From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The National Economic Council (NEC), presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Friday strongly advise those planning public protests across the country to mark the anniversary of the #EndSARS, to consider other lawful alternative means of engagement.
In a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, NEC said while appreciating the role of lawful peaceful protests in the advancement of public discourse under democratic governance, urged the organisers to reconsider their plan, expressing fears that because of the current security situation across the country, the protests might be hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem at such protest events and venues.
The council pointed out the various actions already taken by Federal and State Governments to address the grievances that led to the 2020 protests, including the disbandment of SARS; broad police reforms; establishment of judicial panels of inquiries to investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies; recommendations of panels which are already at various stages of implementation, including the setup of Victims Compensation Funds from which several victims have received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels; and prosecution of police personnel indicted by the panels.
“These are commendable actions that ought to be taken to a logical conclusion in a peaceful atmosphere.
“Organisers of the planned protests should explore the various channels of communication with governments at various levels to advance their positions and avert the breakdown of law and order that may result from such public protests”, the statement read.
The council comprising all State Governors, representatives of the federal government, also unanimously resolved to ensure the prosecution of persons indicted by the panels.
The Council specifically directed States “to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons.
“Where incidents in the reports relate to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC urged the Nigeria Police Force to take disciplinary action on the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020.”
The statement read further: “It may be recalled that following the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, which later transformed into violent demonstrations, in furtherance of resolution of NEC, 28 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) (under the auspices of the National Human Rights Commission) had set up Judicial Panels/Commissions of Inquiry (Panels) to investigate allegations of violations of human rights levied against members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, especially members of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“The 28 States that set up these Panels were Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba.
“Out of the 28 States, 11 States (Abia, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, and Rivers) have submitted their final reports to Council; with Lagos, set to finalise its sittings on 19th October 2021, submitting an interim report. Governors of other States including Delta and Ebonyi at today’s meeting also indicated that their reports would be submitted soon.
“Following deliberations on the recommendations of the panels, NEC agreed/resolved as follows, (and this applies to all the States and FCT that set up the panels):
“Each State, in collaboration with the Federal Government, shall establish modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the Panels. Already, as resolved by NEC, a number of States have set up Victims Compensation Funds, from which several victims have already received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels.”