The National Economic Council (NEC), on Friday, adopted a resolution, mandating states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and the federal government to commence payment of compensations to victims of police brutality.

It will be recalled that 28 states and the FCT had, following last year October’s #EndSARS protest, individually set up judicial panels of inquiry to listen to protesters and investigate allegations of police brutalities, which gave rise to the violent protests that claimed lives and led to destruction of property.

However, at the end of its virtual meeting on Friday, NEC, besides giving go ahead for the payment of compensations, also unanimously resolved to ensure the prosecution of persons indicted by the panels.

According to a statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Mr Laolu Akande, NEC resolved that payment of compensation to victims should proceed with each State, in collaboration with the Federal Government, establishing the modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the panels.

“At its meeting today, 15th October 2021, the National Economic Council (NEC/Council) received an update on the Reports of Judicial Panels of Inquiry into Allegations of Human Rights Violations against Members of Nigeria Police Force and other Security Agencies.

“It may be recalled that following the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, which later transformed into violent demonstrations, in furtherance of resolution of NEC, twenty-eight (28) States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) (under the auspices of the National Human Rights Commission) had set up Judicial Panels/Commissions of Inquiry (Panels) to investigate allegations of violations of human rights levied against members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, especially members of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

“The 28 States that set up these Panels were Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba.

“Out of the 28 states, 11 States (Abia, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, and Rivers) have submitted their final reports to Council; with Lagos, set to finalise its sittings on 19th October 2021, submitting an interim report. Governors of other states including Delta and Ebonyi at today’s meeting also indicated that their reports would be submitted soon.

“Following deliberations on the recommendations of the panels, NEC agreed/resolved as follows, (and this applies to all the States and FCT that set up the panels): payment of compensation to victims.

“Each State, in collaboration with the Federal Government, shall establish modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the Panels. Already, as resolved by NEC, a number of States have set up Victims Compensation Funds, from which several victims have already received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels.

“Prosecution of indicated persons, including police and civilians: Council directed state governors to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons.

“Where incidents in the reports relate to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC urged the Nigeria Police Force to take disciplinary action on the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020,” the statement said.

NEC urges youths to shelve planned memorial protest

Meanwhile, NEC has advised organisers of #EndSARS memorial protest to shelve the plan to forestall a possible breakdown of law and order, considering the security situation across the country.

NEC also advised the organisers to explore lawful alternatives of engaging authorities, noting that such protest has the likelihood of being hijacked by other elements, who have other motives of criminal nature, which might escalate into mayhem.

It expressed its belief in the right of citizens to lawful and peaceful protest, but also reminded the organisers to recognise efforts of both federal and state governments to address issues raised through last year’s protests.

The statement read: “While appreciating the role of lawful peaceful protests in the advancement of public discourse under democratic governance, the National Economic Council (NEC) strongly advise those planning public protests across the country to mark the anniversary of the #EndSARS, to consider other lawful alternative means of engagement.

“This is because of the current security situation across the country and the possibility of such protests being hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem at such protest events and venues. Council, therefore, urges the organizers to reconsider their plan.

“NEC would also like to point out the various actions already taken by Federal and State Governments to address the grievances that led to the 2020 protests”, NEC noted.

The actions the statement highlighted included, “the disbandment of SARS; broad police reforms; establishment of judicial panels of inquiries to investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies; recommendations of panels which are already at various stages of implementation, including the setup of Victims Compensation Funds from which several victims have received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels; and prosecution of police personnel indicted by the panels.”

According to the statement, “These are commendable actions that ought to be taken to a logical conclusion in a peaceful atmosphere.

“Organisers of the planned protests should explore the various channels of communication with governments at various levels to advance their positions and avert the breakdown of law and order that may result from such public protests”, it said.

The NEC is presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and has the 36 state governors and Ministers in charge of the economy as well as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as members.

Meanwhile, in order to crop an efficient security service in the country and to forestall future public provocation, NEC listed a couple of modalities to be adopted by the forces, including setting up safeguard measures like putting would-be recruits into arms-bearing organisations through psychiatric evaluation, as well as drug test before being enlisted.

It also charged the federal government to put necessary modalities in place to ensure adequate welfare provisions for men and officers of the Nigeria Police, as well as for all other security establishments in the country.

“NEC called on the leadership of the security agencies to ensure that –

Persons recruited into arms-bearing security agencies undergo psychiatric evaluations and drug tests before enlistment and periodically after enlistment to ensure that the personnel are psychologically fit to carry live weapons and to identify behavioural tendencies that may require psycho-social interventions.

“Personnel of the agencies dutifully observe Rules of Engagement in the discharge of their functions/duties around and within the civilian populace.

“While acknowledging the various initiatives introduced by the federal government to: strengthen police accountability through the Police Service Commission; sustain improved funding and budgetary allocation to the Nigeria Police Force and other securities agencies; and the lifting of the ban on recruitment of police officers,

“Council urged the federal government to give priority to the general welfare of police officers and personnel of other security agencies. In particular, it advocated the review of pension and gratuity of retired police officers and attainment of parity of remuneration by police officers with sister security agencies.

“Undertake a comprehensive assessment of all police stations across the country with a view to ensuring that they are fit for purpose. Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies should deploy cutting-edge technology in the fight against crimes.

“Nigeria Police Force to, in line with the mandatory training provisions of the Police Act 2020, prioritize training of police officers on procedures for the entrenchment of human rights provisions guaranteed by the Constitution and on the professional handling of weapons.

“All those detained by the Police as a result of the #EndSARS protests are expeditiously processed with due regard to the principles of fair hearing. The system established within the Nigeria Police Force for receipt and handling of complaints or petitions is strengthened, and all police officers on duty should be in police-approved uniform with their full names and force numbers boldly written for easy identification,” it prescribed.

NEC charged the states to key into and support the new community policing initiative of the federal government, employing it for more effective security of communities.

“The states should, as resolved by NEC: Properly utilize and support the community policing programme of the Federal Government, with active collaborative efforts and participation of traditional rulers, elders, youths, vigilante groups, etc.;

“Establish standing committees under States Ministries of Justice to address human rights violations on a continuous basis; and take measures aimed at flushing out miscreants squatting in uncompleted buildings, and other blackout spots that serve as hideouts for criminals”, statement said.

Also, NEC was received the draft of the National Development Plan 2021-2025, which is meant to build on the achievements of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020.

According to the statement, the new plan is designed to engage and empower the nation’s teeming youth population, increase revenue to 15 percent of GDP by 2025 and to decrease the budget deficit, among other targets.

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