#ENDSARS Protests:What do the probe panels hope to achieve? By Ladidi Sabo




Whatsapp News

When the International passport of ModupeOdele, a US-trained Nigerian attorney and co-lead of ENDSARS Legal, an initiative which provided free legal aid to peaceful #ENDSARS protesters was confiscated by agents of Nigeria’s federal government to stop her from travelling abroad, the fears of many sceptics who questioned the good will in the famous “your voice has been heard loud and clear” speech made by President Muhammadu Buhari while urging Nigerian youths to halt the protests became palpable.

Public affairs analysts posit that the current development where leaders of the protests are being harassed by law enforcement agents demonstrate that the initial entreaties for the protests to stop and assurances that errant policeman will be sanctioned were mere platitudes.

The avalanche of harassments on leaders of the protesters, with bank accounts of some leaders frozen and even a company assumed to be linked with the protests deregistered by the (CAC) accentuate this position.

Condemnations have since trailed the freezing of #EndSARS campaigners’ accounts. Recently, an Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) upheld the imprisonment of six Nigerian citizens found guilty of funding the Haram terrorist group operating in East of Nigeria. Allegations are rife that some top Nigerians are funding the insurgents who have held sway for more than a decade in the North Eastern of Nigeria.

Following the swiftness in freezing the campaigners’ accounts, many marvel that till date, the Nigerian government Following the swiftness in freezing the campaigners’ accounts, many marvel that till date, the Nigerian government has neither traced nor frozen any bank account linked with sponsors the terrorist group. Receivers of the funds also remain unknown. “ “ has neither traced nor frozen any bank account linked with sponsors the terrorist group. Receivers of the funds also remain unknown.

“Following the swiftness in freezing the campaigners’ accounts, many marvel that till date, the Nigerian government has neither traced nor frozen any bank account linked with sponsors the terrorist group. Receivers of the funds also remain unknown.”

Besides, an acclaimed human rights activist allegedly sponsored by the Nigerian Government, has sued 50 Nigerian celebrities including musicians David Adeleke also known as Davido, , Folarin Falana known more popularly as Falz and Aisha Yesufu for allegedly promoting the protest. Interestingly both President Buhari and Vice President Osibanjo’s daughters supported the protests. While Zahra Buhari shared an image on her insta-story that says “#EndPoliceBrutality, Kiki Osinbajo shared a post on her Instagram page saying “Police brutality must end now” using the hash tags #endpolicebrutality and #endsars. Whether their actions will be challenged in court like those of the 50 charged for endorsing the protest remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, a Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja has ordered the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to investigate the alleged 50 promoters of the #EndSARS movement. Already, hundreds of the protesters across the country have been arrested and held in prison custody, nay correctional centres.

“Following the swiftness in freezing the campaigners’ accounts, many marvel that till date, the Nigerian government has neither traced nor frozen any bank account linked with sponsors the terrorist group. Receivers of the funds also remain unknown.”

This is in spite of the main object of the protest being to end police brutality, amongst other ills in the country. The agitating questions are – Is it legal for citizens to stage peaceful protests about disturbing situations in the country? Does complaints against the government amount to being disloyal and unpatriotic? Does it also suggest attempts to subvert the government? Does the government really want to end police brutality? Sadly, military brutality has been added to the list.

“While Zahra Buhari shared an image on her insta-story that says “#EndPoliceBrutality, Kiki Osinbajo shared a post on her Instagram page saying “Police brutality must end now” using the hash tags #endpolicebrutality and #endsars. Whether their actions will be challenged in court like those of the 50 charged for endorsing the protest remains to be seen”

In the heat of the protests, the Federal Government dissolved the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) with the Inspector General of Police (IGP), emphasising that the dissolution was in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people. Federal government then said it was embarking on massive police reforms and asked each state governor to set up a judicial panel of inquiry to look into police brutality in its jurisdiction. The current turn of events challenges government’s sincerity on the entire enterprise.

While Nigerians are still reeling with shock over the Lekki toll gate shootings in peace time by Nigerian soldiers, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) made some revelations. He said the shooting was done by hoodlums in military uniforms. His exposé came even before the judicial panels of inquiry across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory have barely begun sitting. How did he arrive at his conclusions?

