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Presidential panel recommends state, LG police

The Presidential Panel on Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force has recommended the establishment of state and local government police.

Mr Tony Ojukwu, Chairman of Panel/ Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), disclosed this when the panel submitted its report to President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The panel also recommended the dismissal of 37 police officers and 24 for prosecution.

Buhari, had in Aug. 14, 2018 directed NHRC to constitute a Special Panel to investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuse of office against SARS and the Nigeria Police Force.

The panel was also mandated to recommend the reform or restructuring among other appropriate recommendations to improve public safety and security in the country.

Ojukwu said that the panel was accordingly constituted and comprised representatives of relevant institutions.

He said that the Panel called for and received 113 complaints on alleged human rights violations from across the country and 22 memoranda on suggestions on how to reform and restructure SARS and the Nigeria Police in general.

Ojukwu said that the panel sat in the six geo-political zones of the country to afford complainants and the police the opportunity to present and defend the allegations.

“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 was 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.”

He said that the police was 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 illegal takeover of Property of a suspect).

The chairman said that the panel also recovered two vehicles illegally auctioned by SARS Officers and returned them to their owners.

He listed some of the other key recommendations of the panel to include:
“Significant improvement in the funding, kitting and facilities of the Nigeria Police Force; strengthening Information and Communication Technology of the Force.

“Establishment of State and local government police.; institutionalising a Special Investigation Panel to annually hear and determine complaints on alleged human rights violations against operations of the Nigeria Police Force;

“Strengthening the Police Rapid Response Complaints Unit of the Nigeria Police and other internal complaints mechanisms of the Force to make
them more responsive.

“Renaming the Special Anti—Robbery Squad (SARS) to Anti-Robbery Section (ARS) which was its original name and to make the section operate under the intelligence arm of the Police from the divisional, area command, state command, zonal command up to the Force Headquarters level.

”This will also remove the stigma presently associated with the name SARS.

“Ensuring the ARS limits itself to tackling armed robbery while other intelligence and operational units are strengthened to perform their various special tasks.”

Buhari said the panel was constituted as a result of public outcry and various media reports on allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by officers and men of SARS.

He said that reforming the Nigeria Police Force in line with Nigeria’s laws and international best practices had been one of the major policies of the administration.

“In order to reposition the Nigeria Police Force to effectively carry out its statutory responsibilities, I have taken major steps by increasing the workforce of the Nigeria Police as well as improving the welfare of Police officers, because they put their lives on the front line on a daily basis so that the rest of us may freely go about our business in safety.

“However, in carrying out their statutory responsibilities, the police must at all times act within the ambit of the law and must not violate the fundamental human rights of Nigerians whom they have sworn to protect.

“Where the rights of Nigerians are violated by police officers while discharging their functions, the government has a responsibility to address the instances of violation in line with its human rights obligations and ensure that such Police Officers are held accountable for their actions.

“It is in recognition of our obligations under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and International Human Rights Laws, that this Administration decided to set up this Presidential Panel and directed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to constitute its membership in order to investigate the various public outcries and media reports alleging human rights violations against citizens by officers of SARS.

“The panel was empowered to make appropriate recommendations not just for holding Police Officers found wanting accountable, but also, on ways SARS and by extension, the Nigeria Police could be generally reformed,’’ he said.

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