Clash of Interest:#ENDSARS protests divide Governors

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..As NEC orders Govs to control Police Tactical Unit

…Directs special funds for victims of Police brutality

…To investigate Police brutality against protesters

By Moses Adeniyi & Tobi Adetunji

As protests over the reformation of the Police which commenced with the #ENDSARS campaign continue to attract stronger momentum, clash of interest have begun to pitch the Southern and Northern leaders in the Country apart as more controversies erupt on the protests.

While Governors in the Southwest and South-south have largely identified with the protesters and expressed support for the termination of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSAR), Governors of Northern States, have expressed their interest in the continuity of the Police Squad, stating that it has been instrumental to improvement in security support within their States.

Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who spoke Thursday evening, in an Interview with Channels TV, said the protest staged by Nigerian youths should be expected as a fundamental movement necessary for change, which according to him,  “is what they are asking for.”

Fayemi who noted that the protest apparently transcends grievances against Police brutality, stressed that the sustenance of the protest is a clear expression of dissatisfaction against quality of governance in the Country.

“This in my view is not just an  #ENDSARS or #ENDSWAT movement. I think there is a sense in which our younger people are telling us that they have concerns about the quality of governance/that they are getting and it looks like it’s a shifting goal post. Once policing is dealt with, then we move  to another aspect that might be of concern to them.

“And let’s face it, these are young people and some of us have been young and involved in the movement on the barricades. So, there  is nothing they are doing that is fundamentally wrong. Any young person should be involved in movement for change and that I think is what they are asking for.

“However, in asking for change they must be careful not to throw the baby and the bath water away. It is not everything that is bad with policing.

“However, policing has to be more accountable and more transparent in its  operation to the citizens. There is no question about that, and I think  that message has been delivered loud and clear and the President has demonstrated that he is responsive to the concerns expressed by the young people and the inspector general of police has also in my view expressed commitment to  reform.

Speaking on the interests of Northern Governors on SARS, he said: “Governors feel that the way to go about it is not to condemn in totality all activities of the FSARS.  As a matter of fact my colleagues from the Northern part of the Country feel that FSARS has been quite effective in tackling banditry and addressing armed robbery; even in some cases in tackling the problems of insurgency as the Governor of Borno made known yesterday (Wednesday).

“We must be careful because there is no one side to bringing solution to the challenges of insecurity in our Country. We need a broad security architecture to tackle this and the reform of the Police must be part of the reform of the Nigerian security architecture.

“But over the long term, we feel that we still need more conversations, more consultations, and the Nigerian Police Council which is a statutory body of the constitution must meet more regularly because that is part of its responsibility to regulate the activities of the police in a vision to ensuring that the Nigerian police really and truly protect the citizens. And the inspector general Police express his own commitment to that in his meeting yesterday (Wednesday).

“Actually, its not just the young people who felt that the swiftness of replacing  F-SWAT with F-SARS might be seen as precipitated. We also observed the same in the meeting we held with the Inspector general of Police.

Fayemi who further reiterated his support for the ongoing protests said: “Well, absolutely I was on the street; I was on the barricade; I protested; I was involved in anti-military, pro-democracy activism and I would like to think that my involvement in politics is still an extension of what I did in those days.

“I don’t see myself any less an activist now that I am a politician. So, there is nothing wrong in what the younger ones are doing, I think we ought to even encourage them to ask more questions to put our feet to fire (and) to hold us more accountable. They elected us into office and there is no question that we should be responsive and responsible to those who put us in office.

“However, in doing that, I think it is also important for them to be absolutely clear about what they want. It should not just be an agitation for agitation purpose, but agitation for the purpose of getting result and I hope this leaderless movement can become more organized, more coercive in putting their views strongly across the table you and even getting more involved.

“We cannot ignore them. 65 percent of the population of this Country is under 30 (years old). So, it is a serious segment of our population and we must pay attention to what they are telling us as political leaders.

“This is sadly a critical moment for our country, we need to listen to what is coming out on the street, security should be brought close to the citizens and if it means decentralizing, devolving authority to the local levels so be it.

“The Inspector General of Police has already committed himself to community policing but what exactly does that mean in terms of control. What this young people are saying is that they don’t want police brutality; they don’t want a police that is unaccountable to the citizens and they don’t want young people to be criminalized just on account of their looks or the phones they carry, or the cars they drive, or the way they speak; and I absolutely associate myself with that and a lot of my colleagues do as well.”

North backs FSARS

However, while the outcry to bring SARS to an end and a rejection of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team as its alternative continue to rock the South, the ideology in the North is on the opposite direction as northern leaders have pitched their support for the continuity of the Police operatives, arguing that it has remained effective for security effectiveness within their region.

On Thursday, Plateau state governor and chairman of the Northern Governors Forum,  Simon Lalong, briefing State House correspondents following a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, explained that the police unit has been useful in the fight against insecurity in the region.

Lalong who disclosed the support of the Northern Governors for continuity of SARS said: “SARS is not made up of bad elements alone as it also includes personnel who are doing their work diligently.”

