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The Nigerian Bar Association and civil rights groups on Wednesday strongly condemned hoodlums’ attacks on people protesting against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police.
Some of those who condemned the attacks, in separate interviews with our source, alleged they were the handiwork of government.
NEWS FLAKES NG reports that there have been protests in most parts of the country since Wednesday last week by Nigerians, mostly youths, who called for disbanding of SARS, accusing the police squad of corruption, high-handedness and harassment.
On Sunday, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, disbanded the squad and on Tuesday, he set up the Special Weapons and Tactics Team to replace the disbanded SARS.
Despite the disbanding of the squad, #EndSARS campaigners presented five demands to the Federal Government, which the later on Tuesday said it had accepted.
The campaigners’ five demands include release of all persons arrested by the disbanded police unit and justice for victims of police brutality; setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days); psychological evaluation of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed, and increase police salary so that they can be adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.
But the protests took a fresh dimension on Wednesday when hoodlums bearing cutlasses and sticks attacked protesters in Lagos and Abuja.
Buhari’s regime divisive – Afenifere
Condemning the attacks, the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, stated that they reflected the divisive nature of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “It is a reflection of the ‘we’ and them’ divisiveness of this government. We can only hope it would hand over a united Nigeria in 2023.
“A government that would mobilise on ethnic line against protests against police brutality is a threat against the unity of the country and will run the country towards implosion.
“The regime cannot unite Nigerians on anything and when they unite themselves on a common issue, it finds a way to split them based on fault lines.”
FG blamable – Adegboruwa
On his part, an activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said government was blamable for the attack on the protesters.
He said, “Generally, the lesson from this spontaneous protest is for the government to accept the constitutional right of citizens to freedom of expression, association and assembly, as guaranteed by sections 39 and 40 of the constitution. The people, who are in power now, the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, fully exercised these rights when they were in the opposition in holding peaceful protests.
“So far since this #EndSARS peaceful protests started, it has been clear that the purpose of the protesters is to make a point. In Benin, you see them protecting policemen. In Lagos, you see them feeding people. So, it is the government and sympathisers of those who are in power that are trying to infiltrate the protesters to give the semblance of violence and I think that will be counter-productive.
“I verily believe that what happened in Abuja today (Wednesday) with hoodlums attacking the protesters should be laid at the foot of the government. Having seen that the youth have been peaceful, it should be the responsibility of government to grant them police protection.”
Attackers sponsored by criminally-minded Nigerians – Yiga Africa
The Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, lamented that criminally minded- Nigerians had decided to empower the pro-government protesters to disrupt the peaceful #EndSARS protests.
Also, the Chairman Board of Trustees, Centre for Transparency and Accountability, Dr Chima Amadi, said the attackers were “unemployed youths whose frustrations were weaponised by hawkish elements within and outside of government.”
No ethnic dimension in anti-SARS – CISLAC executive director
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre and Chairman, Amnesty International Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, stated, “It’s not about northerners and southerners. It is about some elements that are deliberately trying to create or further continue to divert attention from an issue that even the government acknowledges is bad.
“It is not about northerners because I’m from Kano and I am one of the leading voices who strongly opposed SARS and its brutal behaviour against Nigerians and I have spoken widely in both local and international media like Aljazeera, BBC, Radio France, Radio Germany and several national media condemning and calling for accountability and investigations for all those SARS members involved in human rights violations, extortion and misconduct.”
He said the group would continue to demand positive reforms in the police and the security sector in general.
Attacks on protesters sad – NBA
The NBA described as said attacks on #EndSARS protesters in Abuja and Lagos.
The Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Dr Raps Nduka, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said “It is quite sad that such a thing would happen. I believe that protests should be based on principles. In as much as we have different ways of reacting to things, the bottom line is the need to understand the reason for the calls for SARS to end. The problem is that there is no accountability.
“That is why things have got to an extent that the youth can no longer take it, and that is why they are protesting.
“We had a press conference yesterday, and one of the things we demanded was an audit of what has been going on at the SARS unit.
“In as much as some people would have a different approach, this style of staging a counter-protest against others agitating for a change should not be encouraged.
“If the government does a proper restructuring of the entire system, as being demanded, even the police, will benefit from it, and every single person will benefit from it.
“But if we allow the state of affairs to remain like this, it will keep on going on. The fact is that nobody is too sure of who will be affected by the act of tomorrow.”
