SARS Operations Must Respect Human Rights, Says Enugu CJ

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Christopher Isiguzo and  Gideon Arinze in Enugu

Enugu State Chief Judge, Priscilla Emehelu, yesterday said that the operations of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) must be guided by the human rights principles as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria in order to meet up with international best practices.

Emehelu made this known at the opening ceremony of a two -day workshop on the provision of monitoring and support to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS) in the state.

Emehelu who was represented by Justice A. O Anidi, said that though substantial reformations had been undertaken by the Police hierarchy to address the numerous complaints and allegations of human rights abuses against SARS personnel, reformations had not well been observed as the incidents that led to the nationwide call for reformation still rear up their ugly heads.

Describing the workshop as important and timely, Anidi recalled that the then Acting president, Yemi Osibanjo gave a directive  to the former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to ensure a total overhaul of the SARS.

She however regretted that some overzealous personnel had become dangerous to the society by their unprofessional and unlawful conducts of illegal detentions, torture, extra judicial killing and series of human rights abuses and have constituted a toxic climate of fear to the populace.

According to her, SARS is a special police unit created with specific mandate to prevent, confront and solve cases related to armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes.

She said that the police must therefore strengthen their monitoring apparatus in combating these challenges of some unscrupulous elements in SARS.

“Continuous assessment of operatives deployed to SARS must be regularly conducted to determine their suitability in keeping with acceptable standards.”

“It is not in doubt that the citizens will be better protected if the police are provided with the right equipment, good working conditions,  training and all the necessary support they require” she said.

On his part, the representative of the Deputy Inspector General, DIG in charge of Training and Development, Force Headquarters, Abiodun Odude, Oti Ademola said that officers of the Nigerian Police Force, NPF must be careful when going about their duties because the force is determined more than ever before to reward or punish any officer who defaults while discharging his/her duties.

“Activities of the police force must be in line with democratic principles which strict compliance to human rights observance is part of and for them to be able to effectively perform this task, they must be equipped both theoretically and practically” he said.

Speaking further, he said it was believed that lessons learnt in the workshop would be maximally put to use because it was when the usage was activated that the society could be proud of the police. 

Earlier in her address, the Deputy Director of Prisoner’s Rehabilitation and Welfare Actions, (PRAWA) Mr. Ogechi Ogu said that the training was part of efforts put in place to build the capacity of members of the Nigerian Police Force, SARS especially so that they could serve the country better as there was a reason why it was established.

According to her, building capacity of training institutions and members of various units would help in addressing issues of human rights and the standards as well as principles that were adequate for the police in the discharge of their duties.

“It is hoped that at the end of this workshop, the NPF would be better equipped and more focused to tackle cases of human rights violations as well as armed robbery and other violent crimes.