Nigeria: Crude Intelligence Fuels Police Brutality, Protest Sustained
For more than one week now, Nigerians especially youngsters and celebrities have occupied major cities including Lagos and Abuja, demanding end to Police brutality.
There has been enormous complaint about of how a unit of Nigeria Police Force, called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) harass citizens suspected to be fraudsters or criminals.
Lacking basic intelligence, the Police in the West African country place criminal label on youths in luxury life-style. People complain of being targeted for being flashy.
Many people were using the opportunity to share stories of brutality attributed to the police unit, which has developed notoriety for unduly profiling young people, reports the BBC’s Nduka Orjinmo from Abuja.
Those considered “flashy” often attract the SARS officers’ attention and very few walk away without having to hand over money, while others are arrested or jailed on trumped-up charges and some have been killed, our correspondent adds.
This crude style of intelligence has been successful in few occasions while it has raised wide-range of angst because majority of suspects turn-out to be innocent citizens.
Recently, anger rose again when these men killed a young man in Warri, Delta State and took his SUV away. Police boss, IGP M.A Adamu announced the banning of FSARS and Tactical Squads from Patrols. However, people have rightly voiced their misgiving about the ban. How effective will this be? This is not the first time the government would ‘ban’ SARS.
The entire police force is due for reform and restructuring. So, ordinary pronouncement of ban would not solve the problem of crass brutality by the men in uniform in a decadent society like Nigeria where the rights of the citizen are brazenly jeopardised and the citizen would have no place to run to—not to the court or church or mosque or politician or civil servant. In Nigeria, once you are jeopardised, you are jeopardised and there is nothing you can do about it.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is determined to end police brutality, introduce reforms and bring “erring personnel… to justice”.
His comments came after two days of protests sparked by a video of a man allegedly being killed by police.
The protesters say they want the unit disbanded rather than reformed.
Previous commitments to change the behaviour of the police have not had an effect, critics say.
In a series of tweets, the president said that his government’s “determination to reform the police should never be in doubt”.
He added that he was being “briefed… on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct”.
But he called for calm and emphasised that most police officers were committed to protecting Nigerians.
On Friday, in the capital, Abuja, police fired tear gas at protesters who were highlighting police harassment and brutality.
A police spokesman said minimum force had been used but demonstrators told the BBC that some people had been beaten and one said she had heard gunshots.
The hashtag #EndSARS was trending worldwide on Twitter on Friday with celebrities including the Nigerian superstars Wizkid and Davido tweeting their support for protesters.
British-Nigerian Star Wars actor John Boyega has also expressed his backing on social media.
There have also been protests in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos
On Sunday, Nigeria’s inspector general of police Mohammed Adamu banned the Sars unit from carrying out stop and search duties and setting up roadblocks.
He also said members of Sars must always wear uniforms and promised the unit would be investigated.
But protesters want the unit disbanded completely.
Two years ago, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo tweeted that he had directed that the “management and activities of Sars” should be overhauled “with immediate effect”.
Then last year, a specially formed Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad recommended reforms along with the dismissal and prosecution of named officers accused of abusing Nigerians.
At the time, President Buhari gave the head of police three months to work out how to implement the recommendations, but critics say little appears to have changed