I have watched closely enough to realize that being an advocate is no longer restricted to legal practitioners dressed in apparel, working in a law firm and handling lawsuits in the court of law. At some point in life, one will need one of these advocates to speak for the masses where there is an infringement on citizens’ rights. Only a few persons are in that position advocating for Nigerians without being in the court of law or panel of judges.
I remember as far back as June 2005 in Abuja, the unfortunate police brutality case of six Nigerian youths that needed a strong voice from the presidency but there was no one to get the “Apo six” justice. Hence it was swept under the carpet.
Fortunately, we now have a member of the presidency who has fashioned out a perpetual solution to this societal ill that arose again in October 2020. 15 years down the line, the “Apo six” families each got compensation of ₦200 million after a fair hearing from the judicial panel of inquiry.
Here you will meet our Senior Advocate of the masses standing for us beyond the borders of his constitutional roles, currently receiving the reports of his effort through the state judicial panels of inquiry set up nationwide, and the successful journey on this advocacy thus far.
On October 4 2020, he summoned the erstwhile Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, over rising concerns of brutality, assault and extrajudicial killings by members of the now-disbanded police unit – Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) and the general police force.
After the meeting, he addressed the press and described the situation as deeply unpleasant stating that you cannot have a situation where SARS says they are investigating cybercrime by arresting young men and women carrying their laptops and phones. “Cybercrime is an electronic crime. I don’t see how you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi or in their cars.”
On October 7, he met with the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Dingyadi, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, Director-General of State Security Services (SSS), Yusuf Bichi, and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anthony Ojukwu at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The meeting was based on discussions on ending police brutality and reforming the police force in Nigeria.
On October 9, he went along with IGP Muhammad Adamu to meet with President Buhari to discuss the decisions made from the previous meeting held with other security stakeholders on October 7th 2020, particularly concerning possible disbandment of SARS and the implementation of reforms in the Nigerian police force.
On October 11, he ensured the President officially disbanded SARS through the Inspector General of Police.
On October 12, the President officially spoke and affirmed the disbandment of SARS at the launch of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme in Abuja. The President noted that the disbandment was only the first step, adding that the police reforms will ensure the police’s primary duty remains the protection of lives and properties and that all culprits of police brutality are brought to justice.
That same day after the President spoke on the disbandment of SARS, he also spoke with the press and restated the government’s commitment. He said, “I think the clear message is that there is a government commitment to ensuring that the process of reform is done and those who have committed wrongful acts are duly investigated and prosecuted; and whatever replaces SARS is something that is acceptable, first of all, in its compliance to all the tenets of the rule of law and human rights.”
On October 15, he chaired the National Economic Council meeting and directed the immediate establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry in each state of the country and the FCT. These Judicial Panels of Inquiry investigated all issues of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings petitioned to them and proffer justice to all victims (or their families) of the dissolved SARS and other police units.
On October 16, he highlighted all the measures taken to meet the demands of ENDSARS protesters which involve setting up the Judicial Panels of Inquiry and a victims’ support fund to compensate victims and their families for any consequences of police violence they may have suffered.
On October 21, he apologized to Nigerians for the incident at the Lekki toll-gate and the loss of lives and properties across the country.
By October 23 through November 3, states had set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry to bring justice for SARS/police brutality victims.
On the 26th of October, another emergency National Economic Council meeting was held and a committee was set up to engage the youths, representatives of Civil Society Organizations, religious and traditional leaders on employment, social safety net programmes, security, empowerment programmes and national unity among other key issues of concern. The committee was chaired by him and it comprised governors representing the six geopolitical zones.
On November 3 2020, he inaugurated the National Economic Council Ad–HOC Committee Meeting created to engage with youths, civil society organizations and different groups and strands of leadership across the nation on the deeper issues ascertained from the post-ENDSARS protests.
In course of the last quarter of the year 2020 through 2021, the state judicial panels of inquiry have heard not less than 100 victims and compensated them. The Senior Advocate of the masses continues to monitor this process closely and has begun receiving the panels’ reports since June 17 2021 for the National Economic Council review.
We look forward to more of his honest display of care and concern for Nigerian citizens.
Meshach Chukwuma writes from Abuja.