By Sandra Umeh
As the nation marks one year anniversary of the #Endsars protest, some stakeholders in Lagos have called for the training and re-training of security agents in preventing similar protests from escalating in future.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in 2020 a “march” with the hashtag #EndSARS calling for an end to police brutality by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was hijacked by hoodlums.
The aftermath resulted in loss of lives and destruction of property across the country.
Activities by angry protesters, as well as hoodlums who “cashed in” on the protest to unleash mayhem in Lagos and other parts of the country, included acts of arson on police stations, court houses, television stations, as well as destruction of roads and other public infrastructure.
To mark the one year anniversary of the #Endsars protests, some Non-Governmental Organisations have called for accountability on the part of security agents.
While urging government to ensure that there is a re-training of security agents, they also called for the punishing of all those found guilty of contravening extant criminal laws during the #Endsars protest.
Mr Anthony Makolo, Director of the Makolo Anthony Empowerment Foundation, (MAEF), called for the training of police officers, as well as other security agents in the dispensation of their duties.
He said that there was also a dire need to train the security agents in devising more modern means of executing their operations, especially in the areas of intelligence gathering.
“There must be a serious training of the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force on the latest version of technological gathering of information, including analysis, investigation, arrest and prosecution of suspects.
“The authorities must now go beyond lip service in ensuring that there is a real reform within the Nigeria Police Force; these reforms must translate into holding each police officer accountable for torture or ill treatment meted on suspects,” he said
Makolo also noted that the #EndSARS movement simply demonstrated that whatever ethno-religious tension plaguing the nation could be effectively curtailed by unity.
According to him, since the protest saw all categories of people coming together to plead a common cause, it also means that Nigerians can achieve a lot in unism.
“Power belongs to the people, so, we can achieve a lot positively to better our nation if we unite.
“The authorities at all levels, must also be prompt in responding to the challenges of the people,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Mrs Ebere Obiora, Ogun State Coordinator of the African Women Lawyers Association of Nigeria (AWLAN), underscored the need for government to be more responsive to the plight of its citizens.
She described the #EndSARS protest as a peaceful movement by Nigerian youths, against the indiscriminate abuse of human rights, extortion and extra-judicial killings, particularly but not limited to the SARS unit, of the Nigerian Police.
According to her, further into the protest, other issues of inequitable distribution of social goods became the focus of the protest.
“The youths had all rights and reasons to request for better leadership, and these are reasons that “ring true” to all ages in Nigeria, and through all ages since independence.
“The protest was not founded on new issues, so, the only way to stop future protests is to solve the issues being complained about,” she said
Obiora consequently urged government to continually be responsive to the needs of its citizens, adding that where this is ensured, there would be no need for the youths to “take to the streets”.
On his part, the Country Director for the Advocacy for Justice and Accountability (AJA), Mr Ogedi Ogu, urged government to ensure that those behind destruction in the #EndSARS protest were held accountable for their actions.
“To avoid such occurrences in the future, the Nigerian State must hold people accountable for their actions and inactions.
“The overzealous or trigger happy security agents must be held accountable for every action
“If the various actors whose actions and/or inactions triggered the #EndSARS are made to undergo the consequences of their actions, the intending reckless and unruly ones would have self-restraint and begin to learn how to fit into a civilian space,” he said
Ogu noted that the era of having security agencies who kill, maim and extort citizens whom they are meant to protect must be nipped in the bud, adding that “business as usual” must also be discouraged. (NAN)