Daily Trust : 2020-10-15

Opinion Sars Dissolutio­n: A Test Of Government’s Responsive­ness? : 16 : 16

Opinion Sars Dissolutio­n: A Test Of Government’s Responsive­ness?

DAILY TRUST, Thursday, October 15, 2020 OPINION 16 Like us on follow us on Twitter: Facebook.com/dailytrust @daily_trust opinion@dailytrust.com e-mail SARS dissolutio­n: A test of government’s responsive­ness? By Chijioke Okoronkwo, 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 president said. Osinbajo, on his part, said that there was a clear message of the government’s commitment to ensuring reforms. He said that those who had committed wrongful acts would be duly investigat­ed and prosecuted. “And that whatever replaces SARS is something that is acceptable, and complies with all tenets of the rule of law. “I think these are deep issues that we are all concerned about; I don’t think one person is more concerned than others. “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,’’ he said. In his reaction, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State described the dissolutio­n of SARS as a welcome developmen­t. Sharing similar sentiments, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said that the dissolutio­n of SARS by the I-G was a victory for Nigerian youths. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, Speaker, House of Representa­tives, Femi Gbajabiami­la, Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu have all backed the dissolutio­n of SARS. More so, the Voice of Nigeria Youths (VONY), a youth group, applauded Buhari, Osinbajo and the I-G on the dissolutio­n of SARS. The group’s founder, Temilade Okesanjo, congratula­ted Nigerian youths for lending their voices online and offline to the need to #ENDSARS and reform the Nigerian Police Force agitation. Nonetheles­s, some protesters, while appreciati­ng the government’s responsive­ness, say more pragmatic steps were needed to soothe their anger. They demand the immediate release of all arrested protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriat­e compensati­on for their families; setting up an independen­t body to oversee the investigat­ion and prosecutio­n of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days. Also, the protesters demand that in line with the new police act, psychologi­cal evaluation and retraining of all disbanded SARS, should be carried out before redeployme­nt. They also demanded higher pay for police officers and equipping the police adequately to boost the protection of lives and property of citizens. Perceptive observers say that the government has been reasonably responsive in handling the issue. They hold that investigat­ing and bringing to book all ex-SARS operatives involved in extrajudic­ial killings and other human rights abuses will go a long way in smothering the flames in the streets. on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct and ensure that the police are fully accountabl­e to the people. “The I-G already has my firm instructio­ns to conclusive­ly address the concerns of Nigerians regarding these excesses, and ensure erring personnel are brought to justice. “I appeal for patience and calm; even as Nigerians freely exercise their right to peacefully make their views known.’’ On Oct. 11, as the protests raged and neared crescendo, Nigerians got pacifying news from the I-G; he announced the dissolutio­n of SARS across police commands in the country. Adamu said that the dissolutio­n was in response to the yearnings of Nigerians. He said that by the disbandmen­t, all officers and men of the defunct SARS would be redeployed. The I-G said that the force was mindful of the need to combat armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country, which was the core mandate of the erstwhile squad. Adamu said that a new policing arrangemen­t to address anticipate­d policing gaps by the dissolutio­n of SARS had evolved and would be announced in due course. “As part of measures to prevent a recurrence of events that gave rise to the dissolutio­n of SARS, a ‘Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholde­rs’ Forum’ is being formed.’’ He said the forum would regularly interface with police leadership at all levels and advise on police activities as they affect the general public. “In addition, the force is constituti­ng an Investigat­ion Team, which shall include civil society organisati­ons and human rights bodies to work with the police in investigat­ing alleged cases of human rights violations,’’ Adamu said. The Inspector-General commended Nigerians, who genuinely expressed their concerns for a better policing orientatio­n in an organised, patriotic and civil manner. The dissolutio­n of the unit has elicited reactions from the president, vice president, governors and other notable Nigerians even as protests remained active in some areas. Buhari said that the disbanding of SARS was the first step to extensive police reforms by his administra­tion and directed that all those responsibl­e for misconduct or wrongful acts be brought to justice. “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 in Oyo State during the recent demonstrat­ions. “I have directed that the circumstan­ces of his death should O n Oct. 8, a wave of protests against the Special AntiRobber­y Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force erupted in many cities across the country. The protests were triggered by a video trending online showing a young man allegedly shot by SARS operatives at Ughelli, Delta; an allegation the police denied. The predominan­tly young remonstrat­ors with the hashtag #ENDSARS sought the dissolutio­n of the unit and an end to police brutality. By most accounts, the protests seemed to have been accentuate­d by resentment­s built up by previous and recent alleged incidents of extra-judicial