Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Alex Enumah in Abuja
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have hailed the dissolution of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police force.
In a statement issued yesterday, Lawan saluted the courage of President Muhammadu Buhari for listening to the voice of the Nigerian people over their dissatisfaction with the operations of the SARS.
Lawan, in the statement issued yesterday by his Media Adviser, said with the courageous decision to dissolve the police unit, the President and his government have shown themselves as responsive to the feelings of the people.
“I am applauding the President because it is a demonstration of good leadership to yield to the demand of the populace in difficult situations like this,” he said.
Lawan also commended the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for the decision and challenged him to come up with measures for the transformation of the Nigeria Police into an effective law enforcement and crime fighting agency that is also a true and respected friend of the Nigerian people.
The Senate President said the measures should fully address all the issues that earned the dissolved SARS the odium of the Nigerian people, and in particular of the articulate Nigerian youths.
Atiku has also paid tribute to the Nigerian youths for their resilience in exerting pressure on the police authorities to disband the FSARS in response to public agitations to end abuses by the anti-robbery squad.
In a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Paul Ibe, the former vice president said, “this was the right thing to do. A system that brutally eliminates our youths is not one to hold on to, and neither can we be proud of it. Now we can start on a clean sheet to envision an elite police unit similar to the SWAT and a comprehensive overhaul of the police and policing system that peoples-focused”.
According to Atiku, the will of the people is the bulwark of the democratic system and those in authority cannot ignore the will of the people without undermining democracy itself.
The Wazirin Adamawa however noted that redeploying the bad eggs in SARS to other units may not augur well as they are capable of polluting those units.
NHRC also yesterday commended the federal government for what it described as, “the courage and display of mark of a listening Government through the disbandment of SARS” by the Inspector General of a Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu.
The commission in a statement issued yesterday by the Executive Secretary, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, noted that in line with its mandate of promoting, protecting and enforcing human rights in Nigeria, it has been monitoring reports from individual victims and the media with respect to human rights violation of innocent members of the public by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as well as other police units across the country.
The commission in addition said, it was equally aware of the public outcry to scrap SARS so as to put an end to these violations which has now been met by the Federal Government as a mark of its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights of Nigerians.
“The Right to protest is a constitutionally protected right as long as it is carried out responsibly and without resulting in the violation of the rights of any member of the public including law enforcement personnel.
“You will recall that earlier, the federal government responded to public outcry against human rights violations by SARS in constituting a special Presidential investigation panel with a broad-based membership including the civil society to investigate these allegations and make appropriate recommendations to sanction any SARS operatives found to have violated human rights of members of the public and to also suggest measures to reform SARS.
“With the initial and right step to disband SARS by the IGP as part of the recommendations of the Presidential Panel, the stage is now set to implement the other recommendations of the panel and in this regard, the government had requested the Commission to constitute a broad based implementation committee inclusive of relevant government agencies and civil society organizations to ensure the transparent, comprehensive and accountable implementation of the white paper on the presidential panel report”, the statement read in part.
Ojukwu, however assured Nigerians that the federal government is wholly committed to protecting the human rights of all Nigerians in accordance with the 1999 Constitution as amended, Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and respect for the rule of law.
He also urged Nigerians to appreciate the critical role being played by the Nigerian police and Special Anti-Robbery Squad in bursting armed robbery and other heinous crimes in the country even at the risk of their personal safety, adding that some of them have paid the supreme sacrifice too.
The NHRC boss similarly appealed to law enforcement agents to carry out their duties bearing in mind constitutional guarantees of human rights, particularly the respect for the life and dignity of human person and with utmost professionalism.
He however called for the investigation and prosecution of SARS/police officers tarnishing the image of government and the police force.
“The National Human Rights Commission, more than ever before is wholly committed to working with all stakeholders, state and non-state actors to raise the bar of human rights protection, and enforcement in the country.
“The Commission urges every one of us, including the protesters, to be more vigilant, law abiding and give the ongoing process a chance to resolve all the current issues that have been canvased by Nigerians and to report any form of human rights violations or reprisals to the Commission through its various channels”, he added.