and the possibility of such protests being hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem at such protest events and venues.

The statement said; “At its meeting today, the National Economic Council (NEC/Council) received an update on the reports of judicial panels of inquiry into allegations of human rights violations against members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.

“It may be recalled that following the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, which later transformed into violent demonstrations, in furtherance of resolution of NEC, 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) (under the auspices of the National Human Rights Commission) had set up judicial panels/commissions of inquiry (panels) to investigate allegations of violations of human rights levelled against members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, especially members of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

“The 28 states that set up these panels are; Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba.

“Out of the 28 States, 11 states (Abia, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, and Rivers) have submitted their final reports to council with Lagos set to finalise its sittings on October 19, 2021, submitting an interim report. Governors of other states including Delta and Ebonyi at today’s meeting also indicated that their reports would be submitted soon.

 

“Following deliberations on the recommendations of the panels, NEC agreed/resolved as follows, (and this applies to all the states and FCT that set up the panels):

“Each state, in collaboration with the federal government, shall establish modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the panels. Already, as resolved by NEC, a number of states have set up Victims Compensation Funds, from which several victims have already received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels.

“Council directed state governors to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their attorneys-general for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons.

“Where incidents in the reports relate to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC urged the Nigeria Police Force to take disciplinary action on the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020.” It further stated that NEC called on the leadership of the security agencies to ensure that persons recruited into arms-bearing security agencies undergo psychiatric evaluations and drug tests before enlistment and periodically after enlistment to ensure that the personnel is psychologically fit to carry live weapons and to identify behavioral tendencies that may require psycho-social interventions.

It added; “Personnel of the agencies should dutifully observes Rules of Engagement in the discharge of their functions/duties around and within the civilian populace, while acknowledging the various initiatives introduced by the federal government to strengthen police accountability through the Police Service Commission, sustain improved funding and budgetary allocation to the Nigeria Police Force and other securities agencies, and the lifting of the ban on recruitment of police officers, council also urged the federal government to give priority to the general welfare of police officers and personnel of other security agencies.

In particular, it advocated the review of pension and gratuity of retired police officers and attainment of parity of remuneration by police officers with sister security agencies.

“Undertake a comprehensive assessment of all police stations across the country to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

“Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies should deploy cutting-edge technology in the fight against crimes.

“Nigeria Police Force to, in line with the mandatory training provisions of the Police Act 2020, prioritize training of Police Officers on procedures for the entrenchment of Human Rights Provisions guaranteed by the Constitution and on the professional handling of weapons.

“All those detained by the police as a result of the EndSars protests are expeditiously processed with due regard to the principles of fair hearing.

“The system established within the Nigeria Police Force for receipt and handling of complaints or petitions is strengthened, and all police officers on duty should be in police-approved uniform with their full names and force numbers boldly written for easy identification.”

It said the states should, as resolved by NEC, to properly utilize and support the community policing programme of the federal government, with active collaborative efforts and participation of traditional rulers, elders, youths, vigilante groups, etc.;

“Establish standing committees under state ministries of justice to address human rights violations on a continuous basis.

“Take measures aimed at flushing out miscreants squatting in uncompleted buildings, and other blackout spots that serve as hideouts for criminals.”

While appreciating the role of lawful peaceful protests in the advancement of public discourse under democratic governance, Akande said NEC strongly advised those planning public protests across the country to mark the anniversary of the #EndSARS to consider other lawful alternative means of engagement.

“This is because of the current security situation across the country and the possibility of such protests being hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem at such protest events and venues. Council, therefore, urges the organizers to reconsider their plan.

“NEC would also like to point out the various actions already taken by federal and state governments to address the grievances that led to the 2020 protests, including:

“The disbandment of SARS; broad police reforms; establishment of judicial panels of inquiries to investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.

Others are; “recommendations of which panels are already at various stages of implementation including the setup of Victims Compensation Funds from which several victims have received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels and prosecution of police personnel indicted by the panels.

“These are commendable actions that ought to be taken to a logical conclusion in a peaceful atmosphere.

“Organizers of the planned protests should explore the various channels of communication with governments at various levels to advance their positions and avert the breakdown of law and order that may result from such public protests,” council said.

A human rights group, Defend Lagos Coalition, has appealed to those planning to stage a protest to commemorate one year anniversary of the EndSARS protest to desist from it, if the protest can’t be done within the confines of the law.

Addressing the press at the International Press Centre, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos yesterday, the leader of the group, Nelson Ekujumi, said since experience had shown that such protests are not well coordinated, it would truncate efforts being made to enhance the nation’s economic growth.

Ekujumi urged the protesters to ensure the protest does not lead to a crisis because the state cannot afford to suffer the losses it incurred during the protest last year.

The group which went about with the banner “#EndSARS never again” said a lot of things had been said about last year’s protests, but there is no evidence to substantiate that there was a massacre.

‘’What happened on that day, a massacre never occurred, we are waiting for the panel set up to tell us what happened.

“Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, and nobody will allow anything that will destroy the state, we can’t tell them not to protest, you have the right to protest, you must protest within your right and respect  other people’s rights,” he said.

 

Ekujumi said the protest staged last year left a sad note in the history of Lagos State and set the state backward economically and socially because it was not well coordinated.

