By CHUKS EKE
Reactions have continued to trail the just concluded EnndsARS protests in various parts of the country.
Among those who have so far reacted to the development were Prince Okey-Joe Onuakalusi, a legal practitioner based in Lagos ande President of Millennium Centre for training and Leadership, MCTL and six other legal practitioners based in Onitsha, Anambra state, including, Sir Ben Okoko, Sir Anayo Emejue, Ejike Efobi, Maurice Efobi, Sylvester Eze and Chukwudi Nwokediuko
In their separate reactions, Prince Onuakalusi, Okoko, Emejue, Efobi, Efobi, Eze and Nwokediuko noted that protests are allowed under the law to express feelings but warned against violence during such protests.
Thhey therefore pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to address the youth on this matter to escalation of more violent protests as according to them, what the protesters really need is job assurance, good governance, police reform, security and future hope.
Speaking further, the MCTL President, Onuakalusi aligned himself to a statement credited to the President of the Nigerian bar Association, NBA, Olumide Akpata to the effect that NBA would initiate a legal action against Lekki Toll Gate killings on Tuesday night.
Onuakalusi also aligned himself to Akpata’s call on the international community to sanction the country’s public officials by instituting comprehensive Visa ban on them, their children and close relatives.
According to him, “This period calls for the documentation and gathering of evidence. We also call on the European Union and United States to place strict visa restrictions on Government officials who some way or the other are involved or complicit in these killings. Their children should also be subjected to the Visa ban. The perpetrators of the heinous act should be profiled and shamed.”
He recalled that in the last two weeks, many parts of Nigeria have been under the grip of civil protests and demonstrations for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit of the Nigeria Police SARS as according to him, the murderous atrocities committed by the men of SARS against young Nigerians especially are well documented.
“SARS reportedly operates torture Chambers in different parts of the country where in the bid to extract self-implicating confessions from crime suspects in their custody, they end up reportedly being killed or maimed”.
“However, combined with the mass privation in the country following the protracted COVID-19 lockdown, the frustration of young Nigerians due to SARS’ activities snowballed into a sustained popular protest that gradually saw states like Lagos being literally shut down by the protesters”.
The protesters blocked arterial roads in the state, making commuting in it quite difficult for residents.
On Tuesday, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu declared a 24 hours curfew from 4pm during which some of the protesters were reportedly shot to death.
While many have explained that the anti-SARS protests are no more than a metaphor for the people’s frustration with all that is wrong with Nigeria; others insist that Nigerians shouldn’t lose sight of what generated the protests in the first place, namely unrequited police brutality.
According to MTCL President, Prince Onuakalusi, “the development calls for comprehensive police reform. Police reforms should not be in terms of legislative enactment or amendment. We have had enough of that. This is not a matter of legislation. All you need in the police now is retraining and reequipping the police, plus police welfare reforms in practical terms”.
“Did you know that some police officers have no accommodation. They live right inside the police stations. They sew their own uniforms, buy their own boots, kit themselves literally in order to do their job”.
“If you’re a police officer and you buy your own working kits, for which Government had made budgetary provision, don’t you think that recouping your money through taking of bribe on the road will be seen as fair enough? This is what promotes impunity and extortion among police officers”.
“They see the state as having abandoned them, hence they take their frustration on the citizens. Regardless, there members of the police force who are simply bad. Even if the best conditions of service are afforded them, that won’t stop them from being bad officers. Such policemen should be identified and profiled.”
He argues that the problem of poor funding of the police can readily be tackled. This can be done by holders of elective and appointive offices in the country subjecting their humongous remuneration to 50% slashing for the benefit of the police as an institution.
“Nigerian law-makers are the highest earning legislators in the world. A Senator in Nigeria earns more than a Senator in the US. So with the present agitation of the youths, I am of the firm view that all persons occupying elective and political appointive positions in Nigeria should have their salaries slashed by 50% and the proceed should be kept in the Sovereign Wealth Fund to be used for the funding of the Police Force,” he said.
“What you see as police brutality is as a result of the fact that police officers work under extremely difficult conditions. This is what goads them to inflict pains on Nigerians. With the rechanneling of this money extracted from politicians, police officers can be afforded basic welfare and modern policing equipment.”
Onuakalusi stressed that the recent disbandment of SARS is a good development that should be rendered permanent.
He suggested a local policing alternative to SARS, saying, “To the average Nigerian SARS is synonymous with murderous brutality. They represent oppression, impunity. SARS has been banned. That should be permanent.
“Now in Nigeria we have 774 local governments. Each of those LGs has Divisional Police Offices or headquarters. I am of the view that those DPO should be properly equipped in order to assist the police to discharge their role as crime-fighters and as protectors of the citizens because crime is local.
“With good welfare, the police officers will be able to do their best to fight crime and protect the citizens. With this the police will be able to nip in the bud criminal tendencies just when they’re budding, which is usually at the local level.
“When armed robbers are arrested, where do they take them? Is it not to the Divisional Police headquarters? So creating another SARS with a different name is just another way of continuing with the impunity.”
“The lawyer also proposed a single term of five years for holders of executive offices like the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors, saying it will prove a disincentive for corruption in public office”.
He said: “Every Constitution is determined by the demands and wants of the people. The constitution is a product of the people’s collective will. Therefore no two constitution should be the same because every nation has its peculiar circumstances and challenges”.
“In Nigeria, we transited from the parliamentary system of Government to the presidential. And the latter is very expensive to run. In Nigeria we have witnessed the sheer banditry of the state treasury by the governors who plunder the said treasury so they could have an adequate war chest to fight for re-election”.
“So, I’m strongly of the opinion that what is suited to Nigeria is a single tenure of five years for both president and Governors. I don’t know what a serious leadership cannot accomplish within five years. With that we will be able to save in terms of resources and save our democracy as well”.
“The single term of five years is the best for any serious political leadership that wants its name written in the sands of time or in the collective memory of the people because they’ll see the time limitation as one that constrains them to act expeditiously, make a name and leave the stage.
“The two term tenure is more of a disservice to Nigeria than a an incentive to good governance. And even when the politician manages to clinch the second term, they hardly use it to do anything. They just go to bed and relax.”
The proposal for term limit for members of state and federal legislature is old. Chiming in his contribution to the debate the lawyer said term limit for law makers is the way to go.
According to him, “There is the absolute need for power transition through the generational loops.
“Not a few of the law-makers you see today have been in the National Assembly since 1999. This is their 21st year in that position and have contributed nothing. Once you have a maximum four terms of a four year tenure, that will be an incentive for the young ones to aspire for public life.
“But when the young ones see that it’s still the same people that have been there for ages and might die there, they will rather deploy their talents for something else. Who loses? The country.
“The Senate or House shouldn’t be a retirement home for expired politician—a place where expired politicians go to collect all types of allowances, emoluments and benefits.”
He admits however that the foregoing submissions can only be put to effect by way of constitutional amendments. “It’s still a work in progress,” he said.