By Okechukwu Nwanguma
Has the government come through in terms of the police reforms they promised during the protest?
Three years after the #EndSARS protest across Nigeria, and the ugly aftermath of that spontaneous, youth-led rebellion against police brutality, the government and the leadership of security services do not seem to have demonstrated sufficient commitment to addressing the root causes of #EndSARS and to prevent its repeat.
They behave like they have learnt no lessons.
#EndSARS happened because the government, especially the leadership of the police and police oversight failed to pay serious attention and take appropriate actions in response to numerous complaints and grievances against widespread police violence and oppression, and warnings about the likelihood of a rebellion against impunity for egregious human rights violations especially by certain units of the NPF.
Some parts of the country are still suffering from the aftermath of #EndSARS and its ruthless suppression by security forces at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos. Police officers themselves remain major targets of attacks in some parts of the country.
The police are unable to respond to crime in some communities but are instead committing crimes and human rights violations against citizens both in the context of fighting insecurity and as tools of political repression.
The recommendations in the reports of the various states and federal judicial panels of inquiry on complaints by victims of police brutality are yet to be implemented.
Perpetrators are yet to be brought to account. Victims are yet to receive redress and remedies. Far-reaching reforms are yet to be initiated to prevent human rights violations, entrench the culture of accountability and restore public trust in the police.
The promise to improve the welfare of police officers as a means of fighting corruption and humanizing the police has also not been fulfilled.
It would appear that the government made those promises merely to assuage public anger and then do anything once public attention shifted with time.
Critics say that despite the protests, police brutality has continued unabated. Do you agree? Was nothing achieved in the aftermath of the protest?
The same types of violations that triggered the #EndSARS rebellion in October 2020 are still the daily experiences of most Nigerians in many parts of Nigeria, especially the South-East, to date.
There have been some rays of hope in terms of increasing willingness by the police to engage with civil society as well as increasing transparency and determination to prioritize accountability.
This manifests in the number of officers punished in recent times for sundry misconduct and publicly announced by the NPF.
But these disciplinary actions are restricted to petit corruption and acts of incivility captured in video by citizens and exposed via social media. Otherwise, the institutional culture and tendency to cover up misconduct and shield erring personnel remains entrenched.
This is demonstrated by the failure to effectively and conclusively investigate serious crimes and human rights violations, make the outcomes public, and bring perpetrators to account.
For example, the investigation into the grave allegations of torture, extrajudicial killings, conversion of money and property of executed detainees and the allegation of organ harvesting by some senior Police officers in Anambra State is yet to be concluded, findings made public and appropriate actions taken. There are many such egregious violations across the country.
The Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Imo State Police Command is a concentration camp and human abattoir where several people who are randomly and arbitrarily arrested on a daily basis are indefinitely detained incommunicado, brutally tortured, executed, disappeared and/or extorted of huge sums of cash.
No serious action has been taken by the authorities in response to several petitions and media reports exposing these atrocities.
The culture of impunity remains unchecked at many police stations. Some police officers with notorious records of human rights violation and impunity refused to respond to summons by the #EndSARS panels of inquiry in some states. And there have been no consequences.
All of these constitute the recipe – the potential trigger, for another #EndSARS.
Word for Nigeria leaders
#EndSARS is a momentous epoch in the history of Nigeria in terms of police citizens relations. Every anniversary provides another opportunity for the government to do an honest re-examination of its commitments to addressing the root causes of #EndSARS, the promises it made to ensure redress and justice and that it never happens again.
The deepening economic crisis in Nigeria is affecting a majority of ordinary Nigerians including poorly paid police officers and unemployed youths. These conditions predispose the youth to crime and make the police prone to corruption and violence.
Government should make access to education available and affordable, and provide the enabling environment for job creation; prioritize police reform and stamp out corruption among elected and appointed government officials.
Corruption fuels insecurity robs the country of development and undermines the greater good of the greater majority.
I will once again draw the attention of government and leaders of the Police to the statement in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that: if men are not to be compelled to take recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against oppression and injustice, then human rights must be protected by the rule of law.
Word for the youth
The youth constitute a great demographic proportion of the population of Nigeria capable of influencing the direction and destiny of the country. They should continue to insist on participating in politics and in decision-making about how the country must be governed to work for everyone.
Okechukwu Nwanguma, Executive Director, RULAAC, writes on the 3rd anniversary of #EndSARS, October 20, 2023BEWARE All Rights Reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without prior express written permission from Juliana Francis