–Says it may be hijacked by hoodlums
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The National Economic Council, NEC, has appealed to those planning to stage a protest to mark the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protests to consider other lawful alternative means of engagement.
NEC argued that with the current security situation across the country, there was the possibility of such protests being hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem at such protest events and venues.
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Governor of Nassarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting, said that government has taken various actions to address the allegations of human rights violations made against the Nigerian police and other security agencies.
The NEC is presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and has the 36 state governors and Ministers in charge of the economy as well as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as members.
The statement read: “While appreciating the role of lawful peaceful protests in the advancement of public discourse under democratic governance, the National Economic Council (NEC) strongly advise those planning public protests across the country to mark the anniversary of the #EndSARS, to consider other lawful alternative means of engagement.
“This is because of the current security situation across the country and the possibility of such protests being hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem at such protest events and venues. Council, therefore, urges the organizers to reconsider their plan.
“NEC would also like to point out the various actions already taken by Federal and State Governments to address the grievances that led to the 2020 protests”
The actions the statement highlighted included, “the disbandment of SARS; broad police reforms; establishment of judicial panels of inquiries to investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies; recommendations of panels which are already at various stages of implementation, including the setup of Victims Compensation Funds from which several victims have received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels; and prosecution of police personnel indicted by the panels.”
According to the statement, “These are commendable actions that ought to be taken to a logical conclusion in a peaceful atmosphere.
“Organisers of the planned protests should explore the various channels of communication with governments at various levels to advance their positions and avert the breakdown of law and order that may result from such public protests.”
Psychiatric test for police recruits
According to Governor Sule, following the submission of the judicial panels of the enquiry on the EndSARS protests, the NEC recommended that persons recruited into police and other arms-bearing security agencies “should undergo psychiatric evaluations and drug tests before enlistment and periodically.
“We also looked at the various personnel of agencies who are to look at the various rules of engagement in the discharge of their functions within the civilian populace.
“While acknowledging the various initiatives introduced by the federal government to strengthen police accountability, through the police force commission, through sustained funding of budgetary allocations to the Nigerian police, we should also undertake a comprehensive assessment of all police stations across the country with a view to ensuring that they are fit for this purpose.”
Eleven states submit report
Governor Sule said that 11 out of 28 states and the FCT that set up judicial panels of enquiry into the EndSARS protests under the auspices of the National Human Rights Commission have submitted their reports.
“Based on the reports submitted, there are various recommendations by these panels about some payment of compensations and indictments on the police force and other security agencies.
“Each state, in collaboration with the federal government, shall establish modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the panels.
“Already, it has been resolved by NEC, a number of states have set up victims compensation funds from which several victims have already received payments. So many others will be receiving their payments as the time goes.
“On the issue of indictment, Council directed the various state governors to immediately forward copies of these reports to the attorneys-general of their states for prompt arraignment and prompt prosecution of indicted persons.
“Where incidences in the reports relate to matters of discipline in addition to prosecution, the NEC urged the Nigerian police to take action on affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020.”
Governor Sule stated that the Council also asked the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies to deploy cutting-edge technology in the fight against various crimes.
“Nigerian police force should in line with the mandatory training provisions of the Police Act 2020 prioritize the training of police officers on procedures for entrenchment of human rights provisions guaranteed by the constitution and professional handling of weapons.
“All those detained by the police as a result of the EndSARS protests are expeditiously processed with due regard to principles of fair hearing. These are some of the recommendations given by the NEC at the meeting.”
The governor said that the NEC recommendations would affect all states, including those that didn’t participate in setting up of the panels.
Asked if the Council would want to meet the organizers of the protest as a alternative means of engagement, Governor Sule said that “there are several ways that members of the protest know they can contact government,” adding that “in various states we are more than happy to receive them and to find out what they have to say.”
He said that many state governors and the management of the police force would be interested in meeting and discoursing with the organizers of the #EndSARS protest.