The presidential panel on the reform of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) has accepted the five-point demand of the #EndSARS protesters, Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, has said in a press statement.
Over the past few days, there have been renewed calls for the scrapping of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) of the Nigeria police force over reports of brutality and extrajudicial killings.
Following the protests, Mohammed Adamu, inspector-general of police (IGP), had disbanded the SARS unit.
President Muhammadu Buhari had also issued a directive, calling for a reform of the police force.
However, the protests have continued, with activists issuing a five-point demand which include release of all persons arrested and justice for victims of police brutality.
Other demands are “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”.
According to the statement issued on Tuesday by Adesina, at a meeting convened by the IGP with stakeholders, it was agreed that the demands of the protesters would be met.
The meeting, organised by the office of the IGP and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), had in attendance representatives of civil society organisations, activists from the entertainment industry and the #EndSARS movement, among others.
Also present at the meeting were officials of the ministry of police affairs and the police service commission.
According to Adesina, a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, which held on Monday, focused on implementation of the recommendations of the presidential panel.
“Following the public protests regarding various forms of human rights violations by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the consequent disbandment of the unit by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, there arose the need for stakeholder engagement to build trust and restore public confidence in law enforcement,” it read.
“The agitations also brought to the fore, the need to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“The Forum was addressed by the Inspector General of Police and the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission.
“The Forum collectively: welcomed the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; reaffirmed the constitutional rights of Nigerians to peaceful assembly and protest; further affirmed the sanctity of life of every Nigerian and the role of the Police in protecting this right; affirms that the five-point demands of the protesters and the ENDSARS movement are genuine concerns and will be addressed by the Government.’’
According to Adesina, the communiqué which was signed by the IGP and Tony Ojukwu, NHRC executive secretary, noted that the dissolution of SARS presents an opportunity to embark on comprehensive reforms aimed at repositioning the force as a “modern, responsive and citizens-centred law enforcement organisation”.
“The Forum further notes that the proposed reforms should be anchored under the basis of the White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad which was jointly authored by the National Human Rights Commission, the Federal Ministry of Justice, and the Nigeria Police Force,” it read.
“The Forum affirms that reform proposals for the Nigerian Police Force will be based on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and existing legislations such as the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act, 2019, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 the Anti-Torture Act, 2017, and the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2010, amongst others.
“Following the dissolution of SARS, the Forum calls for the following immediate steps to be taken in restoring public confidence and trust in the Police: An order by the Inspector General of Police to all State Commands to halt the use of force against protesters; unconditional release of arrested protesters and citizens; 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.
“The Forum welcomed the proposal to set up an Independent Investigation Panel to look into the violations of human rights by the defunct SARS and other segments of the Nigerian Police. The Forum agrees to the setting up of this Independent Panel by the National Human Rights Commission within the next one week. An open 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 Commission within one week.
“The Forum recommends the psychological evaluation, training and retraining of disbanded SARS officials prior to re-deployment. The Forum resolves to set up the following Technical Sub-Committees to design an implementation roadmap and work plan for the implementation of the White Paper: Training, Capacity and Re-orientation; Logistics: Infrastructure, Communications and Technology; Arrest, Detention, and Investigations; Regulations, Oversight and Accountability and Financing and Partnerships.’’