Text of a Press Conference addressed by Ene Obi, Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, on #EndPoliceBrutality campaign, on Thursday October 15, 2020 at ActionAid Nigeria office premises, Gwarinpa, Abuja.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press.
ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) has been following the unfolding issues in the with keen interest. Amidst diverse agitations by citizens, ActionAid Nigeria has deemed it fit to lend our voice to putting a stop to police brutality and riding on the ongoing agitation to reform Nigeria Police because the current police structure in terms of command and operation adversely affect young people who are one of our core target groups.
As an organisation on human rights and social justice working to end poverty with a knack for promoting the rights and dignity of everyone (including members of the Police Force) in the society for the past 20 years, we are dismayed by the heightened police brutality as a result of strong agitation by young people across the country. These agitations stem from frustrations and long years of neglect of young people as evidenced by the high level of unemployment and underemployment of youths; this injustice has strong roots in the high level of corruption and slack of governance in the country over the years.
There has been limited progress on accountability of law enforcement agencies and their abuses in the country. The report of Presidential Panel of Inquiry set up in 2018 to investigate abuses by the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is yet to be made public. It is imperative that the officers who have been found guilty of harassing and brutalizing innocent citizens should be brought to book and justice be seen to be thoroughly served.
The Federal Government and Governments at all levels need to pay attention to the welfare of the citizens. There is systemic failure and it needs transformation. Every political leader needs to become completely responsible and accountable. A situation where members of the National Assembly that are one of the highest paid in the world still scamming for contracts (unbelievable) exist and are being protected by one of the poorest paid Police Force in the world; and we are the poorest country in the world as Nigeria has now been declared the poverty capital of the world recently, despite the vast natural and huge human resources. The young people are demanding their dignity and the dignity of every Nigerian to be restored.
Police reform should not only be in rhetoric but in actions evident to Nigerians. It should start with the upgrading of Police Training Colleges and recruitment processes. We want a Nigeria police that is well-informed on human rights and social justice and treat human beings with dignity. We demand the Nigerian Police that is attractive to the best brains in the country and police officers that are core professionals maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities with emotional intelligence devoid of brutality or extortion of citizens.
We demand a policing system with good welfare package to attract and retain the best of minds. Police officers are humans too. They also have responsibilities to their families and the society. We want to see a Nigeria where law enforcement agencies take care of citizens, and not the current chaos arising from police brutality and previous neglects in governance system.
Today, ActionAid Nigeria is saying, the time has come to end police brutality and nip the ongoing youth agitation in the bud before it degenerates to a state of anarchy. The current level of impunity cannot continue, we demand improved policing. Nigeria Police cannot be treating Nigerians like this. ‘Youth lives matter; Nigerian lives matter.’
ActionAid Nigeria applauds the tenacity of the Nigerian youths and the call for police reform across the country as a way of holding government to account. Corruption has continued to hamper meaningful development including the recruitment and training of police officers and we want to use this medium to remind all corrupt elements to desist and provide required leadership.
To this end, we urge all protesters to remain non-violent and go about their agitation peacefully. We also call on the Federal Government to:
- Ensure that the army does not and must not intervene to crush the peaceful protesters. They have enough to do in curtailing bandits and insurgents terrorizing Nigerian all over.
- Reform the current system which watches with an 'I DONT CARE' attitude while unscrupulous elements in the police terrorise defenseless people, extort citizens with guns and POS machines. The current structure is still very capable of raising another terror squad.
- Ensure that Nigeria Police is adequately funded putting a stop to the menace of having DPOs ‘creatively’ funding their stations with strong mechanism for ensuring accountability and probity.
- Facilitate upward review of police welfare and emoluments to guarantee ethical and professional conducts of the security operatives. The appalling states of police barracks across the country must be overhauled with regular provision of kits and equipments to promote decency and corporate police image.
- Ensure the release of protesters arrested during the ongoing agitation, while the erring officers who contravened the rule of engagement must be summarily prosecuted.
As Nigerians, the values of integrity and transparency, should be part of the culture. We urge our leaders and youths alike to be more patriotic as we hope to see a country where equity reigns; a country where the gap between the rich and the poor is closed permanently.
Long Live the true voices of freedom
Long Live the Nigerian People
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Justa Costa, Victoria Acerta.