The Alliance for Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) has accused the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Adamu of insincerity in his latest ban of certain activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The leading civil rights movement in a statement signed by its Chairman and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, (SAN), said it was not the first time the police high command had issued such orders banning certain activities of the squad.
Falana noted that despite the previous pronouncements by the police high command, the repressive operatives still returned to the streets to torment the people.
ASCAB said gross violations of human rights were linked to SARS, adding that a change of structure without fundamental change of the operatives of the structure will soon make the problems to reoccur.
“The police high command has banned SARS several times. It has become a ritual. But SARS continues to operative under different names or structure. What we see is like removing sour wine and putting it in the same old, rusty bottles. Nothing remarkable has changed in the police command structure that aids all forms of repression and extra-judicial killings,” ASCAB said.
The group recalled that following public outcry in 2018 against indiscriminate arrests and detention, extortion and extrajudicial killings as well as other horrendous human rights abuses perpetrated by the operatives of the SARS, the federal government responded by setting up the Presidential Panel of Enquiry to investigate all complaints of human rights abuse.
The Falana-led coalition noted that many Nigerians submitted reports and memorandum and gave clear evidence of police abuse.
The group noted that the recommendations were yet to be implemented in 2020.
ASCAB said some of the recommendations made included the dismissal of 37 police officers from the force and the prosecution of 24 others, investigation of 22 officers involved in the violation of human rights of innocent citizens, payment of compensation of various sums in 45 complaints and tender of public apologies in five complaints and compliance with court orders in five matters.
Other recommendations were the setting up of state and local government police and renaming of SARS to Anti-Robbery Section (ARS). which should operate under the intelligence unit of the police force.
Falana added that these recommendations were accepted by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 3, 2019, noting that nothing has been done since then.
He recalled that the Inspector-General of Police and the Solicitor-General of theFederation/Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice were mandated to engage the National Human Rights Commission for a strategy of implementation within three months.
“To declare a ban on SARS again is nothing but policy sommersault. It does show effective leadership neither does it portray the police authority as consistent,” ASCAB said.
The group said if the reports were implemented it would have addressed major problems associated with the operative system of SARS and would have brought an end to its oppressive and inhuman modalities.
ASCAB said the policy flaws of the police were an indication that the force cannot redeem itself.
It called on the federal government to strengthen the National Human Rights Commission Act so as to empower the group to be able to deal with issues of human rights violations associated with state actors.
Falana said instead of ensuring that erring SARS operatives face the law, they have rather been treated like sacred cows.
He said officials linked with the various atrocities committed by SARS have not been punished, the consequence being that impunity has been further entrenched.
“While noting that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu has, once again, read out the riot act to all operatives of the SARS it is high time the recommendations of the Presidential Panel were implemented by the federal government. Since the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission has not been reconstituted since it was dissolved in 2015 ASCAB calls on President Buhari to forward the names of the reconstituted members to the Senate for confirmation without any further delay,” the group said.
It insisted that Nigerians whose rights are trampled upon should approach the nearest human rights group in the domain.
ASCAB also called on the Attorney General of the Federation to carry out his duty prescribed by Section 12 of the Anti-Torture Act of 2017 by making rules and regulation for the effective implementation of the Act including the training and education of personnel involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.