It is a common saying that the police are your friend. But in a country like Nigeria, it seems the opposite is the case. The Police all over the world are state authorities vested with the responsibility on law enforcement and maintenance of order in the society. In carrying out their responsibilities,the police may be authorized to use reasonable force when the need arises.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Police Act, international conventions,professional ethics and other statutes regulate and as well constrain the use of force by police in discharging their statutory functions.
Despite these regulations the police in many societies resort to using extreme force beyond limits as permitted by law in discharging their duties and in the process grossly disregard of the rule of law and resorted to killings extra-judicially, torture and subject civilians or citizens to all sorts of inhumane and ill-treatment; unfortunately, the same citizens that they have earlier sworn to protect.
Unlawful or extrajudicial killings, as it implies refers to killings outside the dictates of the law and the recent upsurge in the menace, torture,degrading and inhumane treatment of citizens in the society by the officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) reveals a need for the appraisal of the criminal justice system so as to prevent judicial usurpation and a lack of reverence for constituted authority which could result in the complete breakdown of law and order.
DAILY GIST in an exclusive interview with the Chairman, Equity Chambers OAU, Mr Adebiyi Fashoyin Abimbola extensively speaks on the #EndSARS or #ReformSARS issue currently ravaging in the country.
Sir, In just few words, what do you make of the present state of Nigeria ?
As it stands Nigeria is dancing on the precipice. We are divided along racial lines, religious lines, even professional lines.
For the first time ever though, we seem to have come out as a generation though and I am impressed with Nigeria today.
That’s the result you get when you push someone to the wall. They bounce back. I must say Nigerian Youths prove that this time around.
Currently #EndSARS is being trending all over the world, do you think the protest in the first place was necessary?
Of course, it is necessary. Since the beginning of time, a mass of people have always had only one major way to get something from their leaders. I remember once when I met with a former clerk of my school’s student Union, Barrister Peniella, he said to me. “you cannot serve as a check on that which does not fear you.” Ordinarily, the legislature ought to do by way of bill what we are doing by way of protest, however in light of their repeated failure and treachery, we have a moral obligation to request an end to SARS. So if anything, #EndSARS is not a protest, it is a loud request, and it will get louder the more we are ignored.
Let’s say for instance, if schools( public Universities) had resumed in full and everyone was back at their duty post, do you think the protest would still have recorded the same level of success as it did ?
If we had resumed, the protest would be much more effective. OAU students for example regrouped to Ife to protest alongside their pairs.
Those who have not protested because their parents kept them indoors would be able to protest freely. Resumption would have in fact been a catalyst.
Major media houses in the country were been dragged for their supposed delay in covering matters relating to SARS. At the beginning, they refused to recognize the ongoing protest which of course was very visible. What do you think are the reasons responsible for this act by the Media Houses?
In Nigeria, we practice a system called democratic dictatorship. Major media houses can only do so much. The government simply has to threaten the owners of the media houses which is what they have done and will continue to do.
Some top politicians were accused of hijacking the #EndSARS protest for political gains, how accurate is this?
Let me put it like this, the primary aim of a politician no matter how radical is to be in power. He might have good intentions, but in reality, he still holds on to that primary goal. We did not need the wisdom of Solomon to tell us that politicians involved in the protest had goals, neither do we mind. Everyone has a right to ambition. The problem will arise when that politician attempts to downplay others in order to magnify himself.
So as far the accuracy, it would stand for me at 100%, but it is not unexpected. A businessman will always try to make profits, a musician will always try to ride a trend, a politician will always try to be in power, we are all using each other, the game is the game.
While vast majority are of the opioion that SARS be removed totally, another sect of Nigerians are of the view that the fear of SARS to some extent has proved useful to curb crimes and robbery. What do you say?
Well this is it, SARS officials are highly trained combatants (I like to believe so). It would be counterproductive to the state and to us for the government to fire them all. That’s like teaching people to be killers for the government then abandoning them. They will become the very thing they were created to combat, “armed robbers.”
