By IFEOMA IKEM
AFTER a damning report by the Amnesty International accusing men of the Federal Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) of extra-judicial killings and illegal activities, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, reaction calling on his men to shun unprofessional conduct in all the states is a welcomed development.
Amnesty International had last week alleged in its report that SARS systematically tortured detainees in its custody as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes.
The report revealed “horrific torture methods, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions.”
Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher, Damian Ugwu said “a police unit created to protect the people has instead become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption. SARS officers are getting rich through their brutality. In Nigeria, it seems that torture is a lucrative business.”
The Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Mr Ibrahim Idris, therefore, warned personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) urging them to try to change the wrong impression saying it was a new beginning to give the nation a new anti-robbery squad.
Reacting, the National Coordinator, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, (NOPRIN) Okechukwu Nwanguma, said that the Inspector General of Police Idris goofed by denying on Al Jarzeera that what Amnesty said was false but only to come out warning his officers the following day not take laws into their hands.
He added that the boldness of the IGP to have called the officers to order was a welcomed development and a reaffirmation that what the Amnesty said was true.
“We expect that he would go beyond that but should investigate other cases that have been brought to his attention to ensure that they are swiftly investigated with a view to ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to book and the victims adequately compensated,” he said.
Okechukwu, while eulogising the former IGP Arase, said that he took some drastic steps to address abuses and corruption within the police.
He noted that setting up the Compliant Response Unit (CRU) was a major indication of his commitment to addressing issues of impunity and providing a platform for citizens to ventilate their frustration on police abuses.
Since the former IGP Arase left office, the police has become almost ineffective and the IGP Idris, should restore public confidence in the citizens as avenues like the CRU will give the opportunity for the people to respond and be heard anytime they have grievances against the police.
IGP Idris, who spoke in Abuja said, “You don’t have the right to take life of anybody or change civil offence to criminal offence. Please don’t fail us. This management has hope in you,” he said.
He said that the new SARS should be an advocate of the new Change Mantra of the present administration noting that the human rights groups would be involved in the training of SARS operatives, in addition to setting up an intelligent unit.
“We are going to retrain you even as you work in your different zone, also have the courage to tackle what is against human nature,” he said.
While acknowledging their huge responsibility to society, IGP Idris said SARS had a great role to play in the security of the country and urged the media to request for a visit to the various detention facilities and make their report.
He said that it was illegal for any police personnel to shoot into the air and cause panic in the community. He called on them to develop good working relationship with people in their various communities.