NHRC calls for prosecution of ‘culpable SARS men’

By Michy Abraham in Maiduguri 

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has commended the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) after a mass protest by Nigeria.

The Commission insisted that every member of SARS and the Nigeria Police Force involved in the dastardly act should be brought to book.

The Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu in a press statement on Monday said the action was courageous and a display of mark of a listening Government.

The statement read: “In line with its mandate of promoting, protecting and enforcing human rights in Nigeria, the NHRC has been monitoring reports from individual victims and the media with respect to human rights violation of innocent members of the public by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as well as other police units across the country.

“The Commission is equally aware of the public outcry to scrap SARS so as to put an end to these violations which has now been met by the Federal Government as a mark of its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights of Nigerians.”

The statement added that: “The Right to protest is a constitutionally protected right as long as it is carried out responsibly and without resulting in the violation of the rights of any member of the public including law enforcement personnel.

“You will recall that earlier, the federal government responded to public outcry against human rights violations by SARS in constituting a special Presidential investigation panel with a broad-based membership including the civil society to investigate these allegations and make appropriate recommendations to sanction any SARS operatives found to have violated human rights of members of the public and to also suggest measures to reform SARS.

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“With the initial and right step to disband SARS by the IGP as part of the recommendations of the Presidential Panel, the stage is now set to implement the other recommendations of the panel and in this regard, the government had requested the Commission to constitute a broad based implementation committee inclusive of relevant government agencies and civil society organizations to ensure the transparent, comprehensive and accountable implementation of the white paper on the presidential panel report.”

The statement said: “The Commission assures Nigerians that the federal government is wholly committed to protecting the human rights of all Nigerians in accordance with the 1999 Constitution as amended, Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and respect for the rule of law.”

It however advised that: “Nigerians should appreciate the critical role being played by the Nigerian police and Special Anti-Robbery Squad in bursting armed robbery and other heinous crimes in the country even at the risk of their personal safety and some of them have paid the supreme sacrifice too.“

It said: “However, law enforcement must be carried out bearing in mind constitutional guarantees of human rights, in particular respect for the life and dignity of human person and with utmost professionalism.

“Consequently the SARS/police officers tarnishing the image of government and the police force should be made to be accountable.

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“The National Human Rights Commission, more than ever before is wholly committed to working with all stakeholders, state and non-state actors to raise the bar of human rights protection, and enforcement in the country.”

Ojukwu called on everyone, including the protesters to be more vigilant, law abiding and give the ongoing process a chance to resolve all the current issues that have been canvased by Nigerians and to report any form of human rights violations or reprisals to the Commission through its various channels.

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