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UPDATED: Government remains the biggest obstacle to substantive reforms of the Police – Lagos Youths

The Lagos Youths Representatives has reiterates that Government are frustrating the ongoing Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality across the country.

This was convened in a statement released today, titled “GOVERNMENT REMAINS THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO SUBSTANTIVE REFORMS OF THE POLICE”

Akewusolaf recalls that the Youths Representatives in Lagos had earlier announced it will be boycotting the Judicial Panel of Inquiry after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had freezes the bank account of 20 #EndSARS Campaigners on Oct. 15th before seeking for Court permission which go against the legal right of any citizen.

The statement read in details;

PRESS STATEMENT: Government remains the biggest obstacle to substantive reforms of the Police.

“When we both decided to participate as youth representatives in the judicial panel of enquiry in Lagos State meant to ensure citizens receive justice for the police brutality meted out by the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) police unit, it was done under intense scrutiny, but with a clear conscience.”

The #EndSARS movement took a stand against the government, who plays the offensive on those that continue to protest against police brutality, and in the hope that our presence would shine a light and increase transparency on the path to justice, it was important that we be part of the process of assessment.”

“However, on October 15th, 2020 the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) froze banking accounts associated with several key protesters including that of one youth member on the Lagos panel.

“It then obtained a court order after the fact, on the bogus claim that the protesters were supporting terrorism. Following that, we youth representatives on the Lagos State panel decided to boycott last week’s session.

“It’s important that we seize this opportunity to remind everyone, Nigerians and the international community:

“Firstly, that young people in Africa’s biggest democracy came out on the streets to peacefully protest police brutality, and specifically call for the unequivocal and permanent termination of the SARS unit.

“Secondly, the federal government and state governments subsequent offer of some resolution to the crisis was accepted by protesters in good faith, who chose to engage in some of the actions that were in line with the demands made.

“Conversely, the government has not acted in the same manner as it has consistently exhibited bad faith before, during and after the protests. We will point out some of these bad faith actions.

“In Lagos State, the Governor on a myriad of platforms repeated that he was committed to releasing all Peaceful Protesters and other innocents who have committed no crime.

Yet following the unrest in Lagos over 700 young people—many innocent and some children as young as 13—were arrested and subsequently denied food, water, and access to counsel for days on end.

They were then arraigned for murder and arson without any investigation—a clear presumption of guilt. The Attorney General ordered the release of over 200 of these individuals as it took two weeks to realise what we had all known and consistently reiterated:

These arrests were flimsy and a callous show of force by security agencies. We know that there are many more and call for them to either be released or charged to court in a manner that the Nigerian constitution guarantees, most especially the right to a fair trial.

The Federal Government on the other hand has shown its ruthlessness and determination to hijack organs of the state to punish protesters, from using the Nigerian Immigration service to seize the passport of a member of the #EndSARS legal team to freezing the accounts of protesters through the Central Bank of Nigeria. It’s important to note the escalating calls to regulate social media from politicians. While not perfect, social media remains one of the few avenues of freedom of speech available to every citizen.

These calls should not be taken lightly as the Nigerian government has shown that its greatest enemy is accountability.

These actions take us backwards and threatens our already fragile democracy.

Both the federal and state government pledged their commitment to justice and compensation for the victims. Yet no police officer or military official has been charged for killing innocent and peaceful protesters. Instead, the government has arrested and charged protesters on frivolous charges.

In one case, arresting a citizen in Lagos and transporting him all the way to Abuja to charge him. This citizen had been repeatedly denied bail and the government has shown that intimidation is the preferred engagement method. #FreeEromz

Unfortunately, this harassment is not limited to protesters; even civil society organisations @AmnestyNigeria @EiENigeria, local and international are being threatened, deregistered and hounded by various arms of government.

So much so, that even innocent business owners have become casualties of the government’s assault. We stand in solidarity with them and remain open to working with every organisation that seeks to uphold the democratic tenets that Nigerians remain committed to despite the discouraging effort of its politicians.

While boycotting this panel in its entirety to pressure the government to do the right thing is an option on the table, we also considered the fact that leaving the panel would provide the government an opportunity to silence our voices and relegate us to the idea of “petulant children”.

We refuse. Justice for the victims remains our sole priority. A reminder that a substantial amount of funds raised by protesters was used to settle medical bills that the state government promised to settle and has yet to be done.

We restate the government’s failures not because they give us joy, but for us to remember that when Nigeria’s youth united and spoke their loudest, the government has done the same thing it has always done: promised action but failed to deliver.

It is pertinent that we remember that SARS has been, banned, disbanded, scrapped, and dissolved—four separate times.

We also urge the panel and its members to put pressure on the Lagos state government as it is hardly blameless and has in many cases continued to actively fuel this atmosphere of distrust.

The state government’s refusal to rein in its state controlled task force (police force under the direct command of the governor) that has continued to detain innocent citizens in deplorable conditions,its reluctance to identify those that sponsored the attacks on peaceful protesters, its continued statements that seeks to demonise protesters and conflate them with clearly political hoodlums and their wanton destructive activities that we have condemned and continue to condemn, coupled with its reluctance to support the panel’s outreach efforts to victims of police brutality; are causes of concern that all citizens must pay attention to.

On this note we would like to thank the panel and all its members for its solidarity; we trust that we will be able to rely on our fellow members in the coming months.

Over the next few of days, we will be releasing a statement alongside civil society organisations on the government’s progress on the other demands.

“Once again, we restate our commitment to #EndSARS and ask that the government joins us.”

Also, one of the Youth Representatives on the Lagos Judicial Panel, Rinu Oduala, announced that the Youths will continue to partake in the process.

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