Nigeria: Governors Reject SWAT As #EndSARS Protest Spreads

Young Nigerians holding placards at an EndSARS protest in the northwestern city of Kaduna.
16 October 2020

Governors of the 36 states of the federation have said that the decision of the inspector-general of police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to create the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit was ill-timed.

This came as protests continued to spread in the states against police brutality.

The governors expressed concern over the sweeping decision to scrap the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) even while acknowledging the need to address the unit's excesses.

In a communique issued after a teleconference meeting of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), the chairman of the forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, said that the governors acknowledged the concerns of many Nigerians, especially youths that have been affected by the excesses of some officials of the F-SARS and the Nigeria Police.

The governors noted that the efforts of officials of F-SARS in their states, as according to them, they have greatly assisted in containing the increasing spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, and other high end crimes particularly in the northern states, where containing these criminal activities would have otherwise been very challenging.

Fayemi however said that the governors were unanimous in their support for the IGP and endorsed his plan to carry out far-reaching reforms geared towards greater effectiveness, accountability and transparency.

The governors called for increased regularity in the meetings of the Nigeria Police Council in order for it to effectively carry out its regulatory and supervisory roles as contained in the Nigerian Constitution.

He said: "On the IGP's plan to create SWAT, governors stated that even though the effort might be necessary and in good faith, they argued that the timing is inauspicious as the mood of the nation negates it and may understandably be misinterpreted as a surreptitious move to dress F-SARS in another garb.

"Governors agreed that there was need for greater consultation with the public before any decision is taken; governors advised the IGP to immediately convene a meeting of all stakeholders and agree on a format of engagement with all state officials in order to address concerns; and that state leadership should meet simultaneously nationwide, to address matters arising.

"Governors emphasised that reforms must include the training and retraining of operatives on the rules of engagement with the general public; policing in Nigeria must ensure freedom for all Nigerians to carry out their lawful and legitimate businesses anywhere in the country without fear of harassment, intimidation or molestation.

"Governors were unequivocal that all police officers who participated in the abuse or actions that might have led to injury or the death of innocent citizens must be fished out and brought to book while other Nigerians who have been adversely affected by police brutality or other actions that were injurious to them or their loved ones, should be compensated.

Fayemi also said each state is to set up a panel for compensation to all victims and see to it that the necessary compensation is made to those who deserve them.

According to him, this must be systematically done to ensure that nobody who deserves to be compensated is left out.

The governors directed its secretariat to work with the police authorities to develop a framework for setting up a panel of enquiry across all states to determine claims and compensation.

"Governors are aware that some states have already started engaging protesters and urged all states that have not commenced same to invite all stakeholders in the matter to resolve these issues.

They enjoined the IGP to be ready to forge stronger partnerships with state governments and the civil society to improve civil relations between the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Public.

They also agreed that the concerns of the public went beyond a need for Police/F-SARS reforms and included a demand for better governance, noting the need to engage, consult the public and take decisions that address the underpinning issues leading to the protests.

"Finally, members praised Mr President who has acknowledged that the protests and demonstrations reflect genuine concerns of many Nigerians and urged for a speedy implementation of all the agreed points," he added.

Why Northern States Oppose Scrapping Of F-SARS - Lalong

On his part, the chairman of the Northern States Governors' Forum and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, has explained the reasons why some northern governors were against the scrapping of the F-SARS.

He spoke to State House correspondents yesterday after meeting with President Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja.

Lalong said that F-SARS had helped in combating insecurity in some states in the northern parts of the country.

According to him, most of the governors wanted a reformed SARS and not outright disbandment.

He said: "We had a meeting yesterday (Wednesday), the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF). I'm sure my chairman addressed the press. When we see issues like this, most of the complaints vary from one state to the other.

"In one aspect, some people said they don't want SARS, some said they want SARS but a reformed SARS. They want a reformed SARS because as far as they are concerned, some of these SARS operatives have helped them to address insecurity.

"If there are bad ones, holistically, bring them together and reform them. Then, you work for them. So, our opinion and conclusion at that stage was that let us not just say that we are throwing away the baby with bath water.

"If there are good ones, you don't chase them away. So, as SARS is banned, we are now looking forward to... because most of the states in the north said No. They want SARS because SARS helps them. Borno State governor said without SARS, he would not have been surviving today. Niger State also wants SARS.

FG Sets Up Judicial Panel To Probe Police Brutality, Compensate Victims

Rising from its monthly meeting, the National Economic Council (NEC) has directed the immediate establishment of state-based judicial panels of inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units.

According to a statement issued by the spokesman of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, the council specifically resolved that state governors and the FCT minister should take charge of interface and contact with the protesters in their respective domains.

He said that at the meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) and attended by state governors, the judicial panels which would be set up in all the states would include representatives of youths, students, civil society organisations and would be chaired by a respected retired State High Court judge.

He further stated that the council also directed that state governors should immediately establish a state-based Special Security and Human Rights Committee to be chaired by the governors in their states, to supervise the newly-formed police tactical units and all other security agencies located in the State.

