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Bish Johnson, IGP Kayode Egbetokun

"In an apparent attempt to surpress the protest it exploded into deadly aftermath and led to tragic and needless loss of lives of some protesters and security personnels, and wanton destruction of property." Capt. Bish Johnson.

It is three years today, when End SARS protest erupted across the country on 20th October 2020, taking security and law enforcement agencies by surprise. Young Nigerians across the country backed by celebrities from Nollywood poured into the streets of cities in Nigeria in their numbers to express their dissatisfaction with the way and manner in which they were profiled, unjustly treated and illegally arrested, while in custody maltreated, abused and sometimes harmed by the Nigeria Police Force, particularly its disbanded notorious unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In an apparent attempt to surpress the protest it exploded into deadly aftermath and led to tragic and needless loss of lives of some protesters and security personnels, and wanton destruction of property. 

The core reason given by the protesters was how some personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, particularly the disbanded notorious Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) had unjustly treated them over the years. As Nigerians mark the three year anniversary of the protest, it is important that the country not lose sight of the main reasons for which the protest - call for reform of the Nigeria Police Force, immediate release of all arrested protesters, justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families, setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within a period of 10 years, carrying out  of psychological evaluation and retaining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can redeployed (this should be verified by an independent body) and for the government to increase police salary and adequately compensate police officers for protecting lives and property of the citizens. 

The Nigeria Police Force, established in 1930 and Africa’s largest police department has proved difficult to effectively manage and control, and has become largely unaccountable to the citizens it is meant to serve. No doubt majority of Nigerian police officers conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, serving in difficult and often dangerous environment,  abysmal working conditions, appalling salaries and poor welfares.

In 2009 alone, some 250 policemen and women were shot and killed in the line of duty and that number has continued to grow since then to now, attributable to serving as a police officer in what has become one of the most difficult environments in the world to police with bandits, unknown gunmen, kidnappers, terrorists, oil thiefs, armed robbers, cybercriminals, yahoo yahoo boys and sundry other criminals roaming the streets, cities, forests and creeks of Nigeria.

But for many Nigerians, the police force has utterly failed to fulfill its mandate of providing public security. In fact the force is viewed by most Nigerians more as predators than protectors, and the Nigeria Police Force has become a symbol in Nigeria of unfettered corruption, mismanagement, and abuse as countless ordinary Nigerians attempting to make precarious ends meet as taxi drivers, market traders, shopkeepers, skilled and unskilled laborers  are accosted on a daily basis by armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting money. Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm. 

While those charged with police oversight, discipline and reform have for years failed to take effective action, thereby reinforcing impunity within the force. Extortion, embezzlement, and other corrupt practices by Nigeria’s police continue to undermine the fundamental human rights of so many Nigerians.

According to Amnesty International, it documented 82 cases of police brutality in Nigeria between 2017 and 2020. In October 2020, a nationwide mass protests resulting from a culmination of years of anger and outcry by the Nigeria's young people over claims of kidnapping, harassment, murder, and extortion by the supposedly disbanded notorious  Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) spread throughout the country, leading to several loss of lives on the part of the protesters, ordinary citizens and members of the police and other security agencies.

People detained by SARS accused the police unit of using torture methods including hanging, mock execution and sexual violence against their detainees according to Amnesty International.

All of these accusations and incidents involving a few individual police officers and units of Nigeria Police Force continued to erode public confidence in the force. DCP Abba Kyari case made the already all time low public confidence in Nigeria Police even worst. 

In light of the revelations of the activities of the former Commander of Intelligence Response Team (IRT) at the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigerian Police Force, DCP Abba Kyari and his subsequent arrest by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for his alleged involvement in a 25 kilograms of cocaine burst, it's not in doubt that the ones highly celebrated COP's activities brought disrepute not just to himself and family but to the Nigeria Police Force, the organization he pupurtedly served. The Nigeria Police Force before now has an already battered image with the Nigerian public leading to trust and credibility deficit with Nigerian masses who have accused the Force of various human rights abuses ranging from extortion, illegal arrests, torture, kidnapping to extrajudicial killings..

As if Abba Kyari had not done enough damage to the image and reputation of the Nigeria Police Force, the United States Government unveiled charges against Abba Kyari and court ordered for his arrest. Mr Kyari was charged alongside five others including  Ramon Abass, aka Huspuppi, an Instagram celebrity, who admitted his guilt, pleaded guilty and subsequently convicted and sent to prison in a multi-million-dollars money laundering fraud, with offences bordering on wire fraud, conducting financial transactions involving proceeds of unlawful activity, and aiding and abetting illegal use and transfer of a means of identification.

The disgraced COP, Mr Kyari has also been alleged of probably responsible for extra-judicial executions of many suspects arrested by him and his men both as head of SARS in Lagos and head of IRT. He was said to have conducted himself as a police officer in manner that If he liked any house, hotel or anything well enough, he would implicate the owners, set them up and  falsely accused them of kidnapping and armed robbery. He would arrest and kill the suspects and steal their property.

With these revelations, we now know that the so-called Super COP was a highly corrupt police officer, and with his credibility as a police officer questionable and not in tendern with the code of ethics and conduct of officer of Nigeria Police Force, so were the validity of all cases handled by him and his men. Many innocent Nigerians may have unjustly been killed and several innocent people unjustly languishing in different detention facilities across the country as consequence of the actions of this now discredited super cop.

IGP Kayode Egbetokun, the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria as a professional police officer with a history and record of distinguished police career, I believe took office fully aware of the enormity of the challenges he faced leading such an organization like the Nigeria Police Force. Like those who served before him, I am sure that he is fully determined to confront head on and fix those challenges.

DCP Abba Kyari mess is certainly one of those challenges that the IGP must confront and fix immediately. He should without delay constitute a Review Commission peopled with highly reputed senior police officers, senior lawyers, members of civil society organizations and other well meaning Nigerians to immediately commence the review of all cases that were handled by Abba Kyari and his men. This review has become imperative as a first step towards restoring the already eroded public confidence in the Nigeria Police. The review has become necessary also, to ensure that no Nigerian was unjustly killed, arrested, maltreated, prosecuted and sent to prison. If any Nigerian is found to have unjustly suffered death or imprisonment in the hands of Abba Kyari and his men, those Nigerians or their families should be compensated. Those falsely imprisoned who may still be languishing in prison should immediately be released.

Bishop C. Johnson is a former US Army Captain, a national security and defense strategist based in Abuja.

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