By Kelechi James
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to address the concerns of Nigerians about police brutality.
Buhari, who has declared his readiness to support the restructuring of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, specifically called for the reformation of SARS.
Nigerians are currently protesting against brutality and extortion by operatives of the police unit across the country.
Speaking on Friday, Buhari said, “I met again with the Inspector General of Police tonight. Our determination to reform the police should never be in doubt. I am being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the Police are fully accountable to the people.
“The IG already has my firm instructions to conclusively address the concerns of Nigerians regarding these excesses, and ensure erring personnel are brought to justice. I appeal for patience and calm, even as Nigerians freely exercise their right to peacefully make their views known.
“The vast majority of men and women of the Nigeria Police Force are patriotic and committed to protecting the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians, and we will continue to support them to do their job.”
There has been a nationwide massive protest against the brutality of the police officers who belong to the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
The end SARS campaign has seen a combination of civil society organisations, artistes and ordinary Nigerians taking to the streets to protest against police brutality.
Anger has been brewing on social media after the video of the alleged killing in the southern Delta state, which authorities denied was real.
The man who filmed the video was arrested, provoking even more anger.
The protesters are calling for the scrapping of the controversial police unit.
In IKejam Lagos, hundreds of youths gathered with banners reading “respect for human rights” and “a more equal society”.
In Abuja, dozens of protesters also gathered and police forces used tear gas to disperse protesters, according to witness accounts.
“Our members were close to 200 in the protest. We were teargassed,” human rights activist Deji Adeyanju told the AFP news agency.
“It’s just sad that they are clamping down on peaceful civil protest.”
Protester Anita Izato posted on Twitter: “They poured tear gas on each and every one of us, it’s so hot I had to put water on my face. This is what Nigeria has turned into.”
The protest movement was initially aimed at the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), widely accused of unlawful arrests, torture and even murder, but has since broadened to include all police forces.
While the SARS unit was suspended on Sunday, groups such as Amnesty International said the government had not gone far enough, pointing to previous unsuccessful attempts to ban the force.
The #EndSARS hashtag is thought to have been first used in 2018.
There were more than 2.4 million tweets with #EndSARS on Friday. Several celebrities also expressed support for the movement.
Sandra Ezekwesili, a Nigerian broadcast journalist, also joined the discussion and urged people to keep protesting.
“The movement is growing,” 29-year-old Chinoso Esengba, a doctor participating in Friday’s protest, said.
“This problem affects us all. We all risk being tortured, arrested, extorted for no good reason.”
By Kelechi James