Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday approved the establishment of state and local government police.
This is even as he has approved the the dismissal of 37 police officers as recommended by the National Human Rights Commission Presidential Special Panel on Sars Reforms.
President Buhari directed at 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 with the Commission to work out the modalities for the implementation of the Report within threemonths from today.”
Shortly, after, the Presidency made a U-turn, saying no approval had been given for state and council police.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Buhari only requested that the report be studied and a white paper produced within three months.
“President Buhari’s specific directive is that a three-man panel be set up to produce the white paper.
“The report of the white paper committee will form the basis of the decisions of the government on the many recommendations, including the setting up of state and local government police made by the Ojukwu panel.
“Until a white paper is produced, it will be premature and pre-emptive to suggest that the recommendations contained in the report have been approved by the President in part or whole.”
The 1999 Constitution (amended) at Chapter VI (B), Sub-section 214 (1) does not recognise state or council police as it said: ‘There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section, no other force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.’
Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission and Chairman Presidential Panel on SARS Reform, Anthony Ojukwu, had 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 wil 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.
Ojukwu said 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.
“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.