Release #EndSARS Panels Reports, Implement 5 Demands, Yiaga Africa Tells FG

Leading Civil Society Organisation, Yiaga Africa, has called on the federal government to immediately ensure the completion of the #EndSARS panel sittings, release panels of inquiry reports and fully implement the five demands by the protesters.

This is coming just as Nigerians mark one year since the National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo directed the establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry by state governors in Nigeria to investigate complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.

In compliance with the directive, 28 states and the FCT set up judicial panels of inquiry.

Citizens’ observers deployed by Yiaga Africa to the Judicial Panels of Inquiry and the weekly updates reported in partnership with Enough is Enough (EiE) revealed that over 2791 petitions were submitted across the states and the FCT where the panels were established.

However, despite the directive, seven states – Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara States – consistently refused to establish the panels.

A statement issued by the Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programmes, Cynthia Mbamalu, said while the seven states were part of the collective NEC decision, their actions reinforce the notion that the need to engage in meaningful security sector reform is yet to adopt a holistic and joint-partnership approach nationally.

“Over the past one year, the Judicial Panels of Inquiry in 25 states – Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba – have concluded sittings.

“As we mark one year of the #EndSARS protest we remember the resilience of young Nigerians who over 12 days protested peacefully calling for the disbandment of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force and an end to police brutality. The youth, in an affirmation of their democratic and constitutional right to peaceful assembly as well as freedom of association, put together the #5For5 demands. The demand for justice for victims of police brutality remains a major part of the demands from the #EndSARS.

 

“To ensure this demand is met, the government at both the Federal and State levels must ensure that the decisions of the panels are fully implemented. This includes ensuring that compensations awarded to victims are fulfilled.

“With 25 states concluding their sitting, it is quite worrying to observe that the Judicial Panels of Inquiry in 4 states – Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Kogi, and the FCT – suspended sitting for unknown reasons.

“So far, of the 25 states, only the reports of Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ekiti, Ondo and Nasarawa State Judicial Panels of Inquiry have been submitted and publicly presented to the state government for implementation of their recommendations. Bayelsa, Ekiti and Ondo state are the only states whose reports are available to the public,” the statement added.

Yiaga Africa calls on the other states where the Panels have concluded their sittings to release the Judicial Panels of Inquiry Reports and make it available to the public.

“As we mark one year of the #EndSARS protest this October, Yiaga Africa calls on the State Governments where Panels have been suspended to resume sitting and conclude the hearings. We also call on both the Federal and State Government to ensure the full implementation of the 5 for 5 demands which includes key proposals demanding immediate police reform critical to ensuring that police brutality is eliminated.

“The conclusion of the sittings of the Panels and the release of the reports will ensure that victims of police brutality access justice,” the statement added.

#EndSARS Protest Dead On Arrival In Lagos Police, Insist, Landmark Cancels Summit, Falana Kicks

The Lagos state Police Command has said the planned commemoration of #EndSARS in the state would not be allowed to hold in the state, saying intelligence report on the planned protest spells doom for plans to rejuvenate the state’s economy after the last destruction from the protest.

The command’s spokesman, Adekunle Ajisebutu explained that Lagos state and Nigerians cannot afford another #EndSARS protest.

He said people should relive the “distasteful experience of last year’s #EndSARS protest which caused pain, anguish, needless loss of lives, and wanton destruction of public and private property.”

“In view of the volatility of the present situations in the country, and the breakdown of law and order which the planned protest might cause, the Lagos State Police Command sternly warns against any form of protest today,” Ajisebutu said.

“The Command wishes to use this medium to warn the youths, groups, or associations planning such protest to jettison the idea forthwith. The police in the state will not fold their arms and allow some misguided elements to disrupt the peace and serenity currently being enjoyed in the state.

“To forestall breakdown of law and order, the police will use all legitimate means within their constitutional powers to suppress the planned protest.

“Therefore, parents and guardians are advised to warn their children against participating in the planned protest. Individuals or groups sponsoring such protests are also warned in their own interest to desist from such unpatriotic plans or face the full weight or wrath of the law.”

As efforts to quell the planned protest in the state intensify it was gathered the management of Landmark Event Centre has cancelled #EndSARS Indoor Summit planned To shed more light On Lekki shootings, another that was billed for October 20, 2021.

The summit tagged Sorosoke summit, was expected to hold on at the venue on October 20, 2021 to commemorate the first anniversary of last year’s #EndSARS protest and honour the lives of protesters who were killed or injured during the demonstration, especially at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.

The keynote speaker billed to grace the event is the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II.

Meanwhile, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has condemned the warning of Lagos Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, against End SARS protest on October 20.

Falana, who made the remark in a statement made available to journalists said the Police lacked the power to ban public protests in Nigeria.

He said, “Police’s stance is illegal as they constitute a gross infringement of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly guaranteed by sections 38 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution as well as articles 9 and 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act.”

“Since police permits have been outlawed and banned in Nigeria by the Federal High Court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal, the Nigeria Police Force cannot be permitted to ban rallies without a repeal of the law on public meetings, rallies and processions in the country. In other words, the ban on public protests announced by the Police Authorities cannot obliterate the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Nigerians to assemble peacefully and express themselves.’’

 

 

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