The Senate on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to as a matter of urgency, address Nigerians on the #EndSARS protest which has spread across parts of the country.
While calling on all tiers of government to put in place and sustain policies and programmes of socio-economic reforms that raise the standard and quality of life of Nigerians, the upper chamber urged the Federal Government to faithfully implement all the five demands of the #EndSARS movement and protesters with necessary timelines to rekindle confidence in government.
In a statement, the Senate also appealed to the #EndSARS movement and protesters to suspend their actions and embrace genuine dialogue in order to give the government the time and space to meet their demands.
The upper chamber also urged the Nigerian youths and citizens to approach the National Assembly Committees on Constitutional Reforms in order to secure far-reaching and holistic amendments that are vital to the restricting and reshaping our federation to make it an inclusive and viable polity.
The Senate while appealing to Nigerians to resort to use of legal and institutional channels of resolving conflicts and disputes, urged the police and other security agencies to operate strictly in accordance with the rules of engagement appropriate to a democratic environment that abjures the use of aggressive and brutal force against peaceful protesters.
The upper chamber also urged the Inspector General of Police to ensure a holistic, comprehensive reforms of the police to include the overhaul of the welfare, training and medical insurance of all members of the Nigerian Police Force.
These were resolutions reached by the Senate following a motion brought to the floor during plenary by Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP – Ekiti South).
Coming under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules, Olujimi in a motion titled “EndSARS: Need for comprehensive and holistic reforms”, traced police brutality in Nigeria to the colonial era when the force was mainly used to suppress dissent against colonial rules.
According to the lawmaker, “some of the documented police brutalities in Nigeria during the colonial era are: the killing of twenty-one miners and wounding of fifty workers during the Enugu Colliery strike of 1949; suppression of the women’s riot (December 1929 – January 1930) in the Eastern parts of the country, which led to the death of fifty-five women and serious injury to more than fifty other; and the quelling of the Tiv riot of 1960 where 19 civilians were allegedly killed and 83 injured.”
Olujimi stated that despite the Constitutional provisions establishing the police force based on Section 214(1) of the 1979 and 1999 constitutions, police brutality continued during the post-colonial era.
“The police was used as an instrument of oppression by politicians in the first and second republics, in other to harass and keep themselves in power. During the military rule, the police was used to suppress popular protest and agitations against military dictatorship,” the lawmaker said.
She added that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was created in 1992 as a unit of the Nigerian Police Force to deal with crimes such as robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping amongst others.
The lawmaker recalled that in June 2020, Amnesty International in a report; Time to End Impunity, documented that between January 2017 and May, 2020, there were 82 cases of torture, ill-treatments and extra-judicial killings of Nigerian citizens by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
She, however, expressed concern that “the latest #EndSARS protest, which has assumed a global dimension, began on 3rd October, 2020, when the video of a SARS officer who allegedly shot a young Nigerian in Ughelli, Delta State, surfaces online.”
The lawmaker added that “despite the disbandment of the SARS unit by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and the promise of implementing the demands of the protesters towards reforming the police and ending brutality, the address by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 10, 2020 and the appeal of the Senate President, Distinguished Senators Ahmad Lawan to the protesters, the protests have increase in intensity and violence with socio-economic activities paralyzed across Nigerian with some compatriots allegedly losing their lives in the ensuing melee.”
She lamented that “the protests have now grown beyond the initial agitation to #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality to include the demands for good governance, accountability of government, reforms of key governmental institutions like INEC, Judiciary, Health, Power amongst others.
She added that, “as political leaders, we have a responsibility of protecting, providing succor and guiding youths. We must therefore address the issues of appropriate policies that ensure economic growth, wealth creation and employment generation on the front burner.”
Contributing to the motion, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC – Kebbi Central), called on the Federal Government to deploy whatever means necessary to end the #EndSARS protest where dialogue fails.
“I want to suggest strongly that dialogue should be used to get the youths to suspend the #EndSARS protest.
He said, “where dialogue fails, then we should use whatever means is possible to end it. Otherwise, it will lead to anarchy.
“Already, a number of properties have been burnt, a number of people have been killed, and no responsible government will allow lawlessness to take place when it is in power.”
“Government should leave up to its Constitutional responsibilities to ensure that law and order is being maintained,” Aliero added.