Senators and House of Representatives members yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to douse the tension in the country by addressing the nation.
While the Senate stressed the need for the Federal Government to “faithfully and comprehensively implement all demands of the protesters,” the House of Representatives warned that it would only pass the 2021 budget if the conditions outlined by the youths are included.
The motion in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi was titled “#EndSARS: Need for comprehensive and holistic reforms.” That in the House dubbed “Motion for urgent public importance on the need to address the possible breach of national security” was sponsored by Rep Sada Soli
Some of those that contributed to Olujimi’s motion were Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe and Senator Adamu Aliero.
Olujimi had in her lead debate, traced police brutality to the colonial era when the Nigeria Police Force was used to suppress agitation against colonial rule, force the people to obey draconian policies and thwart protests against colonial repression.
She cited the 1949 killing of 21 people in the Enugu Colliery; the death of 55 women in the 1929 suppression of women riot in the Eastern part of the country and the murder of 19 Nigerians during the Tiv riot in 1960 as examples of the early days of Police brutality.
She lamented that in spite of the constitutional provisions establishing the NPF based on Section 214 (1) of the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions, police brutality had continued during the post-colonial era.
The lawmaker made references to Amnesty International’s report that highlighted 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial killings by SARS operatives between January 2017 and May, 2020 as well as the October 3, 2020 police shooting of a young Nigerian in Ughelli, Delta State which snowballed into the protests that have forced some states to impose curfew.
Lawan, who urged the Federal Government to implement the demands of the protesters, said it was good the youth had made their points.
His words: “Protesters, you have made your point, you have made your case, your protests have yielded the desired results.
“It is time to allow the government to implement those issues that government has accepted from you.”
Omo-Agege said he was a victim of SARS in 2015 “when they poured teargas directly” into his eyes.
He said: “I don’t know anyone in this country who supports the illegal activities of SARS, no one. I stand here as a victim of SARS, myself, I’m a victim.
“Today, I use eye glasses because of what SARS did to me in 2015.”
However he said while the Senate would not support any harm that may befall the protesting youths, they needed to give the government time to act on their demands.
Abaribe urged Buhari to address the nation and to set up a judicial commission of inquiry like some governors have to done.
Abaribe, who also advocated the prosecution of the 35 SARS operatives identified to have committed heinous crimes against humanity, said the commission would give victims the opportunities to seek justice.
He promised to supply the Senate President with five names of SARS operatives notorious for their atrocities against Nigerians.
Senator Aliero while seconding the motion, urged the Federal Government to dialogue with the EndSARS protesters to stop the protests.
Aliero however advised the government to use every means at its disposal to quell the protests should dialogue fail to achieve the desired results.
The lawmaker noted that it is normal in a democracy for people to protests, “but when it is being hijacked, government has no choice but to use every means possible to quell the protests.”
After the contributions, the Senate resolved among others to:
- call on all tiers of government to put in place and sustain policies and programmes of socio-economic reforms that raise the standard and quality of life of Nigerians, particularly the youth; and
- appeal to the #EndSARS movement and protesters to suspend their actions and embrace genuine dialogue in order to give the government the time and space to meet their demands.
During the House plenary, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila gave an indication that members would not pass the 2021 budget if the issues of compensation for victims of police brutality and the demands by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were not adequately addressed by the budget estimate.
He said: “As the Speaker of this House… I will not preside over the passage of a 2021 Budget that does not include adequate provisions to compensate those who have suffered violence and brutality in the hands of the police in the last two decades.
“ I will not preside over the passage of a budget that does not meet the reasonable demands of the ASUU, to which government has already acceded.”
The Speaker pointed out that from events of the past few days, it was evident that a new movement had hit the nation through ”a generation of young people, who came of age in the years of our democracy and have looked upon what we have built and decided that we can do better.”
Gbajabiamila described the protesting youth as the midwives of a national rebirth.
He added that their agitation has brought about a historical moment in the nation and called on them to end the protests.
He said: ”You have raised your voices and marched to demand a better Nigeria. From Abuja to Washington, to Calgary and London, your voices have been heard. Do not allow anybody to convince you that to withdraw from the streets now is to concede defeat.
“This is the time to move your agitation from the chaos of the streets to the painstaking deliberations and strategic partnerships that birth policy and produce legislation.
The Speaker emphasised the need for urgent, substantive, and wholesale reforms of the police and a total overhaul of the nation’s internal security and policing framework.
During the debate on Soli’s motion, members called on Buhari to proclaim an Executive Order addressing the broader issues of police brutality.
They also said the Order should give timelines to his promises to address the demands of the protesters.
The lawmakers appealed to the protesting youths to have faith in the National Assembly and the Executive in their collective efforts to end police misconduct.
The House also resolved that an ad-hoc committee headed by deputy speaker Idris Wase should be constituted to interface with relevant security agencies and interest groups to ensure a peaceful end of the protests.
Moving the motion, Soli expressed concern that the legitimate protests by the youth had been infiltrated by hoodlums. He warned that the development might lead to a breakdown of law and order.
Rep Toby Okechukwu, said having committed to the meeting the demands of the protesters, there was the need for the government to give a timeline so that Nigerians can monitor their implementation.