According to the Northern Governors, what is needed for the ongoing national distress is the reformation of the unit to enable it to discharge its functions “optimally.”

Attempts to extend the #ENDSARS in the Northern states of Nigeria have not attracted much momentum. The movement have been greeted with hostilities and counterattacks  by Pro-SARS groups.

Resolutions of NGF

The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF),  following resolutions reached at its 19th Teleconference Meeting, as released on Thursday, has urged the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to “consult more before going ahead with his plans” to form another anti-robbery unit which is code-named Special Weapons and Tactics Team  (SWAT) as a replacement for SARS.

The Governors who argued that the timing of the decision to form S.W.A.T was currently inauspicious because of the mood of Nigerians, noted that the public may misconstrue the idea as an attempt to dress the scrapped Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad in fresh robes.

The Governors who advised that throughout the reform process, the room for consultation may include sessions and direct feedback from the public, stressed that there is no single solution that applies to all the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory;

According to the Communique, the Forum members noted the efforts of officials of FSARS in their States, stating that “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.”

“In response, the Forum acknowledged the concerns of many Nigerians especially youths that have been affected by the excesses of some officials of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and the Nigeria Police. This notwithstanding, Forum members noted the efforts of officials of FSARS in their States, as 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.

“Members, therefore, expressed concern about the sweeping decision to scrap FSARS even while acknowledging the need to address its excesses,” the Forum said.

The forum emphasized that reforms of Police must include the training and retraining of operatives on the rules of engagement with the general public.

The forum also agreed that policing in the Federation must be anchored, in respect towards freedom for all Nigerians to carry out their lawful and legitimate businesses anywhere in the country without fear of harassment, intimidation or molestation.

Moreover, the Governors resolved that   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;

The forum also recommended that the IGP, the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Council should immediately review the Remuneration and Emoluments of police officers and explore ways to fund this in order to incentivize and motivate police officers who have pledged themselves in service of the country.

However, as controversies continue to trail the protest which has been sustained for nine days despite the dissolution of SARS, the Forum also agreed that the concerns of the public went beyond a need for Police/FSARS 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”

The communique read in part: “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; Members 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.

“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 advised that throughout the reform process, the room for consultation may include sessions and direct feedback from the public, stressing that there is no single solution that applies to all the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory;

“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. This must be systematically done to ensure that nobody who deserves to be compensated, is left out;

“The Forum directed its Secretariat to work with the police authority 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;

“Governors 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.

“Members also agreed that the concerns of the public went beyond a need for Police/FSARS reforms and included a demand for better governance; They noted the need to engage, consult the public and take decisions that address the underpinning issues leading to the protests; Members noted that some States had already started the process of engaging protesters and urged all States to engage all stakeholders for a collectively agreed resolution.”

The Governors had in a statement on Tuesday, summoned the IGP, Mohammed Adamu to a meeting yesterday to brief the State Chief Security Officers on protests against SARS which technically started since 2017.

At the Conference, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammed Adamu, who was summoned by the Forum on Tuesday, briefed the Governors on protests against SARS which technically started since 2017.

It was disclosed that the IGP informed the Governors that after a psychological and medical evaluation, SWAT Officers will be trained and posted to all State Commands – about 50 per State, where they will operate only on intelligence-driven operation.

The IGP was also said to have assured that the new team will not take part in routine operations but will operate specifically on intelligence after which they will return to their Commands.

NEC orders governors to control Police Tactical unit

Meanwhile, Rising from its monthly meeting the National Economic Council 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.

A statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President  on Media, Mr Laolu Akande states that 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.

At a meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, and attended by State Governors, he noted that the Judicial Panels which would be set up in all the States would include representatives of Youths, Students, Civil Society Organizations and would be chaired by a respected retired State High Court Judge.

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.

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 citizens.

Members of the Special Committee would also include Representatives of Youths, and Civil Society. The head of Police tactical units in each of the State 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 as follows:

*Two representatives of Civil Society groups

*One Retired Police Officer of high repute

*One Youth Representative

*One Student Representative

* One Representative of the State Attorney-General Ministry and a representative from the National Human Rights Commission.

The terms of reference for the Judicial

Panel is to –

*receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extra judicial killings;

*evaluate evidence presented/other surrounding circumstances, and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints; and

*recommend compensation and other remedial measures, where appropriate.

The Panel’s assignment should be concluded within a maximum of six (6) months, unless it shows convincing reasons why the State Governor should allow an extension.

There would also be Human Rights Public Complaints Team of between 2 to 3 persons to receive complaints on an ongoing basis. That team would be established by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights.

It was resolved that each State Government shall also set up such a Complaints Office to which members of the public can relate by telephone or social media channels.

It shall be the duty of the officers of the Complaints Office to liaise with the leadership of security agencies, attempt resolution of complaints or otherwise guide the complainants.

Also NEC directs all State Governors to immediately establish a Victims Fund to enable the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.