President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday ordered Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu, to ensure that all officers whose misconduct and recklessness led to the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) be fished out and persecuted.
The President spoke just as the Surulere Police Division, Lagos State came under attack after a Policeman allegedly shot dead an #EndSARS protester. Already, about three three officers have been shot in the attack.
Nigeria has been roiled since last week following protests over Police recklessness and intimidation of citizens.
President Buhari said at the launch of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES) geared towards creating 774,000 jobs across the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the country that the concerns and agitations of Nigerians “about the excessive use of force and in some cases extra-judicial killings and wrongful conduct of the men of the Nigerian Police Force” are genuine.
The launch was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State.
According to the President, “I will like to use this opportunity to say a word on the recent genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force and in some cases extra-judicial killings and wrongful conduct of the men of the Nigerian Police Force.
“The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people.
“We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice. We deeply regret the loss of life of the young man (Isiaka Jimoh) in Oyo State during the recent demonstrations. I have directed that the circumstances of his death should be thoroughly investigated.
“Meanwhile, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hardworking and diligent in performing their duties. The few bad eggs should not be allowed to tarnish the image and reputation of the force.”
On the empowerment programme, the President while restating his administration’s commitment to youth development and poverty alleviation pledged that the Federal Government policies of social protection and people empowerment would continue on track, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic.
Buhari, who described P-YES as a cornerstone of his administration’s social and economic development strategies, said it was part of the overall policy of ensuring that 100 million Nigerians were lifted out of poverty in ten years.
The P-YES programme, the President stated, would include areas such as agriculture and food processing, restaurant and catering, tailoring and fashion design, technical skills such as in the Information and Communications Technology sector, artisanship, welding, carpentry and joinery, other small businesses and activities associated with the micro-economic sector of this economy.
He therefore called on State governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government to factor the programmes to assist youths realise their potentials in their chosen fields while urging local and foreign private sector operators in Nigeria to also contribute their share to the expansion of this programme. This, the President said, they can do through channeling their corporate social responsibility efforts towards skills acquisition, creation of start-ups, and other intervention measures.
Explaining that disbanding of SARS was the first step to the coming extensive police reforms, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said he had intervened in the past in cases involving many young people and SARS.
Calling for the commitment of all Nigerians, Vice President Osinbajo noted that the disbandment of SARS is a good moment for the Nigeria Police Force.
The Vice President told journalists after the programme launch that “the most important thing is that SARS has been disbanded and that the IGP has also committed to ensuring they not only is it disbanded but that whatever takes its place has the full participation of the civil society groups and all other stakeholders. A few minutes ago, the President also spoke about it and spoke in particular that the disbandment of SARS is only the first stage in a full-scale reform of the Police Force.
“I think everyone is now committed to seeing a Police Force and also a law enforcement that will meet the expectations of Nigerians. The purpose of law enforcement and the purpose of policing is for the safety of lives and livelihood of Nigerians. So, we are all committed. I don’t think it’s the exclusive preserve of anyone. We are all very committed.
“The President has also spoke about the prosecution of all law enforcement agents who must have committed wrongful acts. I think all these are commitment but we must also understand that it is a process. It is not an event. Reforms is a process and we must all commit to it and must stay focused on those issues.”
Asked of the message he has for those who are still protesting, Vice President Osinbajo said “the clear message is that there is a government commitment to ensuring that the process of reforms, those who have committed wrongful acts are duly investigated and prosecuted. And that whatever replaces SARS is something that is acceptable, first of all compliance with all of the tenets of the rule of law. And that of human right rights.
“I think these are deep issues that we are all concerned about. I don’t think one person is more concerned than others. I have also been involved in many cases of many young people trying to resolve this kinds of conflicts that have been reported. I think it is a good moment for the police force and for all of us to try and reform the police. We are all committed to it.”