For the past two weeks, thousands of Nigerian youths have been on the streets demanding an end to police brutality, disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian police and comprehensive police reforms.
The protests have paralysed activities and disrupted traffic on major roads in many cities.
In places where vehicular movements are not disrupted, residents battle with gridlock, especially in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital,
and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power.
Nigerians had long launched a campaign online with the #EndSARS hashtag.
The campaign trended across the world two weeks ago after celebrities volunteered to lead the protests against harassment and incessant killing of citizens by SARS.
The latest outcry was ignited by the shooting of a youth in Delta State by police officers. The police later reacted, saying the victim did not die,
and that the protesters also killed a police officer.
As a result of the incident, social and political activists alongside celebrities called out President Muhammadu Buhari and demanded the scrapping of SARS.
For the first week, the hashtag #EndSARS garnered the highest tweet across the world.
Many Nigerians in diaspora also joined the protest, calling for an end to police brutality and total overhaul of the security outfit.
To douse the tension, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the ban of the anti-robbery squad from operating on the roads.
Citizens were not pacified by the announcement, citing instances when such directives have been given in the last four years.
While some of the demonstrators were dispersed with teargas by the police, a protester identified as Jimoh Isiaka, was shot in Ogbomoso, Oyo State.
He later died. So far, over 12 persons have been reported killed amidst the protests.
The protesters also demanded that President Buhari should give an executive order on the menace.
Concessions granted by Government
Presidential Panel on Police Reforms has met and the following were announced:
1 The Inspector-General of Police directed state commands to halt the use of force against protesters. He also ordered:
2 Unconditional release of arrested protesters.
3 Open communication and outreach to citizens to establish trust and confidence and a roadmap for the implementation of the White Paper of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the SARS.
4 Setting up of an Independent Investigation Panel to look into the violations of human rights by the defunct SARS and other segments of the Nigerian Police at different states.
5 Call for memoranda from members of the public whose rights have been violated by the defunct SARS and other segments of the Police will be released by the panel.
6 Psychological evaluation, training and retraining of disbanded SARS officials prior to re-deployment.
Other concessions announced by the government include:
No SARS member will be allowed to be part of the new SWAT.
State governments to set up independent judicial panels of enquiry on police brutality. Many states such as Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu and Ekiti have since set up the panel.
What protesters still want
1 A nationwide broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari addressing the demands of the protesters.
2 The government should increase the salaries of police officers and adequately compensate officers for protecting the lives and property of the citizens.
3 Arrest and prosecution of hoodlums attacking the protesters.
4. Reduction of National Assembly members’ salary.
5. Removal of IGP.
6. End to bad governance in Nigeria.