In October 2020, many Nigerians, mostly the youth, staged the #EndSARS protest in different parts of the country against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and the rising police brutality cases in the country.

In response to the protest, SARS was dissolved, and the government agreed to set up judicial panels of enquiry, now popularly referred to as #EndSARS panels, to probe cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the police.

About eight months after the historic national event, some Nigerians speak with PREMIUM TIMES on the impact of the protest.

Festus Ogun

FESTUS OGUN, Lawyer, legal affairs analyst and human rights activist

Has there been a drop in police brutality cases following the #EndSARS protest?

The historical #EndSARS protest, in truth, has not affected the rate of police brutality in our country partly because the rots in our police force are foundational. The gross abuses of human rights and dignity are as rife as ever. Truth is, the scrapping of the SARS unit was a Greek gift. The only way out is a complete overhaul of our policing system which should ideally be a ‘Service’ and not a ‘Force’. The colonial system of policing we maintain is unsustainable.

Effectiveness of #EndSARS panels

Again, without prejudice to the efforts of the distinguished members of the panels, the reality is that the EndSARS judicial panels of inquiry have not in any way helped in reducing police brutality. The panels appear to be a calculated strategy by the authorities to give false hope for victims of police gangsterism. My position hinges on the fact that the law places the implementation of the findings of the panel at the discretion of the President who himself has a stained human rights record.

How do we forget the experience with Oputa Panel in a hurry? In 1999, following the return to constitutional democracy, former President Olusegun Obasanjo constituted the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria (Oputa Panel) to investigate human rights abuses during the period of military rule from 1984 to 1999. After the panel submitted its report in 2002, the recommendations are yet to be implemented, almost two decades after. I fear if the same fate will not befall the current ENDSARS panels.

Monsroh Abdulsemiu

MONSROH ABDULSEMIU, student, Lagos State University.

Has there been a drop in police brutality cases following the #EndSARS protest?

I would say yes when what we have now is compared to the alarming number of police brutality cases that Nigerians recorded and reported online before the #EndSARS protest and the eventual scrapping of SARS. It is evident that police brutality cases like the violent stop-and-search operations, unlawful arrests and detention have reduced fairly.

Are the #EndSARS panels accessible?

I wouldn’t say yes because I’ve not attempted to reach or access the panel in my state. But I would also not say no because evidence of accessibility has been displayed according to the number of petitions that they have received and worked on as gathered by Premium Times and other credible media outfits.

Are the panels effective?

Well! To some extent, I would say yes. The panel has been instrumental to the settlement of wrongly accused, harassed and injured protesters. But it has been months since the massacre at the Lekki toll plaza. I believe they are taking too much time to uncover the covered, and justice delayed is justice denied.

Wole Olubanji

WOLE OLUBANJI, a social commentator and activist

Has there been a drop in police brutality cases following the #EndSARS protest?

We continue to have reports of the brutality of protesters and other agitators across the country by the police. Very little has changed about policing since the #EndSARS protest.

Perhaps the only change is in the increased awareness of citizens, who now resist police brutality in some places where it occurred, especially against commercial drivers in Lagos. There is also the animosity some police personnel have towards young people seeking police interventions, who are regularly reminded of the protest to end SARS, and it goes to show the insincerity towards promises of changes to policing that were made in October 2020.

Accessibility, the effectiveness of #EndSARS panels

The #EndSARS panel in Lagos has been accessible to members of society. Determining its effectiveness will now depend on its final report. However, it left so much to doubt as to its neutrality when it ordered the reopening of the Lekki toll plaza, even as investigations are ongoing.

Kazeem Israel

KAZEEM ISRAEL, a political scientist in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Has there been a drop in police brutality cases following the #EndSARS protest?

There has been no drop in police brutality throughout the country since the #EndSARS panels commenced their sitting. And, this makes it appear as if there’s no end in sight against police brutality.

Accessibility, the effectiveness of #EndSARS panels

The #EndSARS panels across the states are not accessible by citizens, most especially those affected because it is not open to everyone.

And, based on the foregoing, the panel does not seem to be ready for any positive effect on the people in serving justice. To end police brutality, the Police Service Commission must introduce rules to ensure that those to be recruited into the Force are sane to handle guns.

ABBASS OYEYEMI

ABASS OYEYEMI, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state

Impact of #EndSARS protest

#EndSARS saw the rebranding of SARS. They renamed them (SARS) and dissolved them into other units. However, extortion and brutality are still happening across the country. I was picked up by police officers in Ibadan on March 28, 2021, for having the Binance cryptocurrency app on my phone. They didn’t leave me until they got N20,000.

Effectiveness, accessibility of #EndSARS panels

For me, I’ll say while the cases of brutality dropped after #EndSARS, it has been on the rise ever since the beginning of the year.

The End SARS panel isn’t accessible. An average man doesn’t even know how he’ll get to table his case before the panel. The effectiveness is lacking this way; just a few persons out of many victims of police brutality are getting justice.

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