Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says the plan of both the federal and state governments on police reform will be a game-changer in ensuring an end to impunity.
The plan includes investigating police brutality as well as providing compensation to victims of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Friday in Abuja, said that the vice president made the pledge on Thursday when he received a delegation of the U.S. government at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The delegation comprises the U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Bob Destro; U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau for Conflict Stabilisation Operations Denise Natali; the Counselor of the U.S. Department of State, Thomas Brechbuhl.
The Charge d’Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Kathleen FitzGibbon and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, were also at the meeting.
According to the Vice President, no fewer than 13 states including Lagos State, have established judicial panels “to seek justice and compensate those whose rights have been breached.”
Osinbajo said that President Muhammadu Buhari had already supported the decisions of the National Economic Council (NEC).
NEC on Oct. 12 called for the immediate establishment of state-based judicial panels of inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, in efforts to deliver justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units.
Osinbajo said that NEC also agreed on the provision of monetary compensation to victims and prosecution of erring officers.
While responding to the concerns of the U.S. government on instances of impunity in the country, the vice president noted that the efforts were part of the Federal Government’s commitment to implementing extensive police reforms.
He added that the establishment of judicial panels of inquiry nationwide would further ensure that the police and other security agencies were repositioned to protect the human rights of citizens.
“The concerns around impunity are some of the concerns that informed the establishment of judicial panels of inquiry across states. Each state is now required to establish a judicial inquiry that will look into cases of impunity, excessive use of force, extrajudicial killings, especially by law enforcement agents.
“Aside from two representatives of Civil Society groups, these judicial panels will have youth representatives and a representative from the National Human Rights Commission, among others.
“Each State is also required to have what is called the Special Security and Human Rights Committee to ensure that law enforcement and security agencies protect the Human Rights of citizens.
“Government is paying attention; the point we are making is that protests are a means to an end, but they cannot be the end; we are very optimistic that what we have put in place would eventually yield the best possible results for us,” he said.
The vice president also highlighted what he termed false narratives about Nigeria, including the herder-farmer crisis, especially in the north-central states and the politics behind the allegations.
Osinbajo said the herder-farmer crisis was exacerbated mainly because of struggle for land and resources, rather than from the misinterpreted Christians-versus-Muslim narrative.
Members of the U.S. delegation from Washington DC. offered to collaborate with the Federal Government in efforts to tackle the issues, a suggestion welcomed by the Vice President, with the hope that such cooperation would create better understanding of the issues.