Nigerian leader pledges to protect rights of citizens

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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Nigeria’s President, Muhamamdu Buhari says the Nigerian government will continue to protect the rights of citizens

He made the declaration on Monday, when he received the report of the Presidential Panel on the reform of the country’s Special Anti Robbery Squad SARS at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said: “I want to assure you and all Nigerians that this Administration will continue to fulfill its obligations of promoting and protecting human rights of Nigerians, and will give the National Human Rights Commission all the support required to ensure full implementation of the recommendations contained in its Report.

“In addition, we will strengthen the operations of the Commission to enhance its effectiveness and capability to resolve cases of human rights violations.

“This administration is conscious of the role the Commission plays in ensuring security and stability in the nation through the resolution of complaints of human rights violations, which if neglected, could result into major security challenges.”

The President said the National Human Rights Commission would be strengthened to further achieve its goals and the recommendations the panel on SARS.

Presidential Panel on the reform of the country’s Special Anti Robbery Squad SARS on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

 

“It is in recognition of our obligations under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and International Human Rights Laws, that this Administration decided to set up this Presidential Panel and directed the National Human Rights Commission to constitute its membership in order to investigate the various public outcries and media reports alleging human rights violations against citizens by officers of SARS.

“As you are aware, I have recently approved the reconstitution of the Governing Council of the Commission. The names of the Council members will be submitted to the National Assembly for confirmation before the inauguration of the Council in line with NHRC Act, 1995 (as amended),” the President said.

He directed the Inspector General of Police to meet with the Solicitor General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, to perfect strategies for the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on the reform of the country’s Special Anti robbery Squad SARS.

He said: “I want to thank the Panel once more, and hereby direct that since the recommendations of the Commission that constituted the Panel are enforceable as decisions of the Court, that the Inspector General of Police and the Solicitor General of the Federation/Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice meet with the Commission to work out the modalities for the implementation of the Report within 3 months from today. 

“I am very happy with the work of the Panel and thank the Panel members for working hard towards the realization of the Presidential Directive. I believe that the Report of the Panel and recommendations contained therein would go a long way in redressing the grievances of the complainants, ensure accountability on the part of the Police Officers in discharging their responsibilities and facilitate the various Police reforms being introduced by this administration.”

Needed Reforms

According to the president, it has become necessary to reform the Nigeria Police for better efficiency.

Reforming and re-positioning the Nigeria Police Force to be more effective and efficient in safeguarding lives and properties, apprehending offenders and generally improving the internal security of our Nation in line with our laws and international best practices has been one of the major policies of this Administration.

In order to re-position the Nigeria Police Force to effectively carry out its statutory responsibilities, I have taken major steps by increasing the workforce of the Nigeria Police as well as improving the welfare of Police officers, because they put their lives on the front line on a daily basis so that the rest of us may freely go about our business in safety. 

However, in carrying out their statutory responsibilities, the Police must at all times act within the ambit of the law and must not violate the fundamental human rights of Nigerians whom they have sworn to protect,” he said.

Violations

In his remark, Secretary of the national human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, who also served as the Chairman of the Presidential panel on reform of SARS, said the panel recommended the dismissal of 37 and prosecution of 24 Police Officers that trampled on the rights of some citizens.

He said: “At the end of its public hearing and having listened to complaints as well as defendants and their counsel, the Panel recommended thirty seven (37) Police officers for dismissal from the force. Twenty four (24) were recommended for prosecution. The panel also directed the Inspector General of Police to unravel the identity of twenty two (22) officers involved in the violation of the human rights of innocent Citizens.

“The Police was directed to pay compensation of various sums in forty five (45) complaints and tender public apologies in five (5) complaints and directed to obey court orders in five (5) matters. The Police was directed to immediately arrest and prosecute two (2) retired senior Police officers found to have violated the rights of citizens (one for extra-judicial killing and the other for illegal takeover of Property of a suspect). The Panel also recovered two vehicles illegally auctioned by SARS Officers and returned them to their owners.”

He thanked the President on behalf of other members of the panel for the opportunity to serve the country in that capacity as well as contribute their quota towards injecting sanity into the activities of the Police.

Ojukwu said the Panel also recommended the establishment of State and Local Government Police as well as renaming of SARS to Anti Robbery Section ARS among others.