OrderPaperToday – As the #EndSARS protests gradually peter out from the streets, it has become necessary to put on record which senator said what on the protracted campaign to end brutality and reform the Nigeria police.
The 8th Senate (2015 – 2019) is known to have made some legislative interventions on the lingering issue by passing two police bills—one to specifically cater for the welfare of personnel through a trust fund; and the other dealing with restructuring of the force.
Despite these interventions, there appeared to have been little or no improvement in police-citizen relations, especially the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the force.
The death of Ifeoma Abugu, a former corps member, by the sadistic hands of SARS officers received the attention of the senate through a motion moved by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu) on the 29th of September, 2020. The debate raised the decibels of the conversation on police brutality in the national assembly.
The senate resolved to look into the matter after an emotion-laden debate. At the time, the #EndSARS street protests had not commenced.
However, by 7th October, 2020 when Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos) raised the matter of human rights abuses by security agencies, especially extrajudicial killings of innocent Nigerians by officers of SARS in the senate, the protest had not only begun in Lagos but had already spread across several states in the country.
After Tinubu’s presentation, no less than 9 senators contributed to the motion. By 20th of October, the #EndSARS campaign had turned violent as thugs hijacked the protest and launched mayhem in different parts of the country.
Again, another point of order was raised by Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti) seeking a comprehensive and holistic reform of the Nigeria Police Force. Here’s a summary of which senator said what on the #EndSARS protests during these particular debates (and elsewhere):
Omo-Agege: I have been brutalized by SARS too
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta) said: “I don’t know anyone in this country who supports the illegal activities of SARS, no one. I stand here as a victim of SARS, myself I’m a victim. Today I use glasses because of what SARS did to me in 2015. I use glasses because they threw tear gas directly at my eyes.
“When our children went to the streets demanding an end to SARS, it was call, cry that everyone could identify with provided that the protests remain peaceful. It must remain peaceful because that is what the constitution guarantees to them, they have the right to protest any governmental action that they are uncomfortable with.”
Sabi: Lack of rules of engagement breeds extrajudicial killing
Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger) blamed the killing of innocent Nigerians by officers of the SARS on lack of rules of engagement. “We just see people dress anyhow, the only difference between them and madmen or criminal is that they are holding AK47. You will not see any element that they are police officers. This is where the problem is.
“It is time for us to get our relevant committees to ensure that F-SARS must have a rule of engagement that every Nigerian is aware of so if anyone confronts you are well educated and informed to know that it is an illegal operation or otherwise.”
Sekibo: Simply just scrap SARS
Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers) lamented that there are several perpetrators of insecurity across the country—Boko Haram, Herdsmen, Bandits, Armed Robbers, Assassins, and operatives of (defunct) SARS. “Nigeria is in a problem. There are extrajudicial killings everywhere. Boko Haram is killing everywhere. Herdsmen are doing their own, Bandits are doing their own, Armed robbers are doing their own, Assassins are doing their own. So wherever you go to, you are not sure you can be alive the next day.
“Are they really doing their work? When a government agency is continuously taking the lives of people, when an agent of government is continuously abusing people’s rights, those people that set them up are they not hearing or seeing? Why can’t they call them to order?
“This SARS formation is agent of corruption. SARS has turned against the nation. Either you completely scrap them off or redefine their function.”
Oduah: Police reform is way out
Senator Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra) suggested that the Nigeria Police Force embrace Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a key reform agenda. “On the part of the police, I think we have a gap. The gap is that the police cannot give what they do not have. The police on the streets do not have ICT knowledge, how will he combat the crime? How will he know who to arrest or who not to arrest?
“I suggest the police maybe with the trust fund should invest in having ICT training center so they will have a special squad whose responsibility is on cybercrime prevention.”
Abbo: SARS achieved arrests of criminals but needed proper identification
Senator Elisha Abbo (PDP, Adamawa) urged the Inspector General of Police to give proper identification to SARS operatives.
“I am fully aware of the achievements of SARS in arresting notorious armed robbers in this country. But be it as it may, I am supporting that the IG of police to look for a way to reform SARS so they can look like policemen not look like armed robbers. They should be given identification.”
