Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo says he is concerned and angry at the frequent harassment and killings of young Nigerians by personnel of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad ( FSARS), a tactical squad of the Nigerian police noted for its extrajudicial arrest, harassment, extortion and cold blooded murder of young Nigerians.
The Vice President expressed disgust at that branch of the police when he spoke to journalists at Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja on Sunday.
He described as infuriating” the actions of a “few bad eggs “in the Force and asked the police to stick to its mandate of crime prevention and control.
“I am very concerned, in fact, very angry about what I see, happening to young men and women who are arrested, in some cases maimed or killed by men of the police force,” he said.
Obviously pained, Osinbajo described the actions of the personnel of FSARS as “completely unacceptable because these are individuals who are meant to protect Nigerians. The arrest, maiming or killing of young people or anyone at all, is completely wrong. It is unlawful and illegal, and anyone involved in this act ought to be investigated and prosecuted.”
He spoke shortly after having a meeting with the country’s Inspector General of Police (IGP), Muhammed Adamu and hinted that he had discussed with the President, Muhammadu Buhari and he is desirous of a reform of the police.
“Today, I had a meeting with the Inspector General of Police, we reviewed several of these issues. The President and I have had discussions on this; he is very concerned about it. He wants to see a reform.
“You are probably aware that the IGP has issued a statement looking at all these issues, in particular, the warning against the use of these tactical units such as SARS for purposes of doing anything other than anti-robbery.
“For example, and I think in his statement, he specifically said that you cannot have a situation where SARS says, they are investigating Cybercrime by arresting young men and women carrying their laptops and phones. Cybercrime is an electronic crime. I don’t see how you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi or in their cars.
“It is very obvious that this is a major concern, a few bad eggs in the police force are causing all of these problems because it is all over the place, in different states. There is a need to take serious action.
Earlier today, the IGP through the Force Spokesperson, Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) had issued a directive banning operatives of FSARS and other tactical squads from performing low-risk duties like stop and search, routine patrol etc.
The Vice President praised the IGP saying the ban is a first good step to further reforms: “The IG’s statement today, is a good first step. He has said clearly that police men must wear police uniforms. You cannot say that because you belong to a tactical unit, you can dress in your casual clothing and be armed because people can’t even tell the difference between robbers and the police, if you are not properly dressed in police uniform. So, clearly, a reform is in the offing.
“So, I will like to encourage civil society activists, young men and women, who bring this regularly, by the way, to the attention of government and the police.
“And I think that activism is important because they have been able to bring a lot of these issues to the attention of the police and government, and that is an important part of the process of the reform.”
Nigerians on social media backed by some of the country’s most celebrated artists rejected the ban on routine patrol asking instead for a blanket ban on all tactical squad and instituting a comprehensive reform of police force including the recruitment of educated Nigerians to fill in the rank and file of the police.
Following same line, Osinbajo said everyone must work together to achieve a comprehensive reform: “I think that we all have to work together to ensure that the police and law enforcement agents, do what their duty is and their duty is to protect us, protect our society and livelihoods and homes.
“By the way, many of them are doing their duties excellently well, but there are some of them who are engaged in these activities. So, we must see this as something we all must work together to achieve, as individuals, to bring to the attention of the police and government, where there have been violations.
“And on the part of government and the police: to ensure that every one of those allegations is properly investigated and those found responsible are prosecuted and publicized so that people know that prosecution has taken place and this is the consequence.