Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Senate passes bill to compensate EndSARS victims

A report from PUNCH newspaper has it that the Nigerian Senate, on Wednesday, passed for second reading, a bill seeking to compensate victims of the 2020 EndSARS protest.

The EndSARS movement started in October 2020, when thousands of mainly young Nigerians took to the streets to protest against police brutality, particularly by the now-disbanded brutal Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit.

The peaceful protest went on for days across major cities in the country until it was hijacked by hoodlums, leading to involvement of the military, particularly in Lagos, which was the epicentre of the protest.

On the night of October 20, 2020, following a curfew declared by the Lagos State Government, arms-bearing soldiers stormed the Lekki tollgate to disperse a large crowd of protesters congregated there.

The military intervention was trailed with wide allegations of extrajudicial killings and shooting of protesters, which the military denied.

Amnesty International, which accused the military of extrajudicial killing, said in a report that at least 12 people were killed during the EndSARS protests, while dozens were injured.

Consequently, many states set up independent panels to probe rights violations by the police unit and other units of the Nigerian police.

In Abuja, the National Human Rights Commission was saddled with the responsibility of conducting the probe.

The bill, titled “A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Emergency Management Agency Act,” was sponsored by Senator Gershom Bassey (Peoples Democratic Party, Cross-River State).

Bassey, in his lead debate, said the bill seeks to provide for the establishment of EndSARS Victims Compensation Fund.

He said, “Distinguished colleagues, you may recall that as a result of the EndSARS nationwide protests in October 2020, judicial panels of inquiry were constituted to address the demands of protesters and compensation for verified victims of the EndSARS protest.

“The findings of the judicial panels of inquiry and the Senate Joint Committee on #EndSARS revealed the killing of protesters, destruction of private and public properties by rampaging hoodlums, who seized and took over the protest, vandalising and looting valuable assets.

“However, the implementation of the recommendations of all the panels and committees regarding compensation has been very discouraging.”

According to the lawmaker, the victims have been left to continually groan under the pains of injury inflicted by hoodlums during the protest.

He said the eventual establishment of the fund and implementation of the recommendation of the judicial panel of inquiry and Senate Joint Committee on EndSARS would bring succour to the victims.

“Mr President, distinguished colleagues, it is my prayer that you support this amendment bill that seeks to bring hope to the victims of the 2020 EndSARS protest,” Bassey said.

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