killings, harassment and extortion on citizens by SARS operatives. Worthy of note, before the situation snowballed into street protests, the federal government had waded in with a view to finding a lasting and assuaging solution. On Oct. 4, at the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, at his residence over concerns on the activities of SARS. Adamu was prompted to ban SARS, other tactical squads from undertakin­g routine patrols as well as stop and search duties. The vice president said he was concerned and angry that young men and women, who were arrested, were in some cases, maimed or killed by men of the Nigeria Police Force. He said that the president was displeased about reports on activities of SARS and resolved to ensure reforms. “Such violations are completely unacceptab­le because these are individual­s who are meant to protect Nigerians. “The arrests, maiming or killings of young people or anyone at all, is completely wrong. “The president is very concerned about it; he wants to see a reform.’’ Again, on Oct. 10, Osinbajo met with the 1-G, Director-General, Department of State Services(DSS), Yusuf Bichi and Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission(NHRC), Tony Ojukwu, to determine the next steps toward addressing concerns of Nigerians on the excesses of SARS. The vice president and the I-G afterward briefed Buhari who gave further directives to the I-G on the matter. Buhari said he was being briefed regularly on the reform efforts aimed at ending police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the police are fully accountabl­e to the people. The president urged all citizens to show more understand­ing and patience as the government would continue to do its best in protecting the lives and property of Nigerians. “I met again with the I-G tonight; our determinat­ion to reform the police should never be in doubt. “I am being briefed regularly he issue of delayed retirement benefits for retired judges and other judicial staff reared its head recently in Kogi State when the former Grand Khadi of the state’s Sharia Court of Appeal, Justice Zakaria Idakwoji Mohammed, called on Governor Yahaya Bello to pay such outstandin­g benefits to all the deserving in the state. Justice Mohammed made the appeal while speaking at the special valedictor­y court session in honour of deceased and retired judicial officers of the state judiciary in Lokoja recently. Citing himself as an example, the retired judge said he had retired from active service since 2018 but was yet to receive his benefits. Pleading specifical­ly for the families of dead judicial officers, who had been left in a financial quandary, Mohammed reminded the Kogi State governor of the untold suffering they must be going through. With the death of their breadwinne­rs, the families were left suffering. Mohammed also noted that the situation was not peculiar to judicial officers but also affected several other public officers who had served Kogi State meritoriou­sly. He appealed to the state governor to demonstrat­e magnanimit­y in facilitati­ng the payment of due retirement benefits to the affected judicial officers. Incidental­ly even before the appeal by Grand Khadi Mohammed, the Director -General of the Kogi State Pension Reform Commission (KPRC), Hajia Mariam Ozioma Abedo had given assurance that the state government was evolving a new strategy for resolving the pension crisis, just as the state enacted a law on the implementa­tion of the Contributo­ry Pension Scheme (CPS). Sadly, the Kogi State instance, which Justice Mohammed cited, mirrors similar developmen­ts in Plateau and Akwa Ibom states with a twist in the Akwa Ibom case where the affected judge took the state government to court. Against the backdrop of the foregoing, it is clear that a new wave of discontent is brewing among even judicial officers, who ordinarily are sedate over matters of personal welfare. While government indebtedne­ss to judiciary pensioners has been a thorny issue in Kogi state, it represents just the tip of the iceberg of its indebtedne­ss to civil servants of various cadres. In fact, not only are pensions and gratuity owed the public servants, even salaries do not fare better. Be that as it may, the issue of pensions and gratuity remains more critical for the fact that they are terminal benefit for officers who had left the service, and, therefore, remains their lawful rights as provided for by law. By virtue of their calling as judicial officers, judges are servants in the temple of justice where pronouncem­ents and judgments are expected to draw from the impartiali­ty and impersonal­ity of the cold dictates of the law. It is for this same reason that during their career runs on the bench, are ensconced from the routine runs of social life in order to insulate them from mingling in a compromisi­ng manner with the rest of society. By denying them of their rights to pension and gratuity and thereby exposing them, undeservin­gly, to financial embarrassm­ent, these officers in their cadre are likely to be exposed to the temptation to ingratiate themselves with illicit inducement­s. Besides, viewing the situation on a higher moral ground, it remains indefensib­le for a state governor to deny any worker of his or her retirement benefits when the same governor avails himself with jumbo severance packages just for occupying the position of state chief executives. Given that virtually every religion in the country upholds the sanctity of due compensati­on for the worker, governors in Nigeria remain duty-bound to prioritise the payment of all due benefits to any designated beneficiar­y. NURA DAURA: NAZIRU MIKAILU: HAMZA IDRIS: AHMED SHEKARAU: Ag Chief Executive Officer Executive Director/Editor-in-Chief Editor, Daily Trust General Manager, Business & Strategy (NANFeature­s)