Senate Unanimously Passes Bill for Compensation of #EndSARS Protest Victims
In a significant development, the Senate passed a bill for second reading on Wednesday, aiming to provide compensation for the victims of the 2020 #EndSARS protest. The #EndSARS movement, which commenced in October 2020, witnessed a wave of protests led by Nigerian youth demanding an end to police brutality, particularly perpetrated by the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit.
The initially peaceful demonstrations spanned major cities across the country. However, the protests took an unfortunate turn when they were infiltrated by hoodlums, leading to the involvement of the military, particularly in Lagos, which served as the epicenter of the protest.
On the fateful night of October 20, 2020, as a response to a curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government, armed soldiers were deployed to disperse a large crowd of protesters gathered at the Lekki tollgate. The military intervention sparked allegations of extrajudicial killings and the shooting of demonstrators, which the military vehemently denied. Amnesty International’s report claimed that at least 12 individuals lost their lives during the #EndSARS protests, with dozens sustaining injuries.
Subsequently, several states established independent panels to investigate human rights violations committed by the disbanded SARS unit and other branches of the Nigerian police.
The bill titled “A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Emergency Management Agency Act” was introduced by Senator Gershom Bassey of the Peoples Democratic Party, representing Cross-River State. The proposed legislation seeks to establish the #EndSARS Victims Compensation Fund.
During his lead debate, Senator Bassey reminded his colleagues of the nationwide #EndSARS protests and the formation of judicial panels of inquiry to address the protesters’ demands and compensate verified victims of the demonstrations. He emphasized that the panels and the Senate Joint Committee on #EndSARS had uncovered evidence of protesters being killed and widespread destruction of private and public property by unruly hoodlums who had hijacked the peaceful movement.
However, he expressed disappointment at the lackluster implementation of the recommendations put forth by the panels and committees regarding compensation. According to Senator Bassey, the victims continue to suffer from the injuries inflicted upon them by the hoodlums during the protests.
Establishing the compensation fund and implementing the recommendations of the judicial panel of inquiry and the Senate Joint Committee on #EndSARS, Senator Bassey asserted, would provide much-needed relief to the victims.
In conclusion, Senator Bassey appealed to his colleagues, saying, “It is my prayer that you support this amendment bill that seeks to bring hope to the victims of the 2020 #EndSARS protest.”
The passing of this bill by the Senate represents a crucial step toward acknowledging the grievances of those affected by the #EndSARS protests and providing them with the compensation they deserve. As the legislative process continues, the focus remains on remedying the injustices suffered by the victims and fostering a sense of justice and healing within the Nigerian society.