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Why many victims of police brutality in Nigeria may not get justice

By Princess Ekwi Ajide

On 26th October, 2020 when 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), constituted judicial investigative panels of enquiry to look into allegations of police excesses in Nigeria, occasioned by the #EndSARS campaign, many felt respite was coming at last but that seems to be far from the truth as Nigerians tend to forget too soon.

As at 30th December, 2020, the judicial panels had received a total of 2,500 petitions but unfortunately as is the normal with the Nigerian government, nearly four months since the panels were constituted across the states, there have been minimal prosecutions or compensations. Thankfully last week the Lagos State government announced a N10m compensation for victims of police brutality but many have asked how sufficient that could be or if the sum to be distributed among many victims would be enough to placate pains and anger of wounds of many years. This investigation is for another day.

The petitions bothering on allegations of human rights abuses such as extra-judicial killings, excessive torture of suspects, extortion, harassment, sexual and gender based violence, indiscriminate arrests, illegal detention and abuse of power by the police and other security agencies are still being looked into because many of the panels have little or no funding to continue the job.

What then becomes of the outcome or findings of the panels? Observers say the conspiracy of silence smirks of lack of political will or a deliberate connivance by government and government officials to support the police to cover up.

#EndSARS protesters who were later reported to have been allegedly shot at by the military in Lagos, killing about 12 and scores injured had sought among other things, the establishment of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of reported cases of police indiscretion, disbandment of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, among others and in response to these calls, states like Anambra, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Lagos, Imo, Ondo the Federal Capital Territory and a host of other states constituted a judicial panel to look into the allegations while the Federal government disbanded SARS but renamed and replaced it with what it called SWAT.

With the recent happenings in Nigeria, one is wont to wonder if #EndSARS protests may have become efforts in futility since nothing has changed; citizens, journalists irrespective of age or status are still being brutalized by security agencies in Nigeria but we seem to have forgotten so soon the carnage, loss of lives and property that followed the #EndSARS Campaign probably because these tragedies have become a daily occurrence and government seems to be catching in on the forgetfulness of Nigerians and may soon sweep under the carpet the many demands of the #EndSARS Campaigners and may not even punish the accused which will be like postponing the doomsday.

Apparently, #EndSARS was just one of the avenues for citizens to vent their anger and if the demands are not met appropriately, it may spell doom since the anger is still there.

Government may have succeeded in silencing the protesters but their anger has not been assuaged which is risky as something bigger than#EndSARS according to some religious leaders could be waiting to happen and when it happens, who knows who or what will be caught in the line of fire?

Meanwhile, early February, a group of youths again attempted to converge at the Lekki Toll Gate scene of the alleged shootings in October 2020 to revive the #EndSARS struggle. Tagged #EndSARS2, the protest was however contained by security operatives who were on ground to maintain peace. Several arrests were made and the rally was terminated.

Efforts of the security operatives may have saved the day however as hoodlums may again hijack the rally like what happened in October.

For this, the government needs to make hay while the sun shines as neglect of the agitations #EndSARS may spell doom for us as a country if nothing is done and fast enough to placate the many agitations of the youths.

This article however, is to call government’s

attention to what people may call antics of political gladiators and as well caution Nigerian youths to guard against being used to perpetrate evil against the nation.

However, with the recent effort to revive #EndSARS struggle may mean that the ghost of #EndSARS may still be hovering and only truth and reconciliation can bury it finally.

*Ajide, a journalists writes from Abuja, FCT.

 

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