Fred Itua Ndubuisi Orji, Molly Kilete, Abuja and Tony John, Port Harcourt
The rage against operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) reechoed at the National Assembly, yesterday, as the Senate and the House of Representatives condemned their alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings and other violent crimes against Nigerians.
This came as the Police Service Commission (PSC) issued communication platforms for citizens to send complaints of misconduct against police officers in the course of their duties.
Debating a motion sponsored by Remi Tinubu, Senate said injustices and flagrant disregard for laws that govern the rights and freedoms of Nigerians and the constitution of Nigeria by the police unit and military must be investigated. It also ordered the arrest and prosecution of officials found culpable in the abuse of their positions.
SARS, a special department of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in charge of robberies, kidnappings and other related crimes, has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent weeks, with Nigerians mounting pressure on the Federal Government to scrap it following public outcry that its officials were involved in extrajudicial killings, extortion, harassment and intimidation of youths with laptops and mobile phones.
In response to the outcry, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, ordered the suspension of roadblocks and other activities of SARS across the country, pending when issues surrounding its operations were resolved.
Senator Tinubu in her submission had noted that Chapter 4 of the constitution provides for life to right, right to freedom of movement, among others.
“Nigeria is a signatory to the African charter of human and people’s right and the convention against torture. In spite of this, the culture of brutality by security operatives towards Nigerians have continued unabated. Nigerian youths can no longer move freely for fear that they will profiled and accused of being yahoo boys or fraudsters merely because they look good, own laptops, iPhones, nice looking cars or profiled as having dreads,” Tinubu said.
She said the Senate was concerned that with more Nigerian youths involved in software development, Fintech and doing more remote jobs in the ICT, profiling by policemen was inimical to their growth.
“Despite assurances by the IGP in 2015 and 2017 that there will be reforms of SARS, Nigerians are daily being abducted and extorted under duress with no mechanism in place for complaints. A militarised police will only make the people the enemy of the state. While the Nigerian army is doing good job in securing the territory against insurgents, allegations of human rights abuses by its officers cannot be overlooked,” she said.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said it was situation that should be properly investigated.
“Those involved in recent incidents should be arrested and prosecuted. The law should take its due course. This is not acceptable. Nigerians need to know what happened to those who have killed Nigerians.”
The Senate in its resolution mandated its committee on Police Affairs and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate allegations of extra judicial executions and make recommendations for reparationIt urged the various security agencies to establish hotlines to enable Nigerians report abuses by their agents and urged security agencies to establish a special bureau that monitors the conduct of its officers.
The Senate Committee on Police Affairs is to organise a stakeholders meeting to investigate implementation of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act.
There was also outrage in the House of Representatives over alleged cases of human rights abuses by SARS operatives.
The lawmakers, who spoke during a debate on a motion on the need to put an end to human right abuses by SARS decried the modus operandi of operatives of the anti-robbery squad and charged the IGP to bring an end to the menace immediately.
The lawmakers observed that most times it was difficult to differentiate between SARS operatives and armed robbers because of their dressing, saying the IGP cannot be absolved of blame in the excesses of the anti-robbery squad.
Meanwhile, Gbajabiamila has promised that the House would collaborate with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other concerned Nigeria to come up with new legislations to make police personnel accountable for their actions in the course of their duties.
Gbajabiamila stated this in reaction to the rising cases of police brutality against defenceless citizens across the country.
“Everyday throughout our country, interactions between the police and our citizens result in acts of horrific brutality, extortion, and retribution against the Nigerian people. Too many of the people we have assigned to protect our citizens have shown themselves unworthy of that calling. Their actions betray our trust and wreak unquantifiable damage on the already frayed fabric of our society.
“Unfortunately, many of those who have betrayed our trust in this manner are never answerable for their actions. At the heart of this fundamental failure lies the unavoidable truth that we do not have an independent framework for ensuring that members of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) are appropriately held to account when they fail to adhere to the policies and laws that govern their operations.
“We have long expected the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to police itself. It is now abundantly clear that this was the wrong call. For the benefit of a functioning system of policing in Nigeria, it is now necessary that parliament steps in to introduce an independent, fair and practical approach to ensure that those to whom we grant the authority to act in the name of the State, are held to the highest standards of professional conduct.
“Over the next 30 days, the House of Representatives will work with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), with civil society and with Nigerians of good conscience to draft new legislation that establishes a system of independent accountability that: holds erring members of the Police Force to account for their conduct in the performance of their duties and imposes civil and criminal liability for violations of the Police Code; and also compels the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to take responsibility for the failures of training and discipline that leads to such violations,” Gbajabiamila said.
PSC vows to deal with erring officers
Regardless, he Police Service Commission(PSC) has blamed the “madness” being displayed by operatives of SARS and other special units attached to the office of the IGP on lack of supervision by relevant supervisory police authorities.
It claimed that despite efforts put in place by the IGP and other government agencies to curb their menace, operatives of the squads have continued to harass and snuff life out of innocent Nigerians.
To this end, the commission said it would personably monitor activities of the squad and deal with erring officers who may want to continue in their old habits.
PSC’s head of press and public relations, Ikechukwu Ani, said in the statement the commission has created a platforms for Nigerian to send complaints on erring police officer.
“The Police Service Commission has the Constitutional mandate to discipline, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over officers in the Nigeria Police Force except the Inspector General of Police. This mandate, it will discharge without fear or favour.
“The Commission wishes to invite Nigerians to take advantage of the Commission’s communication platforms to send complaints on any Police officer found to be compromising on his/her rule of engagement. These Platforms are: Telephone (texts only) 07034072677; 07034072676; Email; [email protected]; twitter handle; @PoliceserviceC2 and Website; www.psc.gov.ng.”
Rivers’ CP constitute 5-man taskforce
Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command, Joseph Mukan, has constituted a five-man task team to enforce tIGP’s directive.
He constituted the team, yesterday, after a meeting with heads of the tactical units. He gave them a marching order to lecture their men or face the full weight of the law.
Members of the Enforcement Team were drawn from across the Command and would be headed by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Operations.
He appealed for cooperation and support to realise total branding and reformation of the FSARS, STS, IRT and other tactical units.