Caritas Nigeria, the development and humanitarian agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, has called on the federal government to urgently empanel a committee of elder statesmen, well-meaning opinion leaders, civil society groups along with the youths to redefine the rules of engagement and proffer solutions to the spiraling protests.
Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, National Director, Department of Church and Society Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria who made this known yesterday said that justice must be done and must be seen that it is done indeed.
Obodoechina explained that this is most urgent in the light of victims of police brutality, living and dead, that just compensation is inevitable, while the Police perpetrators are to be fished out across the country for proper prosecutions under the course of law.
According to him, the call to reform, retrain and reorient the Police Force must be prioritized, saying that it is not enough to rename the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), to SWAT. “Police personnel should be reoriented on the need to respect, protect and promote the fundamental human rights of citizens.
“The government must as a matter of urgency, develop effective strategies that would ensure inclusive governance; strengthening the judicial, health, educational, and social systems to serve the Common Good of all citizens.
“It is still the bounden duty of Government to take proactive steps to ensure peace, security and stability in the land. There would be no lasting basis for peace without justice,” he said.
He further said that although pursuing a worthy course, since their demands align with the tenets of democracy and indices of good governance, the youths must avoid all forms of violence and banditry, taking the laws into their hands, lest the message and aims of the protest would be defeated.
“The early hours of Sunday October 4th 2020, saw the Nigerian Youths at the streets of some of our major cities, beginning in Ughelli in Delta state, in a peace protest, against the increasing police brutality and extra-judicial killing of Nigerian Youths by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force.
“The trigger was the brutal death of a young man in Ughelli Delta state by this Squad. Hitherto, the Nigerian Youths have often been deprived, extorted, abused and even maimed by the same Squad at the slightest provocations. ‘It is on record that at least 18 persons were killed by SARS without trial in the first quarter of 2020 alone’.
“This did not account for hundreds that were harassed, tortured, and extorted’. Hence the protest ‘to exact positive transformation’ both in the police and the entire structures of governance in Nigeria. But the root of the protest went deeper,” he said.
Obodoechina also said that the Nigerian Youth along with the rest of the Nigerian citizens are living witnesses to situations of poverty, and disease, exacerbated by infrastructural decay, ruined healthcare systems, endemic insecurity and a tenuous social life.
“The living standard of most average Nigerian families is nothing to write home about. In fact, the hunger and poverty, the banditry and insecurity, the unemployment and the systemic corruption in the rank and file of Government, the abuse of human rights and the profligacy of the political class among others are evidently unbearable.
“Life has become dangerously brutish and short in Nigeria. As it were, the Nigerian Youths, with grim determination woke up from its sleep to demand not only for the disbandment of the notorious security formation but also for an immediate social transformation programs capable of ensuring a good life for all Nigerians.
‘The Church and Society Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria upholds that the dignity of the human person is inviolable and non- negotiable. Human persons are made in the images and likeness of God and are imbued with inalienable dignity.
“The Police Force and other Security outfit, within and outside Nigeria are so instituted to guarantee security of life and property of citizens. It is instructive to note that section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides, in an unequivocal term, the protection of the dignity of every person.
“It states inter alia; Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment, no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour,” he said