The #EndSARSNow Movement Intensifies
The anti-police brutality movement which kicked off in the streets of Nigeria last Thursday has grown even more intense despite the official announcement on Sunday to dissolve the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit accused of serious human rights crimes as the Nigerian youth now seek overall police reform in the country.
Johnkennedy Anuma, a protester described his ideal situation, “I want to be with a police that is not carrying AK-47, a police that looks friendly, very neat and well educated. Anybody that is not up to, I don’t want to say school qualification now but if you are not up to the standard of being able to communicate reasonably with an individual shouldn’t be a police officer.”
However, the young Nigerians are not satisfied with the official announcements and take issue with the government’s decision to deploy officers from SARS into other police units — in particular a new replacement tactical unit Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT.
Deployment is Not Reform
According to the inspector general of police, Mohammed Adamu, former police officers from SARS will be integrated into the new unit after undergoing psychological and medical examinations to assess their professional suitability, “The officers are expected to undergo this process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties,” Adamu communicated.
Queen Martins, a protester expressed her stance on the matter, “Their first job is to protect us the citizens. Their job, they work for us, they are supposed to ensure that we are safe and that we are secure. We are not supposed to be scared of them, they are not supposed to be the ones brutalizing us they are supposed to save us from the people who are doing those kinds of things.”
Excessive Force by Police
At least 10 lives have been lost to alleged excessive force by police in these largely peaceful protests. Although, Wednesday saw unidentified men wielding machetes in Abuja demonstrations.
Meanwhile, at least ten people have been killed by the Nigerian police since the onset of the largely peaceful protests. An occurrence that Amnesty International, publicly condemns, “The excessive use of force by the police in response to the protests reveals the longstanding disregard for the right to life by Nigerian security forces,” Amnesty said. The human rights NGO added that excessive use of force “without justifiable grounds is a crime under international law.”
Nigerian police have allegedly fired tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition at protesters in the capital of Abuja while other cities in the nation saw police harassing and unjustifiably arresting protesters.
Official Government Statement
On Tuesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari issued a public address expressing; “genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force, and in some cases extrajudicial killings and wrongful conduct, by men of the Nigerian police force.”
The head of state also added that the disbanding of SARS is “only the first step” in extensive police reform. In addition, he stated, “We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice,” said Buhari, adding that “the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hard-working and diligent in performing their duties.”