#EndSARS: How Media Report Citizens #5for5 Demand
|Date:||Mar 09 2021|
|Category:||EndSARs, Publications, Reports|
|Tags:||#EndSARs, Judicial Panel, Lekki Massacre, Panel of Inquiry|
The End SARS movement in Nigeria is arguably one of Nigeria’s largest social movements, due to the number of supporters and publicity it garnered. According to data from TechPoint Africa, #EndSARS was the biggest social media trend in Nigeria in 2020. The protests led to deaths, assaults, and brutalisation of many Nigerians, as well as revealed the unity of Nigerians in a way that was never imagined. The nationwide protests however came to a halt after the protesters were attacked by the security agents, most notably, the military at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. This was in a desperate effort to end the protests after they were not ended despite the government promising to grant the demands of the protesters which were summed up into 5 and popularly referred to as the #5for5. Early in January, The Office of the President released a statement that was publicized in the media with the headline, “we will fulfill #EndSars protesters five demands, says Buhari,” proving that the government was still intent on fulfilling their promise. This analysis dissects the extent of the government’s fulfillment of their promise to grant the #5for5 demands, based on media reportage.
- Setting up of independent panels to investigate police misconduct, and prosecution of perpetrators.
- Psychological evaluation and retraining of officers of disbanded SARS before redeployment.
- Immediate release of arrested #EndSARS protesters.
- Justice for victims of police brutality, appropriate compensation for victims and families.
- Increment in police salaries and welfare package.
Setting up of Independent panels:
The judicial panels of inquiry were established across states in Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to address the issues of police brutality in each state. Out of the FCT and 36 states of Nigeria, these panels were set up in only 29 states and the FCT. Borno, Jigawa, Yobe, Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kebbi states did not comply with the FG’s directive to set up a panel to investigate police misconduct in their states. Of the states that have set up a panel, however, the Kogi State panel has not sat at all as at the time of this analysis. All across Nigeria, thousands of petitions have been submitted across state panels, with petitioners demanding millions of Naira in compensation, and justice for their loss by asking for prosecution of the erring police officer/s. Headlines such as Woman asks Edo panel for N20m compensation for husband taken away by SARS in 2012, and EndSARS: Man, 47, demands N50m compensation for being unlawfully paraded by police, revealing their determination to ask for compensation. According to reports from state observers deployed by Yiaga Africa, security personnel continue to be absent in these panels. This negates the objective of the panels, which is to hear both sides of every story, and enable the panel members to reach a decision on each issue. The effect of the continued absence of the police in these panels is that hearing of cases continue to be postponed, and with time, citizens’ trust in the system dwindles and they may eventually back out. The SARS officer CSP James Nwafor of the notorious Awkuzu SARS has had about half of the petitions brought to the Anambra state judicial panel filed against him but has continued to be absent. In Edo state, Caroline Afegbai has also failed to honour the summon of the panel. In addition to these, the Army has officially made it clear that they would not be attending any more panel sittings in Lagos. Headlines such as Lekki Shooting: Again, Nigerian Army ignores Summons at Judicial Panel and Nigerian Army disbands legal team, pulls out of Lagos panel investigating Lekki shooting, show their resolve.
Psychological Evaluation and retraining of SARS officers:
This second demand by End SARS protesters has proven to be a far cry from being met. On October 11, 2020, the IGP of police Muhammed Adamu announced the immediate disbandment of SARS, and the establishment of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) in its place. Within hours of this announcement, #EndSWAT began trending too, with Nigerian citizens stating that the establishment of SWAT was as good as renaming SARS, as there was no doubt it was the same officers who simply changed uniforms and possibly posts. Opinion articles such as From SARS to SWAT: Unending police brutality, narrates how the Nigerian government’s attempt to establish SWAT was like ‘only smuggling in repackaged old wine in a new bottle’.
It is easy to understand the plight of the citizens, however. This is because the entire essence of the EndSARS movement is to remove the practice of abuse of power in the present officers. Citizens’ protests have continued on the belief that if SARS was really disbanded, there would be further information regarding the rehabilitative steps taken by the Police Force to both evaluate the officers and retrain them. On January 25, 2021, headlines such as Lagos task force kills one person in Oshodi dominated the media, and especially Twitter, causing the #EndSARS hashtag to begin trending again. According to citizens on Twitter, this and many recurrent accounts of assault was proof that the government had not implemented this demand to retrain SARS officers.
Immediate release of arrested #EndSARS protesters:
This demand seemed to have been among the ones immediately granted by the government. This is largely due to the efforts of people and organisations like the Feminist Coalition. However, the bank accounts of some prominent names in the EndSARS protests have since been frozen by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as well as their passports taken and seized. While the conversation around this was dying down, Rinu Oduala took to Twitter on 17th January to say that many months after the EndSARS protests, she still has not regained access to her account. Following this, the conversation began again, and headlines like Nigerian Government Yet To Unfreeze Our Bank Accounts Since October 2020 —#EndSARS Activists were all over the news. There are about 20 EndSARS activists who are affected by this.
Justice for victims of police brutality:
This demand is assumed to be fused with the demand to establish an independent judiciary to look into issues regarding the abuse of power by the police over the years. This is because the government made it clear that after the panels in each state sit for about 6 months, they would compile their reports and submit, and then the government will compensate families/victims of police brutality, as well as bring justice. Even though the judicial panels frown upon petitioners who ask for compensation – Judicial Panel Set To Probe Police Brutality, Not To Compensate Victims – Panelists, petitioners continue to make these demands for monetary compensations as they appear in court, as is evident in headlines such as Wife Of Victim Demands ₦200m Compensation In Taraba and 2 Women demand 75 million Naira compensation over death of husbands in Edo.
Increment in police salaries and welfare package:
It was believed that one of the reasons for police brutality was the fact that the salary structure of the Nigerian police force was nothing to write home about. The evidently low income was blamed as one of the main reasons why they feel the need to harass citizens, demand bribes, and confiscate people’s properties. On November 6, 2020 however, Nigerians were smiling, because of headlines like Buhari approves salary increment for police. According to the Inspector General of police Mohammed Adamu, “The government has approved an extension of the health scheme to retired police personnel. The police salary structure has been reviewed upward, affecting all ranks.” There has not been any current reportage on this by the media, and so it is believed that the new scheme was indeed implemented.
Lessons so far…
The media coverage of the #5for5 demands are relatively low. For instance, if Rinu Oduala had not spoken up about her account still being inaccessible, the media would have kept mum on the matter. As a matter of fact, after a few hours of that issue trending, it has now died down and seems to have been forgotten again. Twitter still reports eyewitness incidences of police brutality, harassment and assaults, but they are hardly ever reported by the media as there has been a huge decline in reportage about the demands of the movement in the aftermath of the protests, and this decline contributes to the delay in the urgency with which citizens can possibly expect their demands to be met.