Urhoghide: It should be an eye-for-an-eye for killer policemen
Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo) cited Chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution which addresses the issue of fundamental rights and stated that extrajudicial killings contravenes the provisions. “We know it is the right of every Nigerian to have their life preserved. The only reason where life is to be taken is only by the court of competent jurisdiction. Anything different from that is a violation of the 1999 constitution.
“It is now an issue of national disgrace. We must say it to them that they are violating the laws. I think for the first time we should have a strong resolution which says that anyone that takes the life of any Nigerian, you too should lose your life.”
Aduda: Police needs strict monitoring
Deputy minority whip of the senate, Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT) told the Inspector General of Police to ensure strict compliance of orders and monitoring of policemen. He also tasked his colleague in the committee on police affairs to support the IGP by carrying out effective oversight.
“We recently saw that the IGP gave an instructional order on how they should behave or act but that should not stop there. They should ensure strict compliance and monitoring otherwise we will continue to lose our promising youths for no just cause.
“The committee (on police affairs) should live up to their expectation and carry out their oversight on the manual the IGP has brought out so that they can ensure compliance and the lives of citizens are safe.”
Gyang: SARS soiled Nigeria’s global image
Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP, Plateau) opined that the call against police brutality is not only a national issue but one of reputation globally.
“When the right of a citizen to life has been violated, all other rights can no longer be of use to those that have lost their lives. The action by the FSARS is not also a national issue but is compounding the negative rating of Nigeria globally.”
To that extent, he asked that the IGP “instill discipline and ensure adherence to rules of engagement by all men and officers of the police force.”
Lawan: Scrapping SARS does not solve the problem
After senators debated the Tinubu motion, it was time for President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, to add his voice. Here’s what he said: “There are good people and bad people in SARS. Scrapping of agencies when you have mistakes may not be the best position. Rule of law should be put in place.
“If you scrap SARS, you lose the chance of getting those doing well to continue to do well.”
Aliero: Govt must use whatever means possible to end #EndSARS protests
“I want to suggest very strongly that dialogue should be used to get the youths to suspend the #EndSARS protests. Where dialogue fails, we should use whatever means possible otherwise it could lead to anarchy. Already a number of properties have been burnt, a number of people killed and no responsible government will lawlessness to take place when it is in power.
“For that reason government should use whatever means necessary to ensure that it ends the #EndSARS movement. Of course, it is normal in liberal democracies like ours for protest to take place but where it is being hijacked by hoodlums and unleashing violence on innocent citizens, the government should live up to its constitutional responsibility that law and order is being maintained.”
Watch the video of Aliero’s comments here
Abaribe: Buhari should address Nigerians
Minority leader of the senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address Nigerians on the escalating violence at the time.
“I think part of what is going to resolve this issue with immediacy is for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to look at the issues and address the nation on them and I think that people will listen, knowing that he has now come out to directly deal with the issue.”
Ekweremadu: Lekki killing was another low for Nigeria
Speaking specifically of the Lekki tollgate killing, former deputy president of the senate said in a statement: “The events at the EndSARS protest at the Lekki Tollgate and use of maximum force on unarmed protesters last night is another low for our nation and her democracy and should be condemned by men and women of conscience across all political divides.
“Therefore, my heart goes out to the wounded and the families of the dead. Everyone involved in this irrational and horrendous act must be held accountable in order to preserve the sanctity of human lives, our democracy, and what is left of our dignity in the comity of civilised nations”.
Apiafi: Lekki killing inhumane act
Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) in a press release, also spoke specifically of the Lekki black Tuesday incident, describing it as “an inhumane act on the part of the government under a supposed democratic dispensation.”
Joint statement by senators
Following the killing of Nigerian youths by the military at Lekki toll gate in Lagos state on October 20, 2020, a group of four Senators and 31 House of Representatives members demanded justice for the dead #EndSARS protesters.
The Senators who signed the statement were: Olu Adetunmbi, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Tolu Odebiyi, Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru.
This report on which senator said what on #EndSARS protests is part of the OrderPaper #EndSARS Chronicles, a series to document for posterity how Nigeria’s senators and members of the House of Representatives responded to the #EndSARS protests against police brutality.