Olufemi Atoyebi and Ade Adesomoju
The National Human Rights Commission has inaugurated a seven-man Special Investigative Panel to look into the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police and make recommendations for its reform.
A statement on Tuesday commission in Abuja said the investigative panel was inaugurated in line with a presidential directive.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had, while acting as the President during President Muhammadu Buhari’s 10-day vacation in the United Kingdom, last month, expressed concerns about the allegations of human rights abuses levelled against SARS.
Osinbajo had then ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, to reform the police formation.
The presidency had also directed the NHRC to investigate the activities of SARS and make recommendations on how to reform it.
The NHRC said on Tuesday that it had complied with the presidential directive by inaugurating the Special Investigative Panel to look into the activities of SARS.
The statement added, “In line with the presidential directive, the commission has issued call for memoranda in two national dailies, requesting members of the public to bring forward their complaints and has also inaugurated a Special Panel of Investigation for the national assignment.”
It said state and federal agencies of government were also requested to submit their memoranda as well as suggestions on how to reform SARS.
The agencies were also urged to make recommendations to improve policing, public safety and security in general.
According to the statement by the NHRC, the panel will sit in Abuja and the six geo-political zones of the country.
The panel, during the period of its sitting, is “to listen to complaints from victims of alleged human rights violations against SARS operatives as well as members of the public who have suggestions on reforming SARS and improving public safety and security in Nigeria.”
The panel is expected to “submit its report to the Federal Government after 90 days of its inauguration.”
According to the commission’s statement, members of the panel included the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu; representative of the Police Service Commission, Mr Tijani Mohammed; representative of Public Service Commission, Mr David I. Shagba; a representative of civil society, Mr Chino Obiagwu.
The rest are a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Hashimu Argungu; and an independent expert on policing, Prof Etannibi Alemika.
The seventh member, who is from the NHRC, Mr Abdulrahman Yakubu, is the secretary of the panel.
During the inauguration of the panel, Ojukwu, who is the Executive Secretary and a member of the panel
“called on members to brace up for task of proffering recommendations aimed at improving policing, public safety and security in general”.
Ojukwu also requested the cooperation of members “with the panel to ensure a smooth national assignment”.
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police Monitoring Committee for the Overhauling of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and Federal SARS on Tuesday said operatives of the squad would henceforth be wearing uniform and would no longer be allowed to have dreadlocks, tattoo and beard.
The chairman of the four-man committee in charge of the South-West Zone, ACP Adepoju Ilori, who led the team to SARS office in Ibadan, said part of the body’s mandate was to interrogate suspects in SARS detention and give lecture to the SARS operatives on the ethics of the profession.
He said any operative who failed to comply with the work code of the squad would be shown the way out, while anyone found guilty of act inimical to the image of the squad would be disciplined.
Ilori said the committee was acting on the directive of the IGP, Ibrahim Idris, who, he said, was committed to implementing the presidential directive of the presidency on the overhauling of SARS operations and image in the country.
Ilori said, “Henceforth, operatives of SARS will be wearing uniforms. There is no way they will be carrying arms without wearing uniforms. Without uniform, it will be difficult to differentiate them. The duties of SARS are limited to armed robbery, robbery and kidnapping. They are not to perform any other functions except those assigned to them.
“We are soliciting the support of the public and journalists to monitor the activities of the operatives and they can do this through the Police Public Relations Officers around them.
“I want to assure you that we are going to get better. If you notice anybody wearing any black uniform (T-Shirts) of SARS, you should get in touch with the Commissioner of Police in that state. Those who are not ready to comply with the new directives will be shown the way out.
“The new SARS uniform, which will be different from the usual black vest, is being designed by the authorities. We assure the public that there will be no room for dreadlocks, tattoo and beard-bearing officers again.”