Human rights group calls for support and implementation of SARS panel report; commends panel, President on State/LG police, others

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The Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER) has commended what it described as the bold and assertive recommendations of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and has called for support for its implementation.

CASER, in a statement by its Executive Director, Barrister Frank Tietie, said the recommendations would go a long way in addressing the horrendous human rights violations of the past by the police and enhance the establishment of a new law enforcement paradigm that would give priority to the protection of peoples’ fundamental human rights above everything else.

Among others, the panel endorsed the creation of States and Local Government Police, a suggestion that has been on the front burner to tackle growing insecurity.

The panel also recommended the dismissal of 37 policemen accused violating the rights of Nigerians.

The panel, which received 113 complaints across Nigeria, investigated them and arrived at the conclusions and recommendations, before submitting its report last Monday.

The panel’s head and Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Anthony Ojukwu, while submitting its report to President Muhammadu Buhari, added, “At the end of its public hearing and having listened to complaints as well as defendants and their counsel, the Panel recommended thirty-seven (37) Police officers for dismissal from the force. Twenty four (24) were recommended for prosecution.

“The panel also directed the Inspector General of Police to unravel the identity of twenty-two (22) officers involved in the violation of the human rights of innocent Citizens.

“The police were directed to pay compensation of various sums in forty—five (45) complaints and tender public apologies in five (5) complaints and directed to obey court orders in five (5) matters.

“The police were directed to immediately arrest and prosecute two (2) retired senior Police officers found to have violated the rights of citizens (one for extra-judicial killing and the other for the illegal takeover of Property of a suspect). The Panel also recovered two vehicles illegally auctioned by SARS Officers and returned them to their owners.”

CASER commended the members of the Panel for their forthrightness in holding impartial, independent and dispassionate views and positions on the various cases they reviewed and in making those recommendations to the President, clearly in the national interest.

The recommendations of the Panel, particularly with regards to the establishment of state and local government police, The human rights group said, are most commendable considering the growing insecurity, increasing violations of the right to life and the need for closer and more direct accountability of the police to the people and communities that they protect.

CASER adds: “The contradiction of Section 215 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where a State Governor’s directives to a state commissioner of police are subjected to operational clearance from the Inspector General of Police in Abuja, makes the State Governor to be practically impotent in discharging his political responsibility of protecting the people of a state. True political power is in the control of some measure of force to ensure coercion and compliance to law, policies and aspirations of a people at all levels of the federating units. Therefore, State Police should indeed, be established to give true political power to State Governors who are to exercise it in public trust, according to the law. This paradigm shift will quickly provide the many sided solution oriented approaches in response to the security crisis currently facing Nigeria.”

The group commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his initial positive disposition in giving a short period of three (3) months in ensuring that the NHRC, the Solicitor-General, the Police and other relevant government agencies work to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the Panel.

“This is a highly welcomed and responsive development on the part of the President to a crucial issue that will increase his goodwill among the greater number of Nigerians irrespective of their political, religious or ethnic divides” it said.

It pledged, as a responsible group, to work with the NHRC to galvanize citizens’ support for the actualization of the recommendations of the Panel.

CASER called on all other CSOs/NGOs to seize the opportunity offered by the President Buhari-led administration to ensure that proper police reforms are carried out by the government in order to guarantee security and protection of the human rights of Nigerians.

“To the above end, CASER calls on the Okechukwu Nwanguma led Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) to mobilize a coalition CSOs/NGOs to educate the citizenry on the benefits of implementing the Panel’s recommendation on State Police. Such a CSO coalition must work with the National Assembly and the various State Houses Assembly, to ensure that the Nigerian Constitution is amended speedily, to make way for the establishment of State Police in Nigeria” the statement added.

CASER observed that the quality of police service of a country is the most significant barometer in measuring the quality of socioeconomic life of a people who are governed by law. “We cannot continue to afford a dysfunctional police system that fails the peoples’ expectations of a society that guarantees peace, security and protection of basic human rights”, it said.

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