Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has written to Nigerians, apologising for the government’s slow handling of the #EndSARS crisis.
Nigerians, mostly youths, have been on the streets for more than a week protesting against brutality and extra-judicial killings by police, particularly operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The protests have forced the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to dissolve the notorious unit of the police. Despite the dissolution of SARS, protests have persisted, with the protesters demanding total reformation of the Nigeria Police Force and justice for victims of police brutality.
In a statement he personally signed on Friday, Osinbajo admitted that the government could have moved faster and nip the menace in the bud.
The vice president noted that the protesters’ frustrations are justified due to their “unacceptable” brutalisation by police officers.
Osinbajo promised that work is ongoing, citing government’s resolve to set up judicial panels of inquiry to ensure that justice is served, and fast.
He sent his “deepest condolences” to the families of Jimoh Isiaq, and all those who have lost their lives at the hands of wayward police officers. He also wished the injured a swift recovery.
The vice president added that comprehensive measures that will revamp the police are being undertaken to address the “deep and systemic” rot in the police force.
“Dear Nigerians, I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so. We could’ve moved faster and for this we are sorry,” Osinbajo wrote.
“I fully understand how many young people feel. Many feel that we have been too silent and have simply not done enough. These feelings of frustration are justified.
“There are far too many people who have been brutalised at the hands of the police and this is unacceptable. We must take responsibility for protecting young people, even sometimes from those who are paid to protect them.
“Over the past week, we have been following the protests, and I have had a number of discussions with key people in the administration that you deserve to be informed about. Transparency, after all, is a key tenet of government.
“Several meetings have been held with: the @SPLawan, @femigbaja, the Chief of Staff to @MuhammaduBuhari, Chairman of the @PoliceServiceC2, the IG of @PoliceNG (IGP), the Executive Secretary of @NHRCNigeria, and governors.
We understand that you want to see action from us and I’m here to tell you that work is ongoing. I chaired a meeting of 36 state governors and the Minister of the FCT (NEC), where we resolved to set up judicial panels of inquiry so we can see justice served, and fast.
“The reason being that only state governors, by law, can set up judicial inquiries in their states. The hearings will be public.
“With Mr. President’s approval, SARS has been completely disestablished, and none of its former members will feature in any police tactical units.
“I am sending my deepest condolences to the families of Jimoh Isiaq, and all those who have lost their lives at the hands of wayward police officers. To those injured, I wish a full and speedy recovery.
“We have proposed that each state government set up a Victims’ Support Fund, which @NigeriaGov will support. This is the least that we can do to compensate for the injustice suffered at the hands of errant officers.
“We also understand that the issues that you’re raising are bigger than just SARS. They’re deep and systemic and we’re undertaking comprehensive measures that will revamp the police by addressing issues of welfare, service conditions and training.
“On Monday, Mr. President also reiterated his commitment to these extensive police reforms.
“We will continue to update and engage with you all on these action steps and the ones to come, in the spirit of transparency, so that you can hold us accountable. We are, after all, here to serve you and we owe you a duty to win back your trust.
“Keep safe. God bless you.”
In 2018, as acting president, Osinbajo directed the then Inspector-General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris to commence investigations on the several allegations of human rights abuses by SARS.
The acting president also ordered the police boss to overhaul the squad with “immediate effect to make it strictly intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.”
But little changes, if any, were made as operatives of SARS went on to commit several more atrocities against Nigerians until their recent dissolution by the incumbent IGP.