Military should steer clear of peaceful protests – Actionaid

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Actionaid-Nigeria has advised the Nigerian military against its involvement in the ongoing nationwide protests by the youth, which it described as a peaceful way of seeking enduring reform within the country’s policing system.

The non-governmental organisation gave this advice in a statement issued on Thursday, saying the peaceful protest was the younger generation’s response to “the long years of neglect of young people as evidenced by the high level of unemployment and underemployment of youths this injustice has strong roots in the high level of corruption and slack of governance in the country over the years.”

This is as the group has also rejected the ban of the protests by the federal capital territory authority (FCTA), noting that the right to assemble is a fundamental human right that cannot be taken away from the people with a mere press statement.

The statement issued by Actionaid, which was signed by its country director, Ene Obi, said it was dismayed by the continued and heightened police brutality against the protesters, warning that invitation to the military would only escalate the crisis.

According to the organisation, true police reform must start with the police training schools and recruitment processes, adding that the integrity of anyone recruited should be sacrosanct, and that their welfare must be prioritised.

While the military had on Thursday issued a statement threatening to clamp down on protesters, the FCTA authority on the same day issued a statement placing a ban on the activities of the protesters, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for its action.

But the protesters have defied the order by the FCT minister, Muhammed Bello, even as they reportedly barricaded the entrance of the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Actionaid said a culture of probity and accountability must be built across all levels of governments and among the people, saying every action taken towards redeeming the battered image of the Nigerian police must be evident to the people.

The statement reads in part; “There has been limited progress on accountability of law enforcement agencies and their abuses in the country. The report of the Presidential Panel of Inquiry set up in 2018 to investigate abuses by the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is yet to be made public. It is imperative that the officers who have been found guilty of harassing and brutalizing innocent citizens should be brought to book and justice be seen to be thoroughly served.

“The Federal Government and Governments at all levels need to pay attention to the welfare of the citizens. There is systemic failure and it needs transformation. Every political leader needs to become completely responsible and accountable. A situation where members of the National Assembly that are one of the highest paid in the world still scamming for contracts (unbelievable) exist and are being protected by one of the poorest paid Police Force in the world; and we are the poorest country in the world as Nigeria has now been declared the poverty capital of the world recently, despite the vast natural and huge human resources. The young people are demanding their dignity and the dignity of every Nigerian to be restored.”

Some of the demands made by the organisation towards a comprehensive reform include adequate funding of the police with an entrenched culture of accountability and facilitation of upward review of police welfare.

“Ensure that Nigeria Police is adequately funded putting a stop to the menace of having DPOs ‘creatively’ funding their stations with strong mechanisms for ensuring accountability and probity,” the statement added.

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