The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday directed the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to commence investigations into allegations of abuses by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria police, otherwise known as SARS.
He also ordered the Police boss to overhaul the squad with immediate effect, to make it strictly intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery, kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.
Osinbajo’s directive to the police boss came following the outcry against the special police squad by members of the public nationwide.
The Vice President in a statement signed by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, in Abuja, further directed that operatives of the squad should, henceforth, bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.
The statement read: “Following persistent complaints and reports on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, that border on allegations of human rights violations, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to, with immediate effect, overhaul the management and activities of SARS and ensure that any unit that will emerge from the process, will be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.
“The Acting President has also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International human rights law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects. The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.”
He also directed the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to set up a special panel to conduct an investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS in order to afford the public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.
IGP overhauls SARS, appoints CP as new head
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim idris in apparent response to the Acting President’s directive, yesterday ordered the immediate overhaul of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS to address complaints and allegations of human rights violations against some of its personnel.
A release signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, Abuja, Ag. DCP Jimoh Moshood, said in the new arrangement, a new Commissioner of Police had been appointed as the overall head of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide.
He said the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad previously under the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (FCIID) is henceforth to operate under the Department of Operations, Force Headquarters Abuja and that the Commissioner of Police (FSARS) is answerable to the Inspector General of Police through the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Department of Operations.
He said: “In observance of full compliance with the Presidential directives, the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad will be intelligence-driven and will be restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery, kidnapping and the apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences only.
“New FSARS Commanders are being appointed for the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) across the country that will now exist and operate in the State and Zonal Commands under the Commissioner of Police (F-SARS) at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. A Federal SARS Commander of a Rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) but not below Superintendent of Police (SP) will be in charge of FSARS in State and Zonal Commands across the Country,” he said.
Jimoh said all Commissioners of Police had been directed by the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to comply with this directive with immediate effect and warned their personnel not to pose as SARS operatives.
“The IGP X-Squad and Monitoring Unit have been mandated to go round the Commands and Police Formations nationwide to ensure strict compliance with the Presidential directives and apprehend any erring police officer.
“A new Standard Operational Guidelines and Procedures, and code of conduct for all FSARS personnel to ensure that the operations of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad is in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regards to international human rights law and constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects will be enforced in totality by the Commissioner of Police, FSARS,” he said.
Other measures to be implemented by the Force in observance of full compliance with the presidential directives, he said, were that human Rights Desk Officers for FSARS in every State should take complaints from the public and forward same to Force Headquarters, as the officer will be answerable to the Commissioner of Police, FSARS at the Force Headquarters and not Commander FSARS in the states.
“Medical/Psychological evaluation of all FSARS personnel will be carried out immediately. Redesigning of new uniform with identity name tag for all FSARS personnel throughout the Country will be done immediately. Henceforth, FSARS personnel will not perform Stop and Search duties except on distress call to respond to armed robbery and kidnapping offences only.
“The Force will be transparent, cooperate, and work cordially with the National Human Rights Commission on the special panel that will conduct an investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of FSARS to address grievances from the public against the personnel of FSARS in compliance with the presidential directives.
“Furthermore, a new training programme to be organized by the Force in collaboration with some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Local and International NGOs, and other Human Rights Organizations on core Police Duties, Observant of Human Rights and Handling, Care and Custody of Suspects have been directed by the Inspector General of Police for all Federal SARS personnel nationwide with immediate effect.
“A committee of Senior Police officers, Technical Consultants, Human Rights/Civil Society organizations (CSOs) has been setup to review the activities of FSARS under the new arrangement. They are to pay unscheduled visits to FSARS formations across the country with particular attention to states with high complaints index, to assess facilities and situations in these states and submit report to the Inspector General of Police on regular basis,” he added.
Jimoh, however, said aggrieved members of the public, who had any complaint in the past or present of violation of their rights by any SARS personnel anywhere in the country should report for investigation and redress.