For immediate release, THURSDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2020
THE FATHERLAND GROUP
STATEMENT ON THE #ENDSARS PROTESTS IN NIGERIA
- On 1st October 2020, Nigeria marked the 60th anniversary of its grant of Independence from British colonial rule. In his celebratory speech, the President, General Muhammadu Buhari, said amongst other things: “As a government, we remain committed to our constitutional oath of securing the lives and properties of the citizenry. I, however, call on the citizenry to also support government by providing the necessary community level intelligence in addressing these challenges”.
- Two days later, on 3rd of October 2020, officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) murdered a 20 year old singer, Daniel Chibuike Ikeaguchi, popularly known as Sleek. In another outrage, Ifeoma Abugu, a 20 year old lady, who had just graduated and was performing her mandatory National Youth Service, was arrested in place of her fiancée at his residence in Lokogoma, Abuja. Ifeoma was sexually assaulted and later died in SARS custody.
- The ENDSARS protests commenced after the video of the musician’s corpse, lying on the road, in Elelenwo, in Rivers State, and a subsequent video of his father crying and seeking justice, went viral. The latest round of protests were sparked by a video recording of SARS officers dragging two young men out of a hotel in Lagos and shooting one of them. The call to protest has been answered by Nigerian youths in several states of the federation and echoed by young Nigerians abroad and members of the international community, including many celebrities.
- The viral, week-long, public protest, and the consequential international outrage, led the Inspector General of Police to announce, on Sunday 11th of October, the disbandment of SARS, after which President Buhari then made a statement pledging that: “The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms. We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct are brought to justice”.
- The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a department within the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department of the Nigerian Police Force. Before the announcement of its disbandment, it existed in all 36 states of the Federation with many states having both State and Federal units.
- The remit of the Special Anti-robbery Squad, when it was established was, as its name suggests, to operate as a specialist unit of the police force to secure the lives and properties of citizens from robbers at a time when the country was plagued by a high incidence of armed robbery. The hazardous responsibilities of the unit justified its aggressive tactics and its license to use extreme, even lethal, force. In the beginning it enjoyed the goodwill of the citizenry.
- However, the unit has evolved into an opportunistic, predatory group targeting hapless citizens for extortions, even as kidnapping, robbery and criminalities escalated across the country. As a result of this brazen practice of extortion, the unit has become a big money spinner for young officers who beg and bribe superiors to be transferred to the anti-robbery unit. The unit is now out of control as it has taken to terrorizing the citizenry it was established to protect to the point that its members have become indistinguishable, both in their appearance and conduct, from the armed robbers they were mandated to deal with: Usually casually dressed, heavily armed with visible tattoos, sagged trousers, dreadlocks and visible earrings, they have assumed an identity designed to terrify and intimidate citizens.
- With the regular Nigerian Police Force already notorious for barbaric treatment of citizens manifesting in unlawful arrests and detention, extortion; extra-judicial killings; torture and rape of citizens, the SARS officers have managed to take these pervasive acts to new heights with the bulk of their victims being youths falsely tagged as fraudsters or “yahoo -yahoo boys”. Reports abound of young men and women being murdered based on totally arbitrary suspicions of them of them being fraudsters or criminals. SARS officers have been reported for framing citizens by planting controlled substances on their person or claiming to have found them in possession of firearms and replacing criminals with innocent individuals, among other heinous activities.
- Victims of harassment by the men of the SARS have mentioned that the suspicions of the officers are usually borne out of stereotypes and profiling – owning phones perceived to be expensive, possession of laptops, driving expensive cars, having dreadlocks and tattoos. Even when persons arrested or accosted are able to explain their source of income and are not found with any incriminating evidence, they are not released. Rather, they are threatened with murder and/or lengthy detention in inhuman detention cells unless they are able to pay huge sums demanded by SARS officers.
- A cynical pattern has emerged in recent years whenever SARS officers have committed atrocities triggering nationwide condemnation: the federal government and/or the Inspector General of police will simply announce that SARS has been disbanded without any meaningful action taken. Accordingly, the disbandment of SARS has been announced in 2017, 2018, 2019 and now, again, in 2020, only for members of the unit to resurface in different parts of the country continuing with their abuses of Nigerian citizens. In 2018, President Buhari instituted a Panel to investigate allegations of human rights violations by SARS and to recommend reforms but then neglected to implement the recommendations of that Panel.
The Fatherland Group
Applauds the Nigerian youths for their exceptional display of bravery, courage, doggedness and perspicacity in this struggle for a better Nigeria. By this protest they have made it clear that they will not tolerate being treated less than citizens, and indeed less than humans, by their own government. It is in this same spirit of defending their fundamental rights to human dignity that they have joined others across the world as part of the worldwide Black Lives Matters movement.
Is Concerned to note and report that this administration has, repeatedly, been making public announcements of the disbandment of this terror unit within the Nigerian Police Force only to allow them to resurface each time without any officers having been held to account. The cosmetic change of the name of this police unit to the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit is unacceptable.
Is Troubled by images of men of the Nigerian Police Force shooting, with live ammunition, and in some cases killing, unarmed protesters calling for an end to SARS. There are reports of hundreds missing, usually from police custody.
Condemns the violent attacks on protesters by the men of the Nigerian Police Force, and their hired thugs, intended to deprive citizens of their right to hold peaceful protests. We cite, in particular, the attempt of Governor Wike of Rivers State to ban all #ENDSARS protests in his state. We take the opportunity to remind the Governor that he is a civilian with responsibility for the civil governance of civilians in accordance with law.
Believes that the events of the last week have shown that the relationship of trust and confidence that needs to exist between citizens, communities and security agencies has completely broken down. This is especially poignant and troubling, against the backdrop of President Buhari‘s Independence Day address, in which he called for “the citizenry to support government by providing the necessary community level intelligence”.
Calls for the immediate removal of Mohammed Adamu from the office of Inspector General of Police coupled with the announcement of comprehensive, citizen-led reform of policing arrangements in the country to give citizens proper protection from criminals, in or out of uniform, going forward.
Places upon record that the following are some of the Nigerian youths who have been reported killed or missing in police custody since President Buhari’s announcement of the disbandment of this terror unit:
Jimoh Isiaka – murdered
Mr Akeju – Murdered
Ganiyu Moshood Alabi – murdered
Adeoye Taiwo – murdered
Treasure Nduka – tortured
Felicia Okpara – tortured
Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo – murdered
Ademola Ojabodu – tortured
Ayorinde Ayinde – undergoing torture
Odido John Obogo – illegally detained
Ahile Shimadoo-Teravese – illegally detained
Ayuhwa Sonter Joseph – illegally detained.
These citizens should not become mere statistics. Every single life must be accounted for.
Thanks members of the international community, and Nigerians in the Diaspora, for the concern and support which they have shown for the wellbeing of the youths in Nigeria and calls upon them to keep a close watch on the conduct of this administration going forward.
Fatherland Group is a global network of forward- thinking Nigerians armed with a new understanding of our past, our present and our future.