Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday approved the establishment of state and local government police.
This is even as he has approved the dismissal of 37 police officers as recommended by the National Human Rights Commission Presidential Special Panel on SARS reforms.
President Buhari directed that the submission of report of the presidential panel on the reform of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), of the Nigeria Police, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that the implementation of the right recommendations be carried out within three months.
He said: “I want to thank the panel once more, and hereby direct that since the recommendations of the commission that constituted the panel are enforceable as decisions of the court, that the Inspector General of Police and the Solicitor General of the Federation/Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice meet the commission to work out the modalities for the implementation of the report within three months from today.”
The Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission and Chairman Presidential Panel on SARS Reform, Anthony Ojukwu, listed the panel recommendations 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; and institutionalising a Special Investigation Panel to annually hear and determine complaints on alleged human rights violations against operations of the Nigeria Police Force.
Others are “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, and ensuring the ARS limits itself to tackling armed robbery while other intelligence and operational units are strengthened to perform their various special tasks.
According to Ojukwu, the panel 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.
He said: “At the end of its public hearing and having listened to complaints as well as defendants and their counsel, the panel recommended 37 police officers for dismissal from the force. Twenty four were recommended for prosecution.
“The panel also directed the Inspector General of Police to unravel the identity of 22 officers involved in the violation of the human rights of innocent citizens.
“The police was directed to pay compensation of various sums in 45 complaints and tender public apologies in ﬁve complaints and directed to obey court orders in ﬁve matters.
“The police was directed to immediately arrest and prosecute two retired senior police officers who were 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 panel also recovered two vehicles illegally auctioned by SARS officers and returned them to their owners.”
Some other key recommendations of the panel include “signiﬁcant improvement in the funding, kitting and facilities of the Nigeria
Police Force; strengthening of Information and Communication Technology of the force; establishment of state and local government police.”
Other panel members include Tijani Mohammed, Police Service Commission; David I. Shagba, Public Complaints Commission; Hashimu Argungu, Deputy Inspector General of Police (rtd); Professor Etanibi Alemika, University of Jos; Chino Obiagwu, Human Rights Agenda Network; Ms Iyabode Ogunseye, Nigerian Bar Association and Abdulrahman Ayinde Yakubu, National Human Rights Commission,