Presidential panel on SARS reform recommends establishment of State, local govt police and dismissal of 37 police officers

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Tony Ojukwu(L), President Buhari (R)

A panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari has recommended the establishment of ‘state and local government Police.’

The panel, set up by Mr Buhari in August 2018, submitted its report on Monday.

The ‘Presidential Panel on SARS Reform (2018)’ was headed by the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu. Other members included representatives of the Police Service Commission, Public Complaints Commission, Inspector General of Police and others.

Tony Ojukwu said the establishment would assist in addressing the security challenges in the country.

Ojukwu disclosed that the panel received 113 complaints on alleged human rights violations from across the country and 22 memoranda of 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 thirty-seven (37) Police officers for dismissal from the force. Twenty four (24) were recommended for prosecution.

”The panel also directed the Inspector General of Police to unravel the identity of twenty-two (22) officers involved in the violation of the human rights of innocent Citizens.

“The police was directed to pay compensation of various sums in forty—five (45) complaints and tender public apologies in five (5) complaints and directed to obey court orders in five (5) matters.

“The Police was directed to immediately arrest and prosecute two (2) retired senior Police officers found to have violated the rights of citizens (one for extra-judicial killing and the other for an 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 Information and Communication Technology of the Force; Establishment of State and local government Police.”

President Buhari, Tony Ojuwku, IGP Adamu and others(L-R)

Responding, President Buhari said “I am very pleased to receive you all on this occasion of the presentation of the Report of the Presidential Panel on SARS Reform, which was constituted as a result of public outcry and various media reports on allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by officers and men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)”.

See the rest of his statement below…

  1. Reforming and repositioning the Nigeria Police Force to be more effective and efficient in safeguarding lives and properties, apprehending offenders and generally improving the internal security of our Nation in line with our laws and international best practices has been one of the major policies of this Administration.
  2. In order to reposition the Nigeria Police Force to effectively carry out its statutory responsibilities, I have taken major steps by increasing the workforce of the Nigeria Police as well as improving the welfare of Police officers, because they put their lives on the front line on a daily basis so that the rest of us may freely go about our business in safety.
  3. However, in carrying out their statutory responsibilities, the Police must at all times act within the ambit of the law and must not violate the fundamental human rights of Nigerians whom they have sworn to protect.
  4. Where the rights of Nigerians are violated by Police Officers while discharging their functions, the Government has a responsibility to address the instances of violation in line with its human rights obligations and ensure that such Police Officers are held accountable for their actions.
  5. It is in recognition of our obligations under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and International Human Rights Laws, that this Administration decided to set up this Presidential Panel and directed the National Human Rights Commission to constitute its membership in order to investigate the various public outcries and media reports alleging human rights violations against citizens by officers of SARS.
  6. The panel was empowered to make appropriate recommendations not just for holding Police Officers found wanting accountable, but also, on ways SARS and by extension, the Nigeria Police could be generally reformed.
  7. The decision directing the National Human Rights Commission to constitute the membership of the Panel and to take the lead in investigating the said allegations of human rights violation, was borne out of the mandate of the National Human Rights Commission which include the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights in Nigeria as enshrined under sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act, 1995 (as amended).
  8. It is also in recognition of the fact that the decisions, determinations and recommendations of the Commission are binding and enforceable as provided under section 22 of the NHRC Act, 1995 (as amended).
  9. I am very happy with the work of the Panel and thank the Panel members for working hard towards the realization of the Presidential Directive.
  10. I believe that the Report of the Panel and recommendations contained therein would go a long way in redressing the grievances of the complainants, ensure accountability on the part of the Police Officers in discharging their responsibilities and facilitate the various Police reforms being introduced by this administration.
  11. I want to assure you and all Nigerians that this Administration will continue to fulfill its obligations of promoting and protecting human rights of Nigerians, and will give the National Human Rights Commission all the support required to ensure full implementation of the recommendations contained in its Report.
  12. In addition, we will strengthen the operations of the Commission to enhance its effectiveness and capability to resolve cases of human rights violations.
  13. This administration is conscious of the role the Commission plays in ensuring security and stability in the nation through the resolution of complaints of human rights violations, which if neglected, could result into major security challenges.
  14. As you are aware, I have recently approved the reconstitution of the Governing Council of the Commission. The names of the Council members will be submitted to the National Assembly for confirmation before the inauguration of the Council in line with NHRC Act, 1995 (as amended).
  15. 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 3 months from today.
  16. I thank you and may Almighty God bless our country.