After more than a week of protest, the steam of the EndSARS campaign is showing no signs of dying down as more and more youths troop to the streets to tender their demands.
The protest which started as a cry by the public to stop brutalisation by the “defunct” rogue police unit known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has evolved into a movement calling for deep police reform.
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Some of the demands of protesters include immediate disbandment of the squad and far-reaching reforms including increased funding for police officers, justice for those kill by the squad and accountability.
While the SARS unit has been disbanded by the IGP and replaced, quite unsatisfactorily with a new unit called SWAT, most of the other requests are yet to be met. Examining the root problems of the EndSARS protest, a group of young Nigerians including tech leaders and policy analysts have come up with tech ideas that could help solve them.
Below are some of the ideas the group came up with including possible pros and cons of the initiative.
1. Decentralised Civilian Monitoring of Police Behaviour/ Citizen Powered Sanctions
While discussing police brutality – the root cause of the EndSARS protest, the group came up with an idea of a platform that crowdsources information on police officers who abuse the rights of citizens while carrying out their duties.
The information provided by the platform will have vetting channels anchored by a structured organisation as well as escalation to the Police Complaints Unit, legal authorities and other institutions for further action.
The monitoring platform can go a long way in curtailing police brutality as it helps better shed lights on many dark practices. However, if good justice for prosecuting those guilty isn’t in place its effect can become minimal.
2. Raid of Police Cells by the Magistrate Court
Apart from brutality, the arrest and detaining of innocent Nigerians is another major offence the Nigeria Police Force has been accused of. There have been many eye witness accounts of such incidents and the group opined that a routine check of cells by the Magistrate court can help reduce such cases.
A platform that raises alarm and informs the magistrate when citizens are unduly kept in custody based on a whistleblower account is needed. It added that the platform will include a register to ascertain cells that have been visited by judicial officers.
This kind of platform will save many innocent Nigerians the pain of another but the platform depends more on the Magistrate taking actions they haven’t been readily doing.
3. Central Arrested Persons’ Database
Another idea that could help reduce the arrest of innocent Nigerians is a unified database of arrested persons in Nigeria. The database will make it easy to know which police station and officer to hold responsible for people within their custody. It will also make it difficult for people to just go missing in police custody without any form of accountability.
Adewale Fajana, a lawyer believes that the Central Arrests Database can be a key component in criminal justice administration for ending Police Brutality via suspects tracing and improve Modern Policing through trends analysis, suspects identification, serial crimes watch
Asides that it will also prevent criminals from escaping even if they travel to another part of the country.
4. Automated Contact Centre/ Distress App
Following up on the initial ideas to help reduce Police brutality and detention of innocents, the idea of a coordinated hotline that citizens can call beyond the Police hotlines in case of abuse was also suggested.
The call centre will have IVR functionalities that are easily available through accessible channels like social media, SMS, apps and others.
With the current situation, the contact centre is a welcome idea that will help many, especially the less privileged who find themselves in tight spots with the police. However, if the Nigerian people are able to get the police reforms they are asking for such a platform might not be necessary.
Finding law enforcement at the right time can save lives especially in emergencies. However, many Nigerians have no idea of how to contact the police without visiting a station.
To solve this, the group proposed a platform that maps all police stations with regularly updated phone numbers of Divisional Police Officers and other key officers within the neighbourhood.
The innovation can significantly help in reducing Police response time, however, the effectiveness of the platform is dependent on the police. According to BudgIT, a similar platform they created in 2015 had weakened owing to poor institutional response. This means that the Police have shown no commitment to the platform to make it work.
6. Missing Persons’ List
Every now and then we see pictures of missing people either on TV or social media. While some are found, many others are never found. Although its the job of the police to find missing persons the lack of Advanced CCTV coverage across the country means crowdsourcing of information is the fastest way to find a missing person.
Whether the person was kidnapped or arrested illegally by SARS, a website/app that has unified and open national “missing persons’ list” makes it easy to document people who are missing across the country.
This makes it easier to crowdsource information about the missing person.
The list may come from multiple sources but largely from the verified list of missing persons reported at police stations across the country. Whenever such persons are found, they are taken off the list or “FOUND” is placed beside their names.
The only drawback with this idea is that it needs full Police cooperation to reach its full potential. A growing list of missing persons without resources to find them is redundant.
7. Enforcement of Judgements
On the few occasions where citizens have gotten judgements against the federal or state government on police brutality, there have been reports the enforcements are a slow and tedious process.
Timothy Okiakpe, a legal practitioner revealed that in 2012 he had a N5m judgement against the Police but could not enforce it because of the Treasury Single Account and the consent from the Attorney General of the federation.
To ease the process, the group came up with the idea of an integrated platform that curates all judgements against the government and status of payments, integrated with an institutional response.
The Good Cops
While the protest has been all about the bad in the Police force, there has also been good. This idea hopes to shed light of sacrifices and heroics by cops.
The group looking a platform that delivers reports to the public on the ‘good guys, thereby improving the civil relationship between the people and the police. While this is a good idea, I think a new platform isn’t needed. The police can easily leverage social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to boost PR.
The Police Trust Fund – TRACKA
The Police Trust Fund (PTF) was created in June 2019 for the retraining of police officers, construction of police stations, purchase of equipment, and more. However, not much has been done, neither does the general public know much about the fund.
The group suggests a website that monitors the state of the Police Trust Fund by answering: what is the PTF? What is it supposed to achieve? What has it achieved? How are the funds disbursed? There may also be deep investigations into how the fund has been used by the Nigerian Police Force.
Following the #EndSARS protest, the Inspector-General of Police revealed a five-year plan of action for the transformation of the police force. However, It is important that beyond the protests, there should be accountability on what happens to the PTF and that can be provided by the website.
Tracking Government Promises/ 5FOR5 Demands
If the SARS issue is to go by, the Nigerian Government has the habit of saying things on paper without field implementation. The group came up with the idea of an app or platform that can track promises like the 5for5 made by the government until it is delivered.
The platform will be providing updates to young people and through leaders such as Feminist Coalition, EiE and other civic groups.
The current state of the Police force has left many undesirable consequences on the Nigerian youths. The habitual trend of unfulfilled promises made by the government makes this worse as many no longer believe the words of their leaders.
According to the group, only decentralised ownership can accelerate policing reforms required for the Nigerian society. While this might be true, some of the ideas still need active government participation to be successful.
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