Amidst the nationwide calls for police reform during and in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, Nigeria’s chief law officer, Abubakar Malami, has argued that the police as an institution is already reformed and there is no basis for such calls.
Nigeria witnessed one of its largest youth-led protests last month as tens of thousands of young Nigerians gathered in various cities across the country to demand an end to police brutality, scrapping of the notorious police unit, SARS, and comprehensive police reforms.
Many Nigerians have been victims of police extortion, brutality, harassment and murder with only very few culpable officers punished.
It was reported that President Muhammadu Buhari conceded to some of the demands of the protesters and approved the dissolution of SARS.
The protests, however, continued as the youth demanded comprehensive police reforms including trial and prosecution, by an independent body, of police officers accused of human rights abuses as well as an increase in police salaries and other emoluments.
The protests turned violent after a crackdown by security agencies and attack on protesters in various states by hoodlums who were allegedly sponsored by pro-government officials and later took advantage of the protests to wreak havoc across the country.
Over 50 people including about 20 police officers were killed during and immediately after the #EndSARS protests with private and public properties worth billions of naira also destroyed.
While many Nigerians including President Buhari have admitted the need for police reforms, Mr Malami, Nigeria’s justice minister, said Monday that he believes the police are already reformed.
“What further evidence do you need of a reform of the police force in a situation whereby in a nation our security outfit, security personnel and indeed our security infrastructure are being attacked with impunity to such an extent that over 200 police stations were set ablaze without provocative reactions on the part of the police.”
“I think I have made my point that we do not only have a reformed police force arising from the legislative frameworks that are in place, but we have an established proof of reform both in terms of attitude, sentiment and associated reactions on the part of the police,’’ the minister said.
He made reference to the specific casualties suffered by the police during and after the #EndSARS protest.
“How does the reform of police now translated into manifestation associated with the EndSARS incident.
“I think the answer is clear; for the first time in over past 20 years, we do not have incidences associated with massive loss of lives by way of reactions of the police.
“And in effect, we eventually have in our hands an incident where 20 policemen were provocatively killed by purported protesters without counter reactions by way of counter provocative attacks on the part of the public,” he said.
Mr Malami spoke at a media parley in Abuja with international journalists organised by the Presidential Media Team at the old Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja, on Monday.
The text of Mr Malami’s speech was reported by the government-owned News Agency of Nigeria.
The minister also saluted the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) for the mature way it handled the #EndSARS protests despite the killing of its personnel in some parts of the country.
In the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, the National Economic Council headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo asked states to set up judicial panels to investigate cases of police brutality in their respective states. Many states have since set up the panels which have commenced sitting in those states.