Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said he deeply regrets the silence of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration on police brutality.
Since October 3, young Nigerians have been protesting across the country against the reign of terror of now-dismantled Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force.
But President Buhari and the members of his government went silent for days and refused to address demonstrators directly. When the government finally responded, the protests had gone viral and decentralised with no clear voice to call them off.
But Osinbajo has now issued a rare apology.
“Dear Nigerians,” the Vice President began in a Twitter thread on Friday, “I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so. We could’ve moved faster and for this we are sorry.
“I fully understand how many young people feel. Many feel that we have been too silent and have simply not done enough. These feelings of frustration are justified.
“There are far too many people who have been brutalised at the hands of the police and this is unacceptable. We must take responsibility for protecting young people, even sometimes from those who are paid to protect them.
“Over the past week, we have been following the protests, and I have had a number of discussions with key people in the administration that you deserve to be informed about. Transparency, after all, is a key tenet of government.
“We understand that you want to see action from us and I’m here to tell you that work is ongoing. I chaired a meeting of 36 state governors and the Minister of the FCT (NEC), where we resolved to set up judicial panels of inquiry so we can see justice served, and fast.
“The reason being that only state governors, by law, can set up judicial inquiries in their states. The hearings will be public.”
Osinbajo also sent condolences to the families of Jimoh Isiaq, a protester killed on Sunday, and all those who had lost their lives “at the hands of wayward police officers.”
“To those injured, I wish a full and speedy recovery. We have proposed that each state government set up a Victims’ Support Fund, which the Nigerian government will support. This is the least that we can do to compensate for the injustice suffered at the hands of errant officers.
“We also understand that the issues that you’re raising are bigger than just SARS. They’re deep and systemic and we’re undertaking comprehensive measures that will revamp the police by addressing issues of welfare, service conditions and training.”