A young man at the prime of his life was killed by trigger-happy policemen for no reason, leaving behind an aged mother and a two-year old son. The official response from the presidency: A vague statement expressing regrets and describing the incident as “unfortunate.”
- The suspects are in custody, the statement said, “and an orderly room trial is set to commence immediately, following which indicted officers will be prosecuted in court.” Everyone already knew that.
- The usual platitude about visiting “the full weight of the law” on officers who brutalize Nigerians was repeated.
- “Following directives from the Presidency in 2018 to overhaul the management and activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, steps were taken by the Police leadership to restructure and reform SARS. The President recognizes that a lot more remains to be done and this effort must be sustained,” the statement said.
Not enough: Harassment of young Nigerians by the police continues unabated. There is hardly anyone who would admit seeing the effect of the supposed restructuring and reform of the police.
What the president should do: Take an active lead in reforming the police. Show that this is a priority of his government. For guidance, Buhari could look and learn from the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who used the aftermath of the recent terror attack in that country to not only comfort victims, but actively strengthen gun control regulations.
- Segun ‘Segalink’ Awosanya, an activist on police reforms told The Scoop that President Buhari has to do more than talk. “He has to prove his commitment to the reforms which bring the culture of impunity to an end,” he said.
- The Police Trust Fund Bill and the Police Reform Bill are both at various stages in the national assembly. Senate President Bukola Saraki has said the current national assembly would pass them before the end of their tenure in May.
- “Buhari should sign the bills into law as soon as they get transmitted,” Awosanya said.
Think proactive: The executive does not have to wait for the assembly to do all the work and send it in before they get involved. President Buhari and his team should liaise with NASS to ensure that there is an alignment before the bill is passed and transmitted. This would prevent a situation where the NASS sends a document that the president then rejects. No time for that.
One more thing: The presidency promised to “continue to ensure that all officers… conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.”
- That sentence has to be a slip from Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesman who issued it. Saying the government will “continue to ensure” implies that they are currently ensuring it and would simply continue doing so. The reality is that there is presently no adherence to rule of law or respect for human rights in the police and other security agencies.