Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello on Saturday expressed support for nationwide protests against abuses by some personnel of the Nigeria Police Force’s Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) against citizens, especially young people.
Speaking on the protests, Bello, in his message to Nigerian youths, described seeking an end to the brutal conduct against citizens by some FSARS officers, other police units and the personnel of all security agencies as a worthy cause that must be supported by all.
The Kogi Governor, however, implored the youth against violent confrontations with the police under any form or guise, whether during the ongoing protests or in any other circumstance.
‘Taking the law into your hands is unwise, dangerous to the perpetrators and counter-productive to all desired outcomes. We will continue to work toward a new direction in the affairs of Nigeria in which all citizens can maximise the benefits of nationhood, including freedom from arbitrariness by agents of Government,’ the Governor said.
Bello said as the Governor and Chief Security Officer of Kogi State, he had had cause in the past to order the arrest and prosecution of security officers whose misconduct and brutality had led to injury and/or death of innocent citizens in the State.
‘This is because I believe in the synergy between law and order and due process as safeguards for the absolute rights of citizens to decent treatment at all stages of encounter with law enforcement,’ he said.
‘On the flip side, I have also worked to improve general welfare for all security personnel and formations operating in Kogi State – in cash and in-kind, rewarded outstanding service by officers and stoutly defended those falsely accused or unfairly victimised. This is because I believe there is a link between an officer’s job satisfaction and the value he or she has for the job. This, in turn, determines how security personnel reacts to citizens while carrying out official duties.
‘We also work as actively as possible to foster mutual respect between law enforcement and our citizens in every policing situation bearing in mind that cooperation always works better than conflict,’ the Kogi Governor said.
Bello noted that a small percentage of security officers persist in unprofessional conduct which has tainted the image of the Police and Government when citizens rate them as corrupt on the basis of unsavoury experiences on Nigerian roads and elsewhere.
‘While I cannot immediately recall any incident of it, I wish to apologise as a leader for any error of omission or commission under my watch which has led to unlawful experiences in police custody by any citizen.’
He said, in solidarity with this cause, ‘I would engage with some of his colleagues, the police hierarchy and the leadership of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission on how to further facilitate progress on the order by President Muhammadu Buhari, since July 2019, for implementation of the Report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.’
Governor Bello said his administration had just established the Office of the Public Defender and Citizens’ Rights Commission (PDCRC).
He directed the immediate setting up of a Human Rights Special Intervention Group (HRSIG) under the PDCRC to receive and rapidly resolve complaints of brutality by law enforcement (illegal arrest, detention, among others) against any citizen in Kogi State and any Kogite anywhere in Nigeria