Human rights activist and lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN Thursday said police brutality cannot be addressed by renaming the special anti-robbery squad (SARS)
You would recall that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu had on Sunday, October 11 announced the disbandment of SARS following nationwide protests against human rights violations by the police unit.
On Tuesday, the IGP set up the special weapons And tactics (SWAT) unit to replace the disbanded SARS.
Speaking on Channels TV as to why the protests have continued to gain momentum despite the IGP’s action, Falana said the government only scratched the surface of the problem by renaming SARS as SWAT.
“We thank the protesters for waking us all up to our responsibilities. For me, it’s not the name that matters,” he said.
“I think what the youths are saying is that, beyond renaming, they want to see concrete steps being taken to show that it’s not going to be business as usual for policing in Nigeria.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve merely scratched the surface of the problem. There is no indication the government is prepared to respect the rights of the Nigerians people embodied in the constitution and other human rights statutes.
“Police powers in Nigeria have been hijacked by the presidency since 1999. That has to change. The laws that had been made to respect the rights of Nigerians will have to be respected.
“We have to actualise the provision of those laws in a way that there shall be no police brutality, torture, extortion of citizens. That is what has to change.
“The conditions of service for police personnel; the training has to change. You can’t have policemen in 2020 living in dehumanising military barracks. All that has to change if we want to have proper policing in society.”
The lawyer, who decried the service condition of police personnel in the country, called for an overhaul of their training system, which he said lacked vital elements of human relations and human rights.
“The training of the police is colonial and completely primitive. A man, a woman goes to the police college dehumanised. Women can’t make their hair. Men shave their hair to the skull. The feeding is bad,” Falana added.
“They have no idea of human rights. They’re trained like colonial policemen to brutalise the society, tear-gassed in rooms without windows, and beaten. When they come out, they want to brutalise a society that dehumanised them.
“The challenges are enormous. Police stations are not funded. To run them, DPOs depended on extorting suspects.
“Sometimes these stations are not built by the government but by members of the community, including criminals. We’re not going to address this problem by merely changing or rechristening SARS and now call it SWAT.
“I will like to call on the government to stop allowing armed thugs or hoodlums to attack protesters who have conducted themselves peacefully, maturely, and patriotically.
“The Accountant-General of the Federation has a duty to open an account that will warehouse the money that has been earmarked under the Police Trust Fund to fund the police.
“My advice to the president is to get all agencies of government to carry out their statutory duties. FG must dialogue with the leaders of the protesting groups. After all, the government is negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers.”
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