He added that the protests had continued because the people no longer believed government was ready to make genuine changes, citing instances of how successive Inspectors-General of Police had ordered an end to mounting of checkpoints on highways and serially disbanded the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad without any lasting effect.
“The government has to go extra mile to make people believe that it is ready to take concrete steps this time.”
In a related development #EndSARS on Wednesday rejected the newly formed SWAT.
The campaigners, who continued their protests in Warri and Effurun in Delta State, described the newly formed SWAT as just another name for the disbanded SARS.
One of the protesters, Igho Tietie, told journalists that Nigerians were not satisfied with the disbandment of SARS and establishment of SWAT.
A leader of the protesters, Deji Adeyanju, also dismissed SWAT, saying the authorities must address the recruitment process into the police, noting that the police had become a dumping ground for rogues and drug addicts.
Another leader of the movement, Aisha Yesufu, asked the IG to start the police reform with the prosecution of officers involved in extrajudicial killings.
The NBA and the National Human Rights Commission, on Wednesday, met with the House of Representatives over anti-SARS protests.
Both the NBA and the NHRC sought legislative interventions by the House, especially on the amendment to relevant laws to reform the police.
The President of the NBA, Olumide Apata, said the association visited the House to discuss what could be done on police reforms.
Responding, Gbajabiamila recalled that the House had taken steps on the matter, including a review of the existing laws governing the police and a plan to introduce an amendment bill within 30 days.
Reps, NBA to collate detainees’ list, seek their release
Akpata also raised the issue of some Nigerians being detained unnecessarily at different police stations, calling on the Speaker to intervene.
Gbajabiamila asked the NBA president to identify all the police stations where people were detained for the House to raise a delegation that would meet with the NBA and get them released.
Policemen found guilty for prosecution – NHRC
The Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Anthony Ojukwu, later met with the Speaker, saying the commission needed to work with the parliament to seek “substantive reforms for the Nigeria Police.”
Ojukwu, who presented recommendations by the NHRC on police reforms to the House, said from past experience, there was the need to institutionalise an investigative panel to hear complaints about human rights violations by all arms of the Nigeria Police.
He said the policemen found guilty of rights abuses would be prosecuted. He recalled that the recommendation was made in 2018 and it formed part of the report by the presidential panel on police reforms.
Ojukwu said, “The experience we got from that was that officers who were investigated were jolted for the first time that their activities could be investigated. If we make that a regular thing, that will bring to the consciousness of every police officer who decides to violate human rights that there will be a day of reckoning, and that members of the public will have the right to complain, and that if we are able to substantiate this, a disciplinary action will follow.
“The outcome of the investigation panel now is that all the officers who were indicted are going to be prosecuted and disciplined. We are going to institute another one now, that will now listen to complaints of these protesters and the recent things that have been happening. If that process can be institutionalised and supported financially, it will help.
“We also think that a lot of people who have suffered in the hand of SARS, the constitution provides that victims of human rights violation should be compensated and apologised to. There is the need to have a fund that can compensate victims of human rights violation in the hand of police officers.”
Hoodlums vandalise vehicles, injure protesters, Lagos attackers arrested
As protests against police brutality continued to spread throughout the nation, armed hoodlums attacked #EndSARS protesters in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday.
In Lagos, as the protesters were making their feelings known opposite the state secretariat complex on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, some hoodlums suddenly appeared with cutlasses and advanced in their direction in a bid to disperse the crowd.
A shouting match ensued between the hoodlums and the protesters, with the latter standing their ground and repelling the attackers.
One of the protesters, John Ademola, told one of our correspondents that the hoodlums stormed the protest venue to cause commotion, adding that three of them were apprehended.
Another protester, Adama Christiana, alleged that the hoodlums were paid by external people bent on inciting violence.
Some protesters, however, caused gridlock on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and around the tollgate area of the Lekki-Epe Expressway and the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, among other areas in Lagos State.
Similarly, three busloads of thugs attacked protesters in Abuja and injured many of them, while also disrupting the peaceful rally.
The thugs, who stormed the venue around 1pm, wielded knives, sticks and other weapons, chased away the #EndSARS campaigners.
The protesters had blocked the Julius Berger roundabout, Wuse, with disused tyres and stones, and also prevented motorists from plying the route as they occupied the bridge. [PUNCH]
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