Osinbajo said: "The idea of the Special Security and Human Rights Committee in all states of the Federation and the FCT is to ensure that police formations and other security agencies in the State consistently protect the human rights of the citizens."

Members of the special committee would also include representatives of youths and the civil society. The head of police tactical units in each of the states would also be a member of the committee.

"Regarding the judicial panel of inquiry, each state government is to set up the Panel, chaired by a retired High Court Judge, with other members selected by the state governor," he said.

Akande said the panel's assignment should be concluded within a maximum of six months, unless it shows convincing reasons why the state governor should allow an extension.

"Also, NEC directs all state governors to immediately establish a Victims' Fund to enable the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.

He also said Council also received update on Nigeria's COVID-19 response efforts from the director- general of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.

According to the report, states' performance in testing in the last month showed that states testing in September compared to August recorded decline in 18 states and improved testing in 19 others.

Akande said that the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning reported to the council that the under listed accounts as at 14th October, 2020 are as follows: Excess Crude Account - $72,409,346.76, Stabilisation Account - N47,193,630,556.96, and Development of Natural Resources Account -N154,330,148,020.34

He added that the council received a presentation from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment titled: "Strategy for Growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and Job Creation."

FCTA Bans Street Demonstrations

Worried by the ongoing #EndSARS protest in parts of the country, including the FCT, the FCT Administration has banned all forms of street protests, processions and demonstrations in all parts of the nation's capital.

FCT minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, who announced the ban at the end of security committee meeting in Abuja, yesterday, frowned that despite the pronouncement by IGP scrapping F-SARS, the #ENDSARS protests had continued in parts of the territory.

Bello noted that the protesters had caused inconveniences to law-abiding citizens, adding that the protests endanger the lives of not just the demonstrators, but also other citizens going about their legitimate concerns.

He pointed out that while the administration recognizes the rights of citizens as regards freedom of association and movement, as enshrined in the constitution, it has observed that the unruly conduct of the crowd and manner of demonstrations are in complete violation of the COVID-19 safety protocols which were put in place to safeguard the lives of citizens.

A statement signed by the chief press secretary to the minister, Anthony Ogunleye and made available to newsmen in Abuja yesterday, noted that the progress being made in the fight against robberies using illegal and unregistered, commercial motor vehicles known as "one chance", adding that the administration was committed to the introduction of innovative measures that would ensure the safety of commuters.

NASS Begs Protesters, Promises Speedy Action On Their Demands

Meanwhile, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has appealed to #EndSARS protesters across the country to end their action and return to their homes even as he said that the National Assembly would ensure that the five demands made to the federal government by them are implemented.

Lawan gave the assurance at Senate plenary on Thursday after the upper chamber was briefed by the Senate leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North) on the intervention by the leadership of the National Assembly to wade into the matter.

Giving details of the meeting between the Senate delegation that with the protesters at the National Assembly gate on Wednesday, Senator Abdullahi said that "we met with a view to pacifying the protesters and also extending our commiseration with them over what happened.

"They explained that in the course of their peaceful demonstration, they were accosted by some hoodlums who they alleged were directed by the police to attack them; and how they were able to weather the storm and assemble at the National Assembly to inform us of their travails.

"We sympathised with them and received verbally, the complaints that they wanted to submit to the National Assembly.

"They complained of damages to their vehicles, and some physical injuries that some of them sustained. Fortunately, there were no major injuries or even violent death.

"We implored them to submit a catalogue of their complaints and the damages or injuries that were inflicted upon them, so that these can be conveyed to the appropriate authorities for interventions," he said.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has called on #EndSARS protesters to sit back and wait for the federal government to fulfill its promise on reforming the Nigerian Police Force.

Gbajabiamila who made this call yesterday during the inauguration of the Special Committee on Constitutional Review, said that the #EndSARS protests going on for over a week in parts of the country, in addition to whatever other changes that may be caused by the protests, they have exposed the stinking underbelly of the nation's policing system.

According to the Speaker, they now understand better why the nation's federal police is often unable to effectively respond to the localized manifestations of insecurity across the different parts of our country.

IGP Warns Police Against Use Of Force On Peaceful Protesters

IGP Mohammed Adamu has warned all police officers across the country against the use of force on peaceful protesters.

Force PRO, Frank Mba said that the IGP noted that citizens have fundamental rights of freedom of expression, assembly and movement which must always be upheld and protected by the police.

The IGP, however appealed to the protesters to continually conduct themselves peacefully and guide their ranks against infiltration by criminal elements.

He stressed that the Force leadership has clearly heard the voice of the people and is irrevocably committed to doing everything within its powers to address the observed ills, punish any offending officers and promote a people-friendly police force.

Army Vows To Defend Nigeria At All Cost

The Nigerian Army has vowed to defend Nigeria against subversive elements following the ongoing EndSARS protests across the country.

The acting director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, in a statement he signed, said that the Army remains loyal and committed to President u Buhari and the constitution of the country.

