By Senator Ovie Omo-Agege
Lately, many Nigerians, especially our youths, have been protesting unjustifiable brutality and other condemnable human rights violations by the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force. It is overwhelmingly agreed that our citizens are right to make their voices heard on questions of inhuman and degrading treatments through these peaceful protests. A scene of peaceful Nigerian youths gathering publicly in Abuja today to seek God’s intervention against police brutality in the nation should no doubt touch the conscience of all.
Ours is a constitutional democracy that guarantees freedom of expression and peaceful assemblies. Consistent with this truth, the Federal Government led by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and Governments of States impacted by these protests have been engaging constructively with our fellow citizens. This is the proper approach in a democracy. It is quite reassuring and should always be part of our democratic culture.
As an elected representative of a constituency that is impacted by the identified challenges highlighted by the #EndSARS protests, I identify wholly with citizens who protest peacefully. I have spoken in the past and now against criminal, unethical and violent actions against fellow citizens during errant policing operations. It is my hope and prayer that these actions will now stop for good.
I support all constructive, respectful and responsible engagements to stop human rights violations, and will always do so. Also, I believe that comprehensive Police reforms is the only sustainable path for our Police to genuinely earn the trust of our citizens and execute its constitutional mandate without self-inflicted negative prejudices and suspicions.
It is commendable that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has, as a necessary initial step, responded to overwhelming demands by disbanding the SARS unit of the Police. As generally expected, he has also announced measures to reform the Police – #PoliceReforms – with critical and objective inputs from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and leading human rights activists. It is important to encourage this process for the greater good of our nation. I am confident that all Distinguished Senators of the 9th Senate under the leadership of the President of the Senate, His Excellency, Senator Ahmad Lawan, will individually and collectively support and monitor this important process.
No doubt, the failings of a few have impugned the public image and standing of the Police, and justice must be adequately served in this regard. It is however a generally acknowledged truth that majority of the men/women and officers of the force are patriots. For the unsung heroes in the Police who risk so much, including the comfort of their families and even their lives, to protect life and property, be assured that our citizens sincerely appreciate your sacrifices. Be encouraged to serve even better because your fine character, patriotic service and the power of your positive examples are needed to redefine and reposition the Police going forward.
Democracy demands extraordinary vigilance. Through peaceful protests, our citizens have commendably shown their preference for a nation where Police brutality is not an accepted norm. This good point having been properly made and courageously accepted by the Government, let us now work together as comrades-in-arms to ensure that we make sustainable gains from the proposed reforms. It is time to bring the public protests to an end and shift all positive energies and focus to the important task of collectively reforming our Police. That way, we would be able to ensure that the reforms meet public expectations and global best practices.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
▪︎ Omo-Agege is the Deputy President of the Senate & Obarisi of Urhoboland