#EndSARS: Is a protest still necessary now that the Police is promising change?

You can say the Nigerians vs Police debacle has seen more progress in the past few days than it might have had if we had just sat down to ‘enjoy the ride’. From an online protest that led the Police to publish multiple press releases promising to do better, to a scheduled protest to be held Thursday, October 8, 2020, to the hashtag #EndSARSPermanently, that has trended for longer than regular in this clime, we have all seen that Nigerians want real change, not the ‘audio’ version of it – and the Police is helping to make this possible.

On Sunday, October 4 2020, the #EndSARS campaign shook social media and if you read stories of legal Nigerian citizens who have been illegally brutalised and extorted for just expressing their freedom of movement, you might want to organise a protest for the government to legalise guns.

Fortunately, the heat prompted the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to release a statement banning SARS and other special Police units from stop and search operations. And, to reiterate, he released another statement Wednesday, October 6, 2020.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the press statement:

  1. For the first time, the Police acknowledge that young legal Nigerian citizens are being killed indiscriminately: The document acknowledges that some operatives of the various special units have been quite unprofessional with their jobs.
  2. Nigerians have rights: The document progressed to counter the ideas that police have no regards for the rights of Nigerians. It rehashes the rights that everyone is entitled to have as it states that the bad eggs in the police are to blame for creating a culture of distrust for Nigerians against the police.
  3. Unprofessional conduct: The document spoke against the unlawful discharge of firearms, stating that in both local and international laws, unlawful killing and degrading rights of the citizen is a serious issue and even for the Nigeria Police Force. It also acknowledges that recent events show that the police who have taken lives of citizens violated standard protocols.
  4. The police is a disciplined organisation: The document reiterated the role the police plays in the protection of the rights of Nigerians, their lives and their properties. It went further to condemn the actions of the police officers that have positioned themselves as enablers for the bad image and name the police have gotten from many Nigerians.
  5. Addressing Unprofessionalism in the police: The document highlights points to tackle unprofessional conducts in the police and every unit under it:
    • Abusing the rights of Nigerians and threatening lives: Officers found guilty would be arrested and disciplined through established internal measures.
    • Restating roles of individual units: Officers at every point should appear in their respective uniforms and would only be discharged on special cases that fit their unit. For example, SARS would respond largely to special anti-robbery cases.
    • Low-Risk duties halted: The document prohibits special unit officers from engaging in low-risk duties like stop and search which have been their means of operating for a while now.
    • Previous cases: The police is said to investigate previous cases of abuse of power by operatives of the police and special units. The investigation is said to bring justice to affected persons.
    • Enforcing the directives: It went further to implore the police commissioners and heads of department to ensure that the directives are followed duly.
    • Transparency: The document went further to charge the Police Force Public Relation Officers to ensure that adequate information is made public to Nigerians and available to them on request.

However, this is not the first time the Police is ‘responding’ only after too many young Nigerian lives have been taken for simply walking the streets and dressing or looking in a certain way. And when we consider that the Police Force is already compromised, we might want to redefine what progress means in this case. But, we have seen Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo express anger over the incessant killings and the rot in the police. We can also take IGP Adamu’s word and wait for actual reforms to play out.

Yet, a protest can solidify efforts to do real reforms. A press statement can only say a little.

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