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SARS Overhaul: Experts Call For Total Police Reform

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Some security experts in Lagos have called for a total reform of Nigeria Police as an institution to enhance the security of lives and property in the country .

The experts, who spoke following Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s Aug. 14 directive for the immediate overhaul of SARS, said the anti-robbery squad was a reflection of the rot in the police.

NAN reports that the directive was sequel to complaints by Nigerians on the alleged human rights abuse by men of the SARS.

NAN also reports that as part of the overhaul of the unit, SARS has been ordered not to attend to civil or commercial matters again, but attend strictly to Armed Robbery and Kidnapping cases.

Mr Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator of Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), commended Osinbajo for the directive on SARS, stressing, however, that such reform was belated.

According to Nwanguma, SARS reflects the culture of violence, lawlessness and leadership ineptitude in the Nigeria Police.

“I think the reformation has to start with police as an institution. When we address  the issue of leadership in the force by appointing only competent officers, other issues will be alright.

“To address the problem of SARS, we need to first of all address the leadership appointment procedure, how a person becomes the I-G; the process must ensure that only the best brains are made I-G.

“The person so appointed should have the security of tenure, have operational autonomy and his loyalty should not just be to the president or ruling party, but to the constitution and the people of Nigeria,” he advised.

Nwanguma also urged the National Human Rights commission (NHRC) to investigate human rights abuses by SARS through documented cases.

“The starting point is to look at those cases, investigate them, identify officers involved and deal with them according to the law, pay compensation to the victims.

“This will send right signal to the police as an entity,” he said

Nwanguma queried CP Haliru Gwandu’s appointment as head of reformed SARS in view of his alleged human rights abuse records.

“The problem with the appointment of Gwandu is that he was the immediate past CP of Edo command. Under his watch in Edo, a lot of atrocities were allegedly done. It was during his time a young man was handcuffed and tied to the back of patrol van.

“ It was during his time that a Professor of Law at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma was brutalised by some policemen when the professor tried to intervene while some policemen were brutalising some students.

“Appointing a man like that to head SARS shows that the police want to re-cycle same officers with human rights abuse records in the force to head sensitive positions,” he noted.

Mr Jude Igbanoi, a lawyer and security expert, described SARS as a child of necessity in Nigeria, stressing that it came into existence at a time that violent crimes became very challenging to the conventional police.

Igbanoi noted that the problem with SARS was a reflection of the society, calling also for the overall reformation of the force with a view to have better police operatives at all units of the force.

“I am sure, the acting president didn’t just wake up and say proscribe SARS, it is because citizens had kept complaining and police leadership did nothing about it.

“Rights of people were violated, some of the men go about without uniform which makes it difficult sometimes to differentiate between robbers and police operatives.

“SARS started well, but aberration came in when some unscrupulous elements found their way into the unit.

“Some of the operatives were involved in negative things like extra judicial killings, amongst other crimes. It became so clear that they have outlived their usefulness,” he said.

Igbanoi, however, said he was against total ban of SARS, rather it should be reformed, stressing that Nigeria needs such outfit in the force to tackle violent crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, ritual killings, amongst others.

Mr Folorunso Attah, another security expert said: “Osinbajo meant well even as it is coming rather too late. Though a lot of havoc had been done by SARS operatives over the years.

“The intent of the VP could give a better public perception of that unit of the force even those saddled with the implementation of the order can put spanner in the works.

“The type of SARS reform Osinbajo is talking about is training, retraining and redeployment/sacking of unfit elements from that unit.”

Attah expressed the hope that the reformation would not be a new wine in an old bottle.

Mr Dipo Kehinde, also a security expert, noted that the reforms were good for the force and nation as well as essential in the face of public outcry.

“We must continue to carry out these reforms until we have the professional police organisation we so much desire,” Kedinde said.

For Dr Qasim Akinreti,  Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, the police reform was apt and timely.

Akinreti said that the reform would underscore the philosophy of policing that was based on trust, respect and safety of communities in Nigeria as was done in other civilised countries.

He said that the Nigeria Police as it were, were struggling to understand the core philosophy espoused.

“The NUJ appreciate the renewed vigour of the present administration on reform of the police,  but government needs a political will to push it  through so that this present approach do not become an exercise in futility.

“Virtually every successive government has set up one committee or the other on police reform, nothing has come out of it, hence the Nigeria police of the 21st century would not be asking journalists to disclose their source of information,”Akinreti noted.



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