Sunday, October 4, 2020 8:31 pm
*V. P. Osinbajo said those involved unprofessional conduct would be investigated, prosecuted and exposed
*Commends Civil Society activists and those who call attention to the problem
“I AM very concerned, in fact, very angry about what I see, happening to young men and women who are arrested, in some cases maimed or killed by men of the police force.”
Those were the words of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, when State House Correspondents approached him at the Presidential Villa on his way going out of the residence this afternoon.
Prof Osinbajo was asked mainly about the economic challenges facing the country and Nigerians, and also the reported recent upsurge in the activities of FSARS regarding harassment of people alongside different violations of the rights of especially young Nigerians by some police officers.
In his response, the VP who had earlier held a meeting with the Inspector General of Police today at his residence said the President and himself had discussed the matter on a number of occasions noting the President’s displeasure about such reports and his resolve to ensure reforms.
According to him, such violations are “completely unacceptable because these are individuals who are meant to protect Nigerians. The arrest, maiming or killing of young people or anyone at all, is completely wrong. It is unlawful and illegal, and anyone involved in this act ought to be investigated and prosecuted.”
The VP said, “today, I had a meeting with the Inspector General of Police, we reviewed several of these issues. The President and I have had discussions on this, he is very concerned about it. He wants to see a reform.
“You are probably aware that the IGP has issued a statement looking at all these issues, in particular, the warning against the use of these tactical units such as SARS for purposes of doing anything other than anti-robbery.
“For example, and I think in his statement, he specifically said that you cannot have a situation where SARS says, they are investigating Cybercrime by arresting young men and women carrying their laptops and phones. Cybercrime is an electronic crime. I don’t see how you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi or in their cars.
“It is very obvious that this is a major concern, a few bad eggs in the police force are causing all of these problems because it is all over the place, in different states. There is a need to take serious action.
“The IG’s statement today, is a good first step. He has said clearly that police men must wear police uniforms. You cannot say that because you belong to a tactical unit, you can dress in your casual clothing and be armed, because people can’t even tell the difference between robbers and the police, if you are not properly dressed in police uniform. So, clearly, a reform is in the offing.
“So, I will like to encourage civil society activists, young men and women, who bring this regularly, by the way, to the attention of government and the police. And I think that activism is important because they have been able to bring a lot of these issues to the attention of the police and government, and that is an important part of the process of the reform.”
Continuing, he said “It is very obvious that this is a major concern. A few bad eggs in the police force are causing all of these problems. It is all over the place, in different states. There is a need to take serious action. The IG’s statement today, is a good first step.
“He has said clearly that officers have to dress properly. You cannot say that because you belong to a tactical unit, you can dress in your casual clothing, armed in a car. People can’t even tell the difference between robbers and the police, if you are not properly dressed in police uniform.”
Urging that all hands be on deck to effect reforms, the VP said “I think that we all have to work together to ensure that the police and law enforcement agents, do what their duty is and their duty is to protect us, protect our society and livelihoods and homes.
“By the way, many of them are doing their duties excellently well, but there are some of them who are engaged in these activities. So, we must see this as something we all must work together to achieve, as individuals, to bring to the attention of the police and government, where there have been violations.
“And on the part of government and the police: to ensure that every one of those allegations is properly investigated and those found responsible are prosecuted and publicized so that people know that prosecution has taken place and this is the consequence. I am very confident that we will have a reformed police force and that process has already begun
As we published on this platform earlier today, below are excesses of TSARS operatives , according to Amnesty International
In a new report, Time to End Impunity, Amnesty International in June 2020, documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. The victims of the police unit, set up to fight violent crimes, are predominantly male between the ages of 18 and 35, from low-income backgrounds and vulnerable groups.
“The complete failure of Nigerian authorities to bring an end to the gross human rights violations perpetuated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad or to bring any SARS officer to justice is shocking and unacceptable. Nigerians are outraged by the systemic human rights violations perpetrated by the SARS with impunity,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“The systemic use of torture and other ill treatment by SARS officers for police investigations and the continued existence of torture chambers within the Nigerian Police Force points to an absolute disregard for international human rights laws and standards.”
Amnesty International’s investigation “reveals a disturbing pattern of abuse of detainees in SARS custody despite the 2017 Anti-Torture Act. In many cases, Amnesty International bore witness to the scars, bruises, and dried blood on victims’ bodies. Many of them were subjected to beatings with sticks and machetes and denied medical care.”
Amnesty International wrote further:
“In March 2017, 23-year-old Miracle was arrested and detained by SARS officers in Neni, Anambra State, southeast Nigeria, accused of the theft of a laptop. He was tortured and given hardly any food during the 40 days he was in detention before he was charged and brought before a court.
In October 2018, 24-year-old Sunday Bang, an amateur boxer was arrested in his home in Abuja, by SARS officers and accused of robbery. He was held in detention for 5 weeks without access to family, lawyers or medical care – and was not charged in court. While in SARS detention, he suffered bone fractures and other injuries due to torture and other ill treatment.
From extortion to stealing money and property
Across Nigeria, SARS officers have turned their duty to protect Nigerians into an opportunity for extortion and stealing money, property and other valuables belonging to suspects and their families. Since 2016, Amnesty International has documented 15 cases where SARS officers arbitrarily confiscated suspects’ property.
Young people between the ages of 17 and 30 are most at risk of arrest, torture or extortion by SARS. They are often accused of being internet fraudsters and/or armed robbers. Young men with dreadlocks, ripped jeans, tattoos, flashy cars or expensive gadgets are frequently targeted by SARS.”