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Sanwo-Olu sets up trust fund for SARS victims

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

In response to the yearning of Lagosians, the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has set up a trust fund to assist residents that suffered brutality and extra-judicial actions committed by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a dissolved tactical unit in the Nigeria Police Force.

Sanwo-Olu said that the fund would be used by the government to compensate families of the victims of brutality and extra-judicial actions perpetrated by the officers.

The governor made the development known while addressing youths led by Nollywood actors, music artistes, and comedians protesting against SARS’ excessiveness at the State House in Alausa, Ikeja.

According to him, the process of managing and disbursing the funds will be completely supervised by Civil Society Organisation (CSO) appointed by members of the public.

Sanwo-Olu, who reiterated that he identified with the protesters in their campaign against police brutality, pleaded with the aggrieved youths not to undermine the legitimacy of their grievances by being violent and destructive, just as he received a communique that detailed their five-point demands and expectations from the leadership.

After receiving the protesters’ demand, Sanwo-Olu said that the state government would be addressing three of the protesters’ demands that are within the purview of the State and vowed to engage the President and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) on the remaining demands.

The Governor said he would continue to engage the Federal Government to initiate reforms that will bring about the police force that will protect and respect the rights of the citizens.

He said: “I understand a lot of youths have been battered and maimed by the people who are supposed to protect you. I understand you all are feeling the pain of brutality, which is why you have been taking to streets to express your disappointment. Your voice has been heard loudly and actions have been taken from the highest office in the land to address your grievances. It is time for us to move forward and engage further on your demands.

“There is a five-point demand which you have submitted to us today. You demanded the release of all protesters arrested on Monday. All of them have been released unconditionally. You demanded we set up a meeting that will lead to the process of getting justice and compensation for the victims of SARS brutality. I have instructed the Ministry of Youth and Social Development to set up a panel of inquiry ASAP that will get justice for the victims.

“We request that any citizen who has had a fatal encounter with SARS in Lagos to come forward and bring their cases to the panel. We will get justice for them. I have also set up a trust fund for the compensation of all victims of SARS brutality. For those who have died, we will be reaching out to their families. We request you (the protesters) to appoint your representatives into the panel and the Trust Fund for transparency.”

The Governor said the fourth and fifth points in the protesters’ demands, which border on police reform and improved remuneration for police officers across the country were not in the purview of the State. He, however, promised to personally deliver the message to President Buhari and the IGP.

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