October 12, 2020

#SARSMustEnd, because what affects one, affects us all

October 12, 2020

#SARSMustEnd, because what affects one, affects us all

The anguished scenes coming from our beloved nation Nigeria, of peaceful young protesters being forcefully dispersed, arrested and even injured and killed, are cause for sobering concern, even as many have noted the announcement that the SARS is to be immediately disbanded. The scenes speak to the state of the nation’s wellbeing, and what affects one citizen, affects us all.

The Economic and Social Research Council, which supports police reform in Nigeria, has assessed that between 2015 and 2019, over 40,000 lives were lost to violent crime, civil unrest and banditry, over 1,000 police officers died or were missing in the line of duty, over N600 billion Naira is estimated to have been lost to violent unrest and crime, while thousands of complaints have been filed to and by the police.

Among those is a complaint regarding the molestation of a group of 70 women alleged to be sex-workers in Abuja in 2018 and 2019. That these women were treated by the authorities as less than human is at once a grave offense to their dignity and at the same time, an all-too-common occurrence.

Our commitments and endorsement of United Nations Resolution 1325 specifically call for a reduction on violence against the female gender particularly because it is ultimately women and girls who bear the brunt in conflict. That our police system so blatantly flies in the face of internationally recognised orders that promote the healthy development of a country is antithetical to its purpose and existentially damaging to our nation’s progress.

It is poignant that yesterday was International Day of the Girl, and it was notable that I saw images of steadfast female activist Aisha Yesufu insist on social justice, and so many other young women rising to provide representation and relief. I see hope and practical expressions of loyalty to our nation’s ideals in our women and youth.

Our young citizens have made five requests of our nation’s leaders:

  • ¬†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
  • In line with the new Police Act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed
  • Increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens.

I urge decision-makers to listen to the voices and experiences of young citizens to chart a positive path forward in ending brutality, initiating reform towards restoring rights, civil liberties, safety, security and peace.

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