Amid the controversy over police brutality in Nigeria, especially by the now disbanded unit of the security agency called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, have emerged tops on the list of states with ‘brutal policemen’, according to the Presidential Panel on Reform of SARS.
The panel, which called for and received 113 complaints on alleged human rights violations from across the country and 22 memoranda on suggestions on how to reform and restructure SARS and the police in general, sat in a public hearing and submitted its report to the Federal Government in November 2019.
It recommended 35 police officers for dismissal and 33 for dismissal and prosecution in 12 states and the FCT for alleged activities ranging from extrajudicial killing to illegal arrest, detention, biased investigation, torture, enforced disappearance, inhuman and degrading treatment, and violation of rights to fair hearing and dignity of human person.
Many others were recommended for reduction in rank while compensations were proposed for their victims. Public apology by the police to some of the victims or their families where such victims are deceased was also recommended.
It was not clear whether the list of indicted police officers was submitted to government at that time but the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) just submitted a list apparently from the work of the panel to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) for their respective actions.
Whereas the AGF is expected to prosecute officers recommended for trial based on the allegations against them, those for disciplinary actions will have their matters sorted out by the PSC. Sources within the NHRC, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, were optimistic that the list was getting the required attention in different quarters after the turmoil generated by #EndSARS protests for about two weeks last month.
The protests, which started as a civil action against police brutality, rocked the nation almost to its foundation after they were hijacked in some states, notably Lagos, Oyo, Edo and Rivers, by hoodlums who attacked public and private properties.
Consequently, states, in conjunction with the Office of VP Yemi Osinbajo, agreed to probe police/SARS brutality across the country by instituting judicial panels of inquiry. Speaking on the work of the Presidential Panel on Reform of SARS, Mr. Anthony Okechukwu Ojukwu, the Executive Secretary of NHRC, told Sunday Vanguard, in an interview, last week: “In that report, about 35 people were recommended for dismissal by the police because of the role they had played while 33 were recommended for prosecution.
“Some others were recommended for demotion in rank while in some cases it was recommended that compensations of about N264million should be paid to victims. “Then there were also recommendations where it was required that the police should reinvestigate some cases and then there were cases where officers who had auctioned people’s property to themselves and refused to surrender to the panel were also to be arrested and prosecuted”.
But a list said to have been submitted to the AGF and PSC, sighted by Sunday Vanguard at the weekend, named indicted officers in 12 states and the FCT. Sunday Vanguard could not immediately ascertain whether the absence of petitions or sanctions for erring officers from the 24 other states means petitions were not received from the states or there were just no cases of SARS brutality there.
The ranks of the police officers ranged from Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), one of whom was accused of causing a building to be illegally demolished in Rivers State, to Constable. Another ACP in Abuja was recommended for dismissal and prosecution for unlawful confiscation of the property of a magistrate while a retired Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) was indicted in the same case.
The DCP was recommended for prosecution. Also in Abuja, an Inspector, a Sergeant, and a Corporal were not only accused of extrajudicial killing, they were also said to have refused to release the corpses of their victims to their families for burial.
The panel recommended their dismissal by PSC and prosecution by the AGF. Meanwhile, state by state analysis of the list shows that, of the police officers accused of heinous crimes and recommended for dismissal, Lagos and Abuja take the lion’s share.
Of the 35 people recommended for dismissal by the panel because of the roles they had allegedly played in the heinous crimes, six are from Lagos while 12 are from Abuja, making a total of 18. And of the 33 police officers recommended for prosecution, seven are from Lagos while nine are from Abuja, making a total of 16.
A total of 13 officers from Lagos (eight) and the FCT (five) were recommended for reduction in rank. Similarly, Lagos and Abuja account for more than half of the compensations recommended for victims of SARS brutality across Nigeria (about N264million). Compensations estimated for Lagos victims are N94million while the estimates for Abuja victims are N64.6million totaling N158.6million.
Source: Hajia R.