Then his office added that there is no sufficient evidence to prosecute the 33 operatives of the disbanded SARS indicted in last year’s report of a Presidential Investigative Panel. Consequently, the Attorney General has directed the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Adamu, to set up “a special investigation team” to conduct “thorough investigation” into the cases. A damning investigative video by the Cable News Network (CNN) has punctured the denials of Nigerian government and its agencies over the killings.

The cable network said: “CNN has examined bullet casings found at the scene and confirmed with current and former Nigerian military sources that the bullet casings match those used by the army. Two ballistics experts have also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks. “And working with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, CNN has established that several of the bullets from the Lekki toll gate originated from Serbia. Export documents CNN has seen show that Nigeria purchased weaponry from Serbia almost every year between 2005 and 2016.

“After the army withdrew from the scene, members of the police, including the SARS police unit — disbanded by authorities on 11 October — moved in, according to multiple eyewitnesses CNN spoke with. “In a video obtained by CNN and geolocated to Lekki toll gate at 2:36 a.m., one eyewitness, Legend, whose second name we’re not publishing for his safety, can be seen with the Nigerian flag around his head saying, “…my hand is broken, my leg is broken, and police are still shooting at us…”

Expressing little faith when the judicial probe panels were about to be set up, Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu wrote: “There is a lot of glibness on #Police Reform. “In 2005, the Justice Ejiwunmi Presidential Commission on Reform of Administration of Justice reported with substantial recommendations on Police Reform.

“In 2006, the Muhammadu Danmadami, Presidential Commission on Police Reform made extensive recommendations. Danmadami was a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) and President of the Association of Retired Police Officers in Nigeria. In 2008 when the MD Yusuf Presidential Committee on Police Reform submitted its report, it described the workforce of the Nigeria Police Force as largely “undesirable” and complained that many of the police men were “criminals.” MD Yusuf was then Inspector General and founder of the special branch, which later became SSS (State Security Service).

“In 2012, the Parry Osayande Presidential Commission on Police Reform reported similar conclusions and recommendations. Osayande was DIG and former chairman of Police Service Commission (PSC). In 2019, you had the Tony Ojukwu Presidential Committee on SARS. All these reports are lying fallow. I have read all the reports. The Danmadami, MD Yusuf and Parry Osayande reports were all similar in diagnoses and recommendations. No one has implemented their recommendations or even tried them out. Now we want another merry-go-round?”

Pundits hold that more worrisome is the fact that the entire process has been given ethnic coloration thereby conveying the impression that some sections of the country are trying the run down the government of President Buhari a northerner. This has also prompted a reawakening of calls for so that every could choose what works best for it.

Prior to the Lekki killings was the sudden appearance of ProSARS demonstrators who turned against the peaceful protesters. Across some northern states ProSARS demonstrators brandished placards. Thereafter, hoodlums stormed Lagos State Government House, Alausa and attacked #EndSARS pro- testers. Meanwhile, a disturbing video went viral on social media where a government official was caught on camera coordinating thugs to attack peaceful protesters in Abuja. Yet another video showed an armed police officer and others in mufti smashing a packed Toyota Camry in Benin City, Edo state, a day after Governor Godwin Obaseki declared a curfew following the protests in Edo. Nobody has been apprehended.

Enraged leaders of thought like those in the Na- tional Consultative Front, NCFront, have accused both the federal and state governments of colluding with thugs and hoodlums to discredit and scuttle a popular Youths action.

A cross section of Nigerians including rights ac- tivist Ebun-Oluwa Adegboruwa, SAN, maintain that people must be allowed to protest without police harassment. Another constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, posit that the stance of some prominent leaders on the dis- bandment of SARS validates the need to urgently restructure the country.

Against the backdrop of the numerous panels of inquiry set up in the past, and plethora of recom- mendations, never implemented, including that of Human Rights Violations Investigation Commis- sion (HRVIC) popularly called Oputa Panel, that sat for nearly a whole year, there is a groundswell of opinion that the recommendations by the current judicial panels on police brutality would similarly be swept under the carpet. Not a few worry that if that happens, the grossly strained national unity could snap completely and irretrievably. In all, it does not seem like any lesson has been learnt from the #EndSARS protest nor does it seem like the demands being pressed for were un- derstood by the authorities concerned.

Source: lawandsocietymagazine.com