EndSAR: SWAT hastily set up,won’t meet people’s expectations,says group

Pic EndSars Protest: Youths from Various Religious denomination March alongside each other during a Prayer walk in Port Harcourt in Support of the EndSARS Campaign yesterday in Rivers State. Photo. Nwankpa Chijioke.

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A peace advocacy group,the United Global Resolve For Peace,UGRFP, said the haste taken by the police authorities in establishing a new tactics department,Special Weapons and Tactics,SWAT,to replace the former dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad,SARS,was wrong.

The group said the failure of the federal government to address the remote causes of police extra-judicial killings before setting up the new unit was an indication that SARS would fail in its mandate.

In a statement signed by the Executive Director, Shalom Olaseni, UGRFP said it also “strongly condemn the use of disproportionate force by the authorities on peaceful protesters some of which are irrefutably captured in digital proof.”

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” In respecting people’s right to peaceful protest, the government has a duty beyond listening to their complaints to equally keeping protesters safe in the exercise of their rights,”it said.

It,however,hailed the Police Service Commission,PSC,for taking what it described as,” the bold step to dismiss 37 officers, in spite of its operational constraints”, adding that by strengthening the commission, “Nigeria would indeed be positioning itself for much-needed gains in its policing system.”

According to the peace advocacy group, “the inaction on the part of the government to check such thuggish intrusions only further deepen the protesters’ distrust for government and lends credibility to the suspicion that such thugs are pro-government sympathisers acting out the latter’s script.”

The group said it was “convinced that the right to peaceful protests is subsumed under the constitutional right to movement, assembly, and association, stressing that these rights are the right to the dignity of the human person which is emphasised in several human rights charter that is legally binding on Nigeria as a signatory.”

The statement read further: “UGRFP wishes to further note that despite best intentions, the setting up of a new tactical unit christened SWAT was a tad hasty as more efforts should have been channelled into addressing the root causes of police violence while putting in place sufficient safeguards to prevent further abuse.

“This could have taken the form of dismissing cops with severe disciplinary issues, setting up an internal inquiry to identify others within the system for the prosecution, massive training, and psycho-social evaluations for the police all conducted transparently and thoroughly. Such a focus would have driven public trust and earned the police sufficient time to put its affairs in order so as to help it meet the other demands of the peaceful protesters.

“While it is commendable that the Nigerian government made the decision to disband the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) whose notoriety and alleged violations of peoples rights, rape, extortion, and outright murder led to calls for its dissolution, government’s failure to undertake other demands such as the immediate identification of killer cops for prosecution and compensation payment made to verifiable victims of fatal police brutality further deepened the people’s distrust for what many considered “half-measures” by the federal government.

“UGRFP wishes to appeal for calm from the public, particularly the understandably enraged young population who have suffered casualties in their numbers while demanding for a right to live free from police brutality. The grievances of the youths of Nigeria which includes, but is not restricted to, police brutality, while justified, must also continue to be demanded peaceably and with regards to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria.”

The executive director maintained that the group remains committed to a Nigeria united in its diversity and differences, and unyielding in its aspirations for a better future while committed to the pursuit of peace in all its national endeavours.

“It is our hope that the events of the last few weeks would be taken advantage of to chart a new path to a truly democratic Nigeria where rights are sacrosanct and all men are equal under the law, ” he said.

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