The Presidential Investigative Panel on Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) investigating rights abuses and other inhuman treatment by men of the now-disbanded police unit has recommended the dismissal of 35 of police personnel, who served in the unit for engaging various forms of misconduct, including extra-judicial killings.
It also recommended 33 for prosecution, 23 for reduction in ranks and two to be arrested and prosecuted.
Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tony Ojukwu, stated these on Monday when he led a team of officials of the agency to submit the panel’s report to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
The panel recommended 26 cases for further investigation by the police, 57 in which victims are to be compensated and two cases in which pending court orders are to be obeyed by the police. It recommended public apology over 32 cases, to be published in newspapers and other means.
The recommendations affect cases distilled from 13 states, with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) having the largest number of people recommended for dismissal.
It has 12 and followed by Imo with seven, Lagos with six, Akwa Ibom with four, Kaduna with two Enugu, Delta, Ogun and Rivers having one each.
Other states in respect of which recommendations were made are Benue, Gombe, Kogi and Kwara. The FCT also led in the number of cases in which the panel recommended compensation, with 17 cases, followed by Lagos with 15 and Ogun and Enugu with four each.
On compensation, the panel recommended the payment of money ranging from N500,000 to N20 million to some of the identified victims as well as to families of deceased victims.
Some of the indicted SARS operatives were directed to personally pay the compensation. The Police were also found liable and asked to pay some of the victims.
Ojukwu told reporters that the affected SARS officers were found culpable of offences that ranged from alleged extra-judicial killings, unlawful arrest and detention, threat and intimidation, unfounded allegations, seizure of properties and illegal blockage of accounts of innocent citizens.
Malami said: “Our responsibility as a government is to establish and entrench a constitutional programme to take care of collective interest that will incorporate the interest of the victims of crime, the interest of the nation and the interest of the individual involved.
“This government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, has indeed demonstrated effective consciousness of these factors with particular reference to perhaps to the Police.
“The government has taken steps, inclusive of having in place the Police Act 2020, which is indeed a piece of legislation established with a view to ensure that necessary reforms are brought into the operations of the Police. Far-reaching indeed, with a wider approach.
“Approach that has to do with the welfare of police officers and the welfare of the society as it relates to having in place community policing and indeed having necessary checks and discipline that will ensure that the police as an institution and not necessarily a unit of it, is brought in line with the best practices for the purpose of the discharge of their responsibilities,”
He said it was in furtherance of the move to enhance operations and welfare of the Police that the Police Trust Fund was established.
Malami stressed that over and above the legislative framework, FG, in a bid to ensure necessary reforms in various police formations, okayed probe of reported infractions by the Police.
He said the report which contained “critical appraisal” of some of the alleged infractions by SARS, was a testament that “the government is indeed conscious and ready to do the needful as far as ensuring that justice and fairness, within the context of the constitution, are brought to bear in the what we do as a government”.
The AGF added: “Again, when further unfortunate incidences were reported about conduct of SARS, I am very much aware that you are aware that the government acted with dispatch by setting up an independent investigative panel on human rights violations under the Chairmanship of Justice Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, with members from the NBA, Police Service Commission (PSC), NHRC, NPF, CSOs and others”.
He said President Buhari is not only moving to effect desired reforms in the Police, “but have also taken steps to swiftly provide the necessary policy support to ensure that justice, which operates in multiple-way-traffic, is addressed.”