Governors of the 36 states of the country have told the Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to put his planned creation of Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) unit, as replacement for the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), on hold. The state chief executives, who met on Wednesday, took briefing from the IGP on the nationwide protest against the activities of SARS, but said the timing for the creation of another unit to replace SARS is inauspicious given the mood of the nation.
They also demanded that former SARS members who participated in the abuse of human rights of Nigerians be brought to book and the victims of SARS’ brutality adequately compensated. The IGP had told the governors that SWAT officers would be trained, and about 50 of them posted to each state command and Abuja, to engage “only on intelligence-driven operation”. “They will not take part in routine operations, but will operate specifically on intelligence after which they will return to their commands.”
He assured that he will leverage on the provisions of the new Police Act 2020 to carry out extensive reforms within the police, and pledged the support, understanding and guidance of governors to embark on the new reforms. But the governors, in a communiqué signed by the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said SWAT might be “misinterpreted as a surreptitious move to dress F-SARS in another garb.”
The Ekiti State governor said the governors agreed that there was need for greater consultation with the public before any decision is taken. “Governors advised the IGP to, immediately, convene a meeting of all stakeholders and agree on a format of engagement with all state officials in order to address concerns,” he stated. According to him, governors emphasised that the proposed reform of the police should “include the training and retraining of operatives on the rules of engagement with the general public.
“Policing in Nigeria must ensure freedom for all Nigerians to carry out their lawful and legitimate businesses anywhere in the country without fear of harassment, intimidation or molestation.
“Governors advised that throughout the reform process, the room for consultation may include sessions and direct feedback from the public, stressing that there is no single solution that applies to all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.”
The governors also acknowledged the concerns of Nigerians youths who have been affected by the excesses of some officials of F-SARS and the Nigeria Police. They, however, noted the efforts of officials of F-SARS, especially “in containing the increasing spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, and other high end crimes, particularly in the northern states, where containing these criminal activities would have otherwise been very challenging.”
The governors expressed concern at the sweeping decision to scrap F-SARS even while acknowledging the need to address its excesses. On compensation to victims of SARS’ brutality, Fayemi disclosed that each state was mandated to set up a panel and see that the necessary compensation is made to those who deserve them.
“This must be systematically done to ensure that nobody who deserves to be compensated is left out,” the governor added. He demanded that other Nigerians, who have been adversely affected by police brutality or other actions that were injurious to them or their loved ones, should be compensated. The NGF secretariat was directed to work with the police authority to develop a framework for setting up a panel of enquiry across the states to determine claims and compensation.
“Governors are aware that some states have already started engaging protesters and urged all states that have not commenced same to invite all stakeholders in the matter to resolve these issues,” he said.
The governor called on the IGP, the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Nigeria Police Council (NPC) to immediately review the remuneration and emoluments of police officers and “explore ways to fund this in order to incentivise and motivate police officers who have pledged themselves in service of the country.”
Fayemi said the governors agreed that the concerns of the public went beyond a need for Police/F-SARS reforms,but a demand for better governance. “They noted the need to engage, consult the public and take decisions that address the underpinning issues leading to the protests.
“Governors enjoined the IGP to be ready to forge stronger partnerships with state governments and the civil society to improve civil relations between the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian public,” he added. They, however, pledged to support the IGP in his plan to carry out far-reaching reforms geared towards greater effectiveness, accountability and transparency of the police force.
“Members called for increased regularity in the meetings of the Nigeria Police Council in order for it to effectively carry out its regulatory and supervisory roles as contained in the Nigerian Constitution,” the governors demanded. They commended President Muhammadu Buhari for acknowledging that the protests and demonstrations reflect genuine concerns of many Nigerians and called for a speedy implementation of all the agreed points.