Half Measure: IGP needs to do more.

RULAAC has noted the announcement today 4th October, 2020 through a Press Statement issued by the Force PRO Frank Mba of IGP’s ban of SARS, OTHER POLICE TACTICAL SQUADS FROM ROUTINE PATROLS.

While RULAAC welcomes the IGP’s response to public outrage over increasing cases of atrocities by SARS and other tactical squads across the country, we hasten to note that these bans and restrictions on operational jurisdictions are only half measures that do not go to the root of the problem. They are at best perfunctory and knee jerk reactions.

While we also welcome the arrest of 2 FSARS Operatives and 1 Civilian accomplice in Lagos State, we note that in such rare cases where arrests were made in the past, outcomes of investigations were not made public nor actions taken known. Cases end up being swept under the carpet.

We will therefore, monitor the progress of investigation and hope that, henceforth, the outcome of investigations into police killings, abuse and misconduct will be made public.

We recall that in July, 2020 the IGP announced the disbandment of the satellite offices and bases of the IGP- Intelligence Response Team (IRT), and the Special Tactical Squad (STS).

In a joint CSO statement, we welcomed the measure but noted, among other things, that the need to reorganize and enhance professionalism and effectiveness and make these units accountable was imperative. We also noted that by the disbandment which we believed was warranted, the IGP had taken just the first right step in the right direction and thatd it remained for him, as we stated, to ensure that personnel involved in criminal conducts of torture, murder and extortion were investigated and punished accordingly for deterrence.

We itemized specific egregious cases of abuses by SARS, IRT and STS documented from across the country and urged the IGP to order investigation into the specific cases with a view to ensuring that the officers responsible for gross human rights abuses and misconduct were held to account and remedies accorded to the victims. That is the only way to win public trust and confidence about the seriousness of police authorities to tackle abuses.

Till date, we have not heard of any action taken in response to that call, sadly. Since then, several other atrocities have also been documented without any known action taken by police authorities to ensure justice and deterence.

Social media has been awash with a barrage of cases of unlawful killings, torture, brutality and extortion of innocent citizens by criminal police officers. In spite of IGP’s directive limiting arrest and detention of citizens during the Covid-19 period to only major offences, RULAAC has continued to document and bring to the attention of Police authorities instances of citizens detained on minor or no offence at all resulting in some instances to congestion of detention facilities merely for the purpose of extortion.

Today is 24 days since September 10, 2020 when Ifeoma Abugu was allegedly sexually assaulted and murderd by police officers who arrested her in lieu of her fiance in Abuja. By now, the police ought to have found out and made public the identities of the police officers responsible and the actions they have taken. Despite public demand, Nigeria Police is yet to clear the air on the particular unit responsible for that atrocity. There appears to be an ominous indication of a cover-up bid by the silence of the Police and the reported claim by some Policemen that they met Ifeoma unconscious on the bed and they carried her to the hospital.

Since last week, a heartbreaking video has been trending on social media, of the father of Daniel Chibuike a.k.a Sleek, a 20-year-old singer, who was shot dead by the police in Elelenwo area of Port Harcourt, River State. The distraught father was in tears, calling for justice for his late son. Sleek, a singer and recording artist, was said to have been shot dead on Saturday, September 19, 2020, by a Police Mobile Officer (Mopol) attached to De Topic supermarket, while he was being pursued by SARS operatives. Again, we have not heard of any action by the police.

On January 5, 2020, Tariuwa Kingsley, a 33-year-old heavy duty truck driver was arrested in a popular club Boss Lounge in Port Harcourt, Rivers State at about 8pm and taken to SARS office in Port Harcourt and he has since disappeared, with aged parents, a pregnant wife as at the time, and 2 children left in anxiety and pain over his disappearance. Petitions to the CP Rivers and the IGP have led to nowhere.

On September 30, a barely12-year-old girl was waylaid by a group of miscreants who gang-raped her at Ejigbo, Lagos. No serious step is being taken to bring justice to this case. The cases are litany!

What is required is for the Police to demonstrate that abuses and misconduct by police officers will not be tolerated or condoned by the police hierarchy. Reorganization or restricting the operational jurisdictions of Police units are not enough to address abuses and impunity.

It is only when the Nigeria Police demonstrate genuine commitment to transparently and effectively investigating and ensuring justice in specific cases of abuse that citizens can have confidence and trust in the Police to protect them from crime and human rights abuse

Government on its part has not demonstrated sufficient commitment to ending abuses and the impunity that feeds them.

In 2018, in response to the End SARS campaign that peaked that year, the federal government directed the then IGP to carry out reforms of SARS and also mandated the National Human Rights Commission to investigate and take actions on cases of SARS atrocities. The NHRC conducted regional public hearings. Two years later, the report of that exercise is yet to be made public and recommendations implemented. Time and resources invested in that exercise may end up being a waste.

Nigeria government and the Nigeria Police in particular, need to demonstrate that Nigerian lives matter!

Baning or disbanding police units are mere knee jerk and perfunctory responses which will not change anything as long as cases are not investigated, perpetrators brought to account and victims accorded justice.

The new Police Act 2020 provides a new legal framework of policing which sets out its purpose and principles to include the provision of safety and security, protection of lives and property, protection of human rights, transparency and accountability, community collaboration and partnership in crime detection, prevention and eradication. But all stakeholders that have roles in implementing the provisions of the new law must play their various roles to ensure that the operations of the police are in line with the law. Exercise of police powers must be guided and regulated by the due process safeguards stipulated in the law.

Nigerians must continue to speak out and demand justice for victims of human rights abuse. We must continue to monitor and hold the Nigeria Police to account for the actions of its personnel.

We must remain united, insistent and consistent in seekng answers from Police authorities over the harassment, extortion and killing of Nigerians.

Okechukwu Nwanguma
Executive Director

Published by daranetworktv

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