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NBA demands release of #ENDSARS protesters

Published by The Nation on Tue, 13 Oct 2020

By Eric Ikhilae, AbujaThe Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called for the unconditional release of all #ENDSARS peaceful protesters across the country and urged all protesters to remain non-violent and law-abiding in expressing their grievances.The NBA noted the right to protest was constitutionally guaranteed and demanded governments should protect the rights of all citizens participating in the peaceful protests.It urged them to direct security agencies to cease assaulting, attacking, abusing, or otherwise harassing or using force against citizens who seek to have their voices heard through peaceful protests.The group cautioned under no circumstances should the use of live arms and ammunition against peaceful and lawful protesters be tolerated and further demanded that those found culpable must be apprehended and prosecuted.NBAs President, Olumide Akpata, made the associations position known in Abuja on Tuesday, during which he argued that the ongoing citizens revolt was a reaction years of systemic failure.He said: As you all may know, the protests are precipitated by years of brutality and professional misconduct by operatives of this particular police unit who have for too long derailed from the core mandates of their establishment, and have become threats to the same citizens that they were meant to protect in line with the general mandate of the Police under the Nigerian Constitution.Our Nation is at a crossroads, and the ongoing nationwide protest is in many respects emblematic of the larger problems that bedevil us as a nation. But if there is one thing we must do, it is to make the best of this crisis.The NBA believes that the only way this can be done is to enlist in a thorough and holistic reform of not just the Nigerian Police, but the entire security architecture in the country. I believe that with the daunting security challenges across different parts of the country, this should not just be our collective responsibility, but a national obligation, Akpata said.He said the NBA is convinced that disbandment of SARS, re-posting, or transferring officers of any disbanded unit and other knee-jerk reactions will only scratch the surface and not offer long-lasting solutions to the endemic issues bedeviling the Nigerian Police as currently constituted.Akpata identified some short, mid and long-term measures needed to be put in place to address the current issues and prevent a reoccurrence in the future, some of which, he said include the immediate measure by the NBA to ask its branches across the country to set up teams that will provide legal support to peaceful protesters and victims of police harassment and provide helplines for complaint.He asked citizens with complaints to direct them to the NBA through publicinterest@nigerianbar.org.ng and 07062108806 (SMS and WhatsApp).Part of the medium-term measures suggested by the NBA includes its demand for an expedited audit of the various SARS detention centres across the country, noting that the most notorious of these centres are the SARS facilities in Awkuzu (Anambra State), the infamous human abattoir in Abuja and the notorious SARS detention facilities across Lagos, Port-Harcourt and other parts of the country.READ ALSO:#EndSARS: Lagos sets up N200m compensation fund for victimsThe NBA is also demanding an immediate audit of the detainees in these and other facilities to ensure that those who are unjustly and unlawfully detained are immediately released while those against whom the Police have credible cases are promptly charged to court and prosecuted in accordance with the law.It urged the Police Service Commission (PSC) to live up to its responsibilities by speedily and constantly looking into complaints against the Police for abuse or misuse of power, adding that such measures would ensure that the relationship between the public and the police is one of trust and confidence instead of suspicion and indifference.The NBA will work with, and continue to prod, the Chief Magistrates or designated Magistrates across the country to pay monthly visits to police stations and other detention facilities within their territorial divisions to direct the arraignment of suspects or grant bail to them (as appropriate) in line with the newly enacted Police Act.We expect that this will, in the long run, not only decongest these facilities but also discourage unnecessary detention of citizens for largely unfounded and unjustifiable reasons.As part of its suggested long term measure, the NBA called for a complete reform and overhaul of the Nigerian Police into a modern and responsible and responsive law enforcement establishment, which includes, among other things, increased funding and better working conditions for the men and officers.Information available to us shows that the current working conditions are atrocious and incapable of boosting morale.The NBA will set up an NBA Police Reform Team that will work with the Police and other institutions and organisations in developing or refining a comprehensive blueprint for police reform in Nigeria and continuously advocating for implementation of the blueprint, Akpata said.
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