• Directs probe of alleged rights violations of the squad
Christopher Oji and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, to overhaul the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) with immediate effect. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the Vice President), Laolu Akande, said the directive followed the persistent complaints and reports on the activities of SARS that border on allegations of human rights violations.
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He said Osinbajo has directed the IGP to overhaul the management and activities of SARS and ensure that any unit that emerges from the process will be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.
The statement added: “The Acting President has also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to international human rights law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects. The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.
“In the meantime, the Acting President has directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a special panel that will conduct an investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS, in order to afford members of the general public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.” Meanwhile, Idris has assured Nigerians that the Nigerian Police was repositioning, especially the SARS, to meet international standards of policing.
The IGP, who was speaking at an event co-hosted with pop music star, Korede Bello, also urged Nigerians to partner with the force to reform and reposition SARS. Idris, who was represented by Assistant IGP in charge of Zone 2, Ibrahim Adamu, said that all the outcry and complaints against SARS were noted with seriousness and were being handled.
Adamu said members of the public were in a better position to know the atrocities being committed by police personnel: “I am not talking of SARS alone, I am talking of the conventional police, MOPOL and others. These people interface with you daily. They may see me or any senior officer coming and they behave as if nothing was wrong. It was through the #EndSARS struggle that we were able to know what was going on with SARS and the public. We need your assistance. Always report your experiences and this will help us in reforming the force.”
While expressing his pleasure about the partnership with the musician, he warned commanders of SARS: “Dress properly, do not wear earrings, do not wear dreadlocks and tartars. They must stop harassing innocent youths and stop searching their phones. They must respect human rights.”
Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, who was at the event, commended the Korede Bello Initiative for Police Accountability and reassured Nigerians that the reform of the SARS would soon yield positive results.