This came at the peak of nationwide protest against brutality and reform of the Nigeria Police Force.

The statement further directed officers and soldiers not to be distracted by agents of disunity.

Continued Agitations Show Protests Hijacked - BCO

The Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) has disclosed that the continuous EndSARS protests shows that it has been hijacked by unscrupulous politicians.

In a statement by the National coordinator of the group , Danladi Pasali said that President Buhari has acceded to the demands of the protesters.

According to him, that should have calmed the protesters but the agitations have continued unabated.

He said: "In the last few days, some Nigerian citizens have taken to the streets protesting and demanding for the scrapping of Special Anti-Rubbery Squad (SARS), an arm of the Nigeria Police Force.

"President Muhammadu Buhari, being a caring and listening leader, held an immediate meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and IGP Muhammad Adamu, after which the IGP,disbanded the squad in meeting with the demand of the protesters.

"The disbandment followed with a speech by the president where he informed Nigerians that, it was step towards reorganisation of the entire police force.

"Common sense should have it, that the protesters would put to an end their protest, but unfortunately they continue," he lamented.

Demonstrators Take Over Jalingo

More than hundreds demonstrators have returned to the streets in Jalingo to protest over the continued police brutality in line with the nationwide protest, and the extension of the City curfew from 8 pm to 10pm.

The demonstrator marched from Jalingo Trade Fair complex to the Government House raising banners demanding an end to police brutality, and that police officers responsible for misconduct should be brought justice.

Leader of the group and comedian, Kenneth Jande (MC Kendo) who addressed the youth at the Jalingo Trade Fair Centre, said that the youth in Taraba would rather have a thoroughly reformed special unit to address the special security issues rather than a change of nomenclature.

Protesters Storm Jos Streets

Despite the IGP's proscription of SARS, hundreds of protesters under the umbrella of #ENDSARS, who are mainly youths, stormed major parts of Jos, the Plateau State capital and shut down all business activities and vehicular movements yesterday morning.

Motorists were stuck in gridlock in most of the places visited such as old airport, Dadin Kowa, Rayfield, Yakubu Gowon Way among others.

Our correspondent noticed that hundreds of youths stormed the old airport junction located in Jos South local government area chanting end SARS as early as 8am.

Thousands Hold Pro-SARS' Rally In Jigawa

Thousands of peoples yesterday brought Dutse, capital of Jigawa State to a standstill while demonstrating their support for SARS and SWAT.

The pro-SARS/SWAT rally was organised by Human Right Network and attended by thousands of other community organisations and civil societies from 27 local government area of the state.

The demonstrators who went round the state capital chanted different slogans and carried cards and banners expressing their support for the Nigeria police efforts in tackling crimes in the state.

In a press statement issued during the rally which was signed by Comrade Musbahu Basirka,

state coordinator of Human Right Network, the demonstrators registered their dismay over the decision by IGP to dismantle the SARS without considering their huge success in tackling crimes.

Protesters Take Storm NASS

Anti-SARS (Special Anti-robbery Squad) and SWAT (Special Weapon and Tactical) team protesters marched to the National Assembly complex to demand that SARS, SWAT, police brutality and bad governance in Nigeria should stop.

The protesters who thronged in their numbers marched from the Unity Fountain, Abuja to the National Assembly to press home their demands over incessant harassment and brutality by the Nigeria Police, high rise in unemployment as well as bad governance. They also protested the ending of SARS only to create SWAT within 48 hours.

Although the protesters were not allowed into the National Assembly complex as they were stopped by heavily armed policemen who barricaded the entrance to the National Assembly, the protesters were not deterred.

A protester Tracy Okoro who spoke to journalists said that this is the seventh day they are coming to protest. Promising not to stop until the government meets to their demands.

Okoro full of emotions said that the initial demands for end SARS, end police brutality was a kick off. She said Nigerians were tired.

Gov Obiano Sets Up Panel On Human Rights Abuses

Governor Willie Obiano has set up a panel to investigation alleged abuses of human rights,

especially brutality and killings by the operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force.

Governor Obiano who instituted the panel yesterday after a meeting with leadership of youth organizations in the state on the state of the nation particularly praised President Muhammadu Buhari for disbanding SARS in response to the demand of the Nigerian youths.

According to the state Commissioner of Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba in a statement, Governor Obiano during the meeting expressed dismay over reports of inhuman treatment of youth by the operatives of the disbanded SARS.

"To create a more humane social order in Anambra state, Gov Obiano has decided to set up a broad- based panel to look into reports of abuse of human rights by the defunct SARS in the state over the years," the statement added.

AbdulRazaq Walks With #EndSARs Protesters, Urges Calm

Kwara State governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Thursday walked along with hundreds of #EndSARS protesters to the police headquarters in Ilorin, the state capital, urging them to remain calm and peaceful while their grievances are promptly addressed.

Acknowledging the grievances of the protesters, AbdulRazaq said he and a few governors and some businessmen have recently held a zoom meeting with some individuals involved in the protest movement following which their five-point demands were forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari.

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