As the campaign against the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) continues to heat up on social media, the Senate, yesterday resolved to open investigations into allegations of human rights abuses including torture and extra judicial killings, by the squad.
The Senate mandated its ad hoc committee on the review of security infrastructure to look into the allegations against SARS.
The resolution followed a motion raised by Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi APC) who said the ongoing #EndSARS campaign and petitions he has recieved, have shown that the squad has become synonymous with harassment, torture, brutality, wanton arrest and extra judicial killings, of Nigerians.
Misau, a retired Deputy Superintendent of Police, explained that SARS was supposed to be a department in each command, handling robbery cases and should be answerable to the Commissioner of Police.
Placing the control of SARS operations in the Force Headquarters is an anomaly which should be corrected, Misau said.
“SARS is used to intimidate opponents and sometimes politicians. Sometimes you find that the federal SARS go to states and arrest people without making reference to the Commissioner of Police (in the state), they bring them to Abuja and detain them,” Misau added.
Misau maintained that SARS is not supposed to be domiciled in the operations department of the Nigeria Police Force, but in the investigations department.
“According to the police act and regulation, the force criminal investigation and intelligence department is the highest investigative arm of the police. The department is divided into 14 sections of which the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is one of them,” he said.
Presiding Senate President Bukola Saraki said referred the matter to the committee.
“I think it is clear that something wrong is going on, and we need to take measures against it,” Saraki said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International (AI) has called on the federal government to take concrete steps to protect Nigerians, as restructuring of SARS as announced by the Inspector General of Police (IG)recently, was not enough.
It said the #EndSARS hashtag was rightly gaining the attention of the police and the government but that officials must do more to end the horrendous abuses of power by the police unit.
Stating this in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said Nigerian government must act in response to fresh allegations of police abuses.
Responding to the recent video circulating on social media, apparently showing the aftermath of an alleged killing of a young man by SARS, he said, “the scale of the reaction to this incident shows that the concerns of the Nigerian people are reaching boiling point. All incidents of violence meted out by this notorious police unit must be independently investigated, and those found to be responsible must be prosecuted in fair trials.
“Amnesty International highlighted such abuses more than a year ago and yet these shocking incidents still continue,” he added.
According to him, the September 2016 report on Nigeria by Amnesty International, tagged ‘You Have Signed Your Death Warrant’ showed how SARS police unit has been systematically torturing detainees as a means of extracting confessions and bribes.
“Nigeria has obligations under international and regional human rights law to uphold the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. The Nigerian government should take all necessary steps to ensure that police officers do not commit human rights violations.
“In August 2015, the police authorities announced that, in a bid to address complaints of human rights violations by SARS officers, it would introduce reforms by splitting the command into two units: Operation and Investigation. Positive developments as a result of the reforms are yet to be seen,” he added.
However, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has said the re-organisation of SARS as ordered by the IG, Ibrahim Idris, is a decoy to prepare the squad for the rigging of the 2019 general election.
Wike stated that the so-called review of the operation of SARS following the outcry by Nigerians over the deadly illegal acts of the organisation is merely aimed at diverting public focus.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Board of Editors of Sun Publishing Limited at the Government House Port Harcourt yesterday, Wike described SARS as a gang of criminals, leading Nigeria to disaster.
His words: “SARS is being prepared for the rigging of elections in 2019. Time has come for people to resist these criminals in uniform because they cannot kill everyone.
“SARS has not helped in Rivers State. Rather they perpetrate criminal activities. With the sustained activities of SARS, Nigeria is heading for disaster.”
He pointed out that when state government alerted the nation on the criminal activities of SARS across the state, the authorities disregarded the evidence presented.
Wike added that the same thing happened when the IG deliberately withdrew his (Wike’s) security details to give the APC an advantage.
He said: “When the IG took his impunity to Anambra State and withdrew the security details of the Anambra State Governor, the Senate quickly intervened because they knew that the acts of lawlessness of the IG was getting close.”
Commenting on the award by the Sun Newspaper, Wike said it would spur him to continue the execution of projects across the state.
He said as long as the award is based on the tangible of projects delivery, Rivers State would continue to emerge victorious.
Earlier, Managing Director of Sun Publishing Limited, Osagie, said for the first time in 15 years, Wike has emerged as the first person to win the Sun Newspaper Governor of the Year back to back.
He said Wike was voted by the Sun Board of Editors “for his incessant ground breaking infrastructural projects across Rivers State.”
Osagie said Wike would receive the award on February 24, 2018 in Lagos. The Sun Publishing Limited lauded the governor for his developmental strides across the three senatorial districts of the state.