The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Monday said Sunday’s disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force was the beginning of his regime’s elaborate plan towards extensive police reforms.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President spoke at the inauguration of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme, aimed at creating 774,000 jobs across the local government areas in the country.
In the statement titled, ‘President Buhari: Disbanding of SARS first step to extensive reforms,’ Buhari stated that bad eggs in the police would not be allowed to tarnish the image of the force.
It quoted the President as also saying that officials of the disbanded team found to be responsible for wrongful acts would be brought to justice.
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, its presidential candidate in 2019, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and some civil rights groups called for the overhaul of the police.
Recall that the shooting of a young man in Ughelli, Delta State a few weeks ago by SARS officials sparked nationwide protests by youths calling for the disbandment of the police squad.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, on Sunday bowed to pressure by disbanding the squad.
But on Monday, the protesters, who continued their protests, asked the President to issue a presidential executive order banning SARS.
However, the President spoke on the issue on Monday. He said he had ordered a probe into the killing of a young man in Oyo State
Buhari said, “The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people.
“We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice.
“We deeply regret the loss of life of the young man in Oyo State during the recent demonstrations. I have directed that the circumstances of his death should be thoroughly investigated.
“Meanwhile, it is important to recognize that the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hardworking and diligent in performing their duties.
“The few bad eggs should not be allowed to tarnish the image and reputation of the force.”
Also, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo told anti-SARS protesters that all stakeholders were concerned about police reforms.
Osinbajo spoke in an interview with State House correspondents on Monday.
When asked for his message for those who were still protesting, he said, “I think the clear message is that there is a government’s commitment to ensuring process of reforms; those who have committed wrongful acts are duly investigated and prosecuted and that whatever replaces SARS is something that is acceptable.
“First of all, there must be compliance with all of the tenets of the rule of law and that of human rights.”
When asked if the government would meet the demands of the protesters, Osinbajo said the most important thing was that SARS had been scrapped.
He said, “I think the most important thing is that SARS has been disbanded and that the IGP has also committed to ensuring that not only is it disbanded but that whatever takes its place has the full participation of the civil society groups and all other stakeholders.”
On his part, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said there was a need to reform the police to make them civil to Nigerians. He said the disbanding of SARS was in order.
Atiku in an interview with journalists in Minna, Niger State, on Monday, said, “The eventual banning of the unit by the IGP, Mohammed Adamu, is in order. The police, especially the SARS unit, is no longer operating based on its mandate of securing the country and its citizens.”
Avoid violence, Anglican bishop urges protesting youths
The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Lagos, Rt. Rev. Dr Humphrey Olumakaiye, advised the youth protesting against SARS to avoid mob actions.
Olumakaiye, in a statement, titled, ‘Towards the nation of our dream,’ on Monday urged the youth to seek redress without resorting to violence.
“With the recent uproar in our nation and in fact across the globe, on social media and on our roads about the #EndSARS agitation; the Church of God is not putting her head in the sand expecting issues to redress themselves. This is a genuine agitation and it is borne out of deep concern for the future of this nation.
“We strongly appeal to our youths not to allow themselves to be weaponized by enemies of progress of this country, those who do not encourage and reinforce positive values that can bring about a Nigeria we can all be proud of.”
The Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, said a presidential executive order was not needed to disband the squad.
Ahmad made the clarification in a message he posted on his Twitter handle, @BashirAhmaad. Ahmad said SARS was not created by any executive order or legislative act.
But a former member of the Senate, Kabiru Marafa, faulted the scrapping of SARS.
He stated this on Monday, in a statement in Abuja titled, “Marafa faults scrapping of SARS, tells Buhari to shine his eyes”
The Senator, who represented Zamfara Central at the Senate, between 2011 and 2015, said the protest in parts of the country was actually targeted at the President and not SARS.
Carry out comprehensive police reforms, Okowa tells IGP
Commenting on the issue, the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, urged the IGP to carry out a comprehensive reform of the police.
The governor, in a statement he personally signed, in Asaba, noted that the disbandment of SARS was a decisive step taken by the IGP.
“Finally, let me say that the IGP should not stop at disbanding SARS. That is but one step in the multiple steps required in carrying out a comprehensive reform of the Nigeria Police Force,” he added..
On its part, the PDP urged Buhari to go beyond scrapping SARS by restructuring the police.
This was contained in a statement titled, “SARS: PDP demands complete overhaul, restructuring of police …berates APC for attempting to trivialize SARS excesses,” signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, on Monday.
The PDP urged the President take immediate steps to “completely overhaul and restructure the entire police architecture to engender professionalism, adherence to rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights of Nigerians. “
A group, Concerned Nigerians, asked the United States and the United Kingdom to impose a visa ban on the Oyo State Commissioner, Nwachukwu Enwonwu and members of his family, over the alleged shooting of an #EndSARS protester.
The group, in a letter to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, said the police in the state killed a protester despite the dissolution of SARS.
The letter titled, ‘An urgent appeal for visa ban on the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Nwachukwu Enwonwu and members of his family,’ dated October 12, 2020, was signed by the Convener, Concerned Nigerian, Deji Adeyanju.
It was also copied to the British High Commission and the European Union.
A civil society organization, the Centre for Leadership and Justice, criticized the IGP for delaying the police reform.
The group expressed dissatisfaction with the IG for abandoning the process of reforming the police, which was started by his predecessor, Ibrahim Idris.
The President of the group, Emmanuel Umohinyang, said this in an interview on Monday.