The Special Adviser to the President on Digital Media, Tolu Ogunlesi, has said that tremendous progress has been and is still being made to meet the demands of Nigerians protesting against police brutality in the country.
“If you look at the 5 for 5, you can see that quite tremendous progress has been made on all of these,” he said in an interview on Channels TV’s Sunday Politics.
According to him, “never before has police reforms been this high on the agenda of any government since 1999,” so it is unfair to say that government has not or is not doing anything.
“I think so far, the government has shown good faith in first acknowledging the demands at the highest level of government. If you go through the list of demands one by one you will see that a lot of work has gone into meeting these demands,” Ogunlesi added.
Since the disbandment of the rogue unit at the heart of the protests – the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Nigerians have continued to make several demands, as many believe the solution to the problem goes beyond scrapping the unit.
Some of the major demands tagged #5For5, include releasing all arrested protesters, justice and compensation for families of victims, the creation of an independent body to oversee the prosecution of officers (within 10 days), psychological evaluation of disbanded officers before redeployment, and the increase of police officers’ salaries.
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Ogunlesi, however, believes that some of the demands are between medium to long term and while they may take some time to be fully implemented, the government is not resting on its oars.
In addition to the dissolution of SARS, the proposed psychological evaluation for officers, as well as the creation of the new controversial Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team, Ogunlesi says states have been asked to set up judicial panels of enquiry.
“That’s a medium-term thing and we must not downplay the importance of that,” he said, adding that it would provide an opportunity for such incidents of police brutality to be presented before an independent panel that can actually listen and take action.
“As for an independent body to oversee the prosecution of officers; that’s also where the judicial panel of inquiry comes in because they are going to make recommendations and then one point that is important to make is that State Attorneys General have the power to prosecute offending police officers”.
Speaking of the proposed psychological evaluation of officers, the President’s aide noted that details of the processes will be made available to Nigerians in the coming days.
He, however, stressed that the police have assured that “none of the disbanded officers will make it into whatever will succeed SARS”.
On the welfare of police officers, ogunlesi said “it is clearly a long term goal among the 5 for 5 demands but even at that, President Buhari last year signed the Police Trust Fund Bill which will ensure that the welfare or compensation of police officers is handled”.