A civil society organisation, Human Rights Society, HRS, has called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to urgently implement the recommendations of the presidential panel on the reorganization of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, arm of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF.
The call followed the alleged extra-judicial killings of innocent Nigerians by men of the Police Force.
In a statement by its President, Moses Adamu, HRSA urged the IGP to, “as a matter of urgency see to the full implementation of the Presidential Panel on the reformation of SARS in a bid to see to the sustenance of peace and tranquillity in the country.”
The statement reads: “Human Rights Society for All is appalled with the brazen disregard for the rights of innocent Nigerians who go about their normal businesses by policemen who continually harass them through acts of extortion and intimidation. This much was the case that eventually led to the nationwide protest calling for an end to the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the country.
“The recent event that trailed the death of Kolade Johnson following wounds sustained from bullets fired by police officers during a raid in his neighbourhood in Lagos is just an example of how brutal and insensitive the operatives of SARS have been.
“The Human Rights Society for All wishes to states that over the years, SARS has earned a notorious reputation of a brutal agency following cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, abuse of detainees, and extortion of suspects.
“The activities of the Nigeria Police have also raised a huge question mark in the country in recent times. Besides arresting indiscriminately, frequently, Police officers detain suspects for several weeks without arraigning them in court, which is against the 48 hours’ detainment period allowed and stipulated by the constitution. Worse still, they do not let detainees see any relatives or even their lawyers. Also, regardless of the provision of a free bail policy by the Nigerian Police rarely release suspects for free but extort them and their relatives.
“This is the same case for countless ordinary Nigerians attempting to make ends meet as taxi drivers, market traders, and shopkeepers are accosted daily by armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them. Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm.
“Meanwhile, victims of crime are obliged to pay the police from the moment they enter a police station to file a complaint until the day their case is brought before a court. In the shadows, high-level police officials embezzle staggering sums of public funds meant to cover basic police operations. Senior police officers also enforce a perverse system of “returns” in which rank-and-file officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command a share of the money they extort from the public.
“Also, those charged with police oversight, discipline, and reform has for years failed to take effective action, thereby reinforcing impunity for police officers of all ranks who regularly perpetrate crimes against the citizens they are mandated to protect.
“The police frequently extort money from the public. However, the most common avenue for extortion occurs at police roadblocks, ostensibly put in place to combat crime. In practice, these checkpoints have become a lucrative criminal venture for the police who routinely demand bribes from drivers and passengers alike, in some places enforcing a de facto standardized toll.
“The police commonly round up citizens in public places, including mass arrests at restaurants, markets, and bus stops. In some cases of blatant deception, plainclothes police officers masquerade as commuter minibus drivers, pick up unsuspecting passengers at bus stops, and take them at gunpoint to nearby police stations where they demand money in return for their release.
“The Human Rights Society for All believes that if urgent steps are not taken to curtail the nefarious activities of the Nigerian Police the country might wake up one morning and see police officers aiding and abetting criminal gangs at the detriment of national interest.
“The Human Rights Society for All wishes to state in unequivocal terms that the atrocities committed by police officers across the country are inimical to the growth and development of Nigeria, and as such it must be curtailed by the relevant stakeholders.
“The Inspector-General of Police must as a matter of urgency see to the full implementation of the Presidential Panel on the reformation of SARS in a bid to see to the sustenance of peace and tranquility in the country.”
The group also alleged that, “some highly placed individuals are benefiting from the malaise in the Nigerian Police Force. However, it is instructive to state that it would be counterproductive for any country to carry on in this fashion and experience any meaningful development.”
The body also notified the Inspector General of Police that the “onus lies on him to be able to rise to the occasion and ensure that reforms are carried out in the Nigerian Police Force.”
The statement added: “The Inspector-General of Police must also see to the full implementation of the Presidential Panel on the reorganization of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in line with globally accepted standards.
“The Inspector-General of Police must as a matter of necessity begin the process of reorientation of officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force if it is desirous of making a mark in his tenure as the Inspector General of Police.
“The Inspector-General of Police must bring to an end police extortion and brutality to protect the rights and privileges of innocent Nigerians from falling victims to police highhandedness and insensitivity.
“The Inspector-General of Police must ensure those police officers found wanting in the discharge of their duties are punished according to the stipulations of the law.
“The Human Rights Society for All concludes that the activities of officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force have not reflected any positive contribution to the security of lives and properties in the country, but instead, it has brought tears, sorrows, and blood.
“This act of police brutality must stop in the overall interest of the country. Nigerian taxpayers do not pay for them to be molested, harassed, and subjected to all forms of ill-treatment. However, instead, they pay to be protected by the Nigerian Police Force, and so shall it be.”