The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has disclosed the specific expectations from the federal government in the handling of the reports in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests especially with the submission of the findings of the Lagos Judicial Panel on Police brutality and related matters. This was made known by Blinken at an interview with Maupe Ogun of Channels Television, during his recent visit to Nigeria.
Blinken said that once the report is published and what exactly happened is understood, the government should introduce necessary reforms to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. He said that the government should find a way to build trust between citizens, the security forces and the states in addition to accountability to make sure that individuals who are responsible for committing abuses are brought to justice, which is another way of building trust between the citizens and security forces.
The US Secretary of State also pointed out that building this trust is quite vital due to the security challenges in virtually every part of the country. Noting that it is necessary to handle things in a way that fosters trust between the citizens and the state, which will make the citizens feel secure and have their rights upheld as well.
What the US Secretary of State is saying
While answering questions on what lessons Nigeria can learn from how the US handled its own experience with police brutality especially in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Blinken said:
“Well, you’re exactly right that countries are facing this challenge, dealing with this challenge, including the United States. And exactly in our case with instances of police brutality, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that sprung up from that. But here in Nigeria, I think what’s so essential is this: You have now, in Lagos, the state panel that’s issued its report. That in and of itself is a very important and powerful thing because it brings transparency to these incidents, to the allegations of abuse by the security forces. But what’s even more vital now is for there to be action following up on the report – action at the state level, action at the federal level.
“I think we have to see once the report is actually published, and we understand exactly what happened. Two things need to follow from that, and this is true across the board, whether it’s in the United States or anywhere else. What are the necessary reforms to make sure that that can’t happen again? How do you build trust between citizens and the security forces, and more broadly, the state? And also accountability to make sure that any individuals who are responsible for committing abuses are brought to justice, which is another way of building trust between the citizens and the security forces?
‘’That trust is so vital because, of course, Nigeria faces very difficult security challenges in virtually every part of the country. And it’s necessary to deal with them in a way that has trust between the citizens and the state, which has the responsibility of making sure that its citizens are secure while at the same time upholding their rights.’’
What you should know
Recall that the National Economic Council (NEC), had in October 2020, directed the immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry to investigate complaints of police brutality or related extrajudicial killings with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) and other police units
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had set up the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to look into allegations of human rights abuses levelled against the police and also determine the cause of coordinated attacks on Lagos, noting that the panel’s final report would be fully implemented.
The Lagos Panel submitted its findings with a leaked version of the report allegedly indicting the Nigerian Army for shooting, injuring and killing unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian Flag and singing the National Anthem.