For me SARS has helped curbed crimes. Whoever owns a gun with the intent of commiting crime will do so. If a force could curb crime, why are there still killer herdsmen? Boko Haram insurgents? Niger Delta militants?
The existence of tactical squads can mitigate these crimes, but it can only go so far. So what are we saying? We are saying that we recognize that the police officers cannot be fired, but we believe that they can be reevaluated, and retrained.
However, before that is done, the government must show respect to our cause by first and foremost ending the organization formally, properly. Every other discussion can occur after.
Days ago, the PRO of The Nigerian Police at first said said Federal Government can’t afford to scrap SARS away completely because of the huge investment put into the dreaded Unit. What is your view on this? Is Money more important than Human Life or there’s more?
First off, I believe that excuse is trash. What have they invested? Equipment, training, money. Would disbanding SARS mean burning their vehicles or destroying their guns? The government is playing intellectual hide and seek. Let them say it with their chest. The truth is they will not ban SARS because they are afraid. The moment they accede to our demands it will be ginger for us to protest more injustice in future. This end SARS protest is more than a protest for the unit. It is a question “can public opinion force a change in Nigeria?” The government is determined to make us believe that the answer is no.
It’s being days now into the #EndSARS protest, yet Mr President is yet to formally address the Nation. Is this a sign that he supports the killings or he’s just not sensitive to issues arising?
I think it’s both. The president has never been sensitive. This issue is not one that touches him directly. The truth is he cannot claim not to be aware thanks to the street protests. If he did not have the power to change things, then we could say he was being insensitive alone, but since he has that power, the power to stop the killings, the protests, everything, and he has not stopped it, we can also safely assert that he supports it.
How far can the international community go in pursuance of the vast majority of people’s decision to totally end SARS? How effective is their influence to a sovereign state?
International politics is about power. To force reversal of a policy, the international community has to condemn first, then introduce sanctions. If they were to sanction our government for human right abuses, then of course they would be quite effective, however it takes a lot for the international community to choose to take a stand and be rest assured, it is never altruistic. Their influence is strong, but they will only use it if they believe there is something to gain.
The IGP released a statement today saying that SARS has been dissolved. But going by the 5 points he noted especially statement 2 and 3, SARS isn’t dissolved but only reformed. Is SARS really dissolved or it’s just some sort of disguise ?
It’s a disguise, but we do not mind. What matters is that they shifted. However, we are not done, we are fighting against police brutality and abuse of power. It would have been wise for them to announce points 2 and 3 later if only out of respect. But since they have refused to, we move. We will continue to demand it.
Why exactly is the Federal Government of Nigeria reluctant to make an executive order scrapping the unit?
Like I said before, this protest is a question. The government does not need anyone to tell them, if they bow to pressure now, they will embolden the masses. It’s a domino effect. We tumble one unjust structure, we will certainly go after the next unjust structure.
Today the IGP dissolved SARS which everyone was really happy with the news. But the question is owing to current legislations, which one is feasible, #ReformSARS or #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG ?
None actually. To reform the police there would have to be large scale retraining of officers. We would literally need new legislation or an executive order. The end SARS is quite viable, but only as a means to an end.
Please sir, what do you think should be the attitude of the youths in this serious situation because it seems that many youths don’t even care and even go to the extent of exhibiting absolute apathy towards protesting and even social media awareness spreading ?
Well I believe we owe it to ourselves to fight for us. Many of us have parents who do not support youths fighting for themselves, some of us, had to argue for hours and keep malice with our parents before they let us protest, the reality is that we are protesting because they failed to protest well when they should have. So if we will not fight for ourselves, let us at least fight for our unborn kids. Some of you might be very rich, but for those of us who do not see ourselves escaping Nigeria anytime soon, we MUST struggle to make it better.