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Senate probes rights abuses by security agencies

Piqued by rising cases of rights abuses in the country, the Senate has mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to investigate human rights abuses by security agencies.

The Senate, yesterday, also mandated its Committees on Police Affairs, and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to investigate allegations of extra-judicial killings in the country and make recommendations.

It also mandated the Committee on Police Affairs, to convene a stakeholders’ meeting to investigate implementation of the Nigerian police Trust Fund Act, 2019. The Senate further urged the various security agencies to establish special hotlines, to enable Nigerians report activities by their agents.

The Upper Chamber, however, commended the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, for swift response to the recent public outcry against reports of brutality and extra-judicial killings of Nigerians by operatives of Federal Special Armed Robbery Squad (FSARS).

The apex legislative assembly urged the IGP to review the objective behind the establishment of the tactical squad, with a view to permanently restricting their interference on daily activities of Nigerians.

The Senate made these resolutions following a motion of urgent public importance, raised by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central), on rampant incidences of extrajudicial killings of Nigerians by FSARS operatives and other security agencies. In her submission, she lamented that SARS and other security agencies which ought to protect Nigerians, had been operating with utter disregard to the Constitution by breaching the fundamental human rights, including right to life.

Tinubu, who chronicled some of the incidences of brutality of security operatives against Nigerians, lamented that a militarised Police would only make the people the enemy of the state. She said: “These injustices are a flagrant disregard of laws that should govern all Nigerians and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which in addition to prescribing powers to these various agencies, provides for the rights of every Nigerian.

“Chapter 4 of the Constitution provides for right to life, right to freedom of movement, among others. “Senate is further reminded that Nigeria is signatory to the African charter of Human and People’s Rights and the Convention against Torture.

“In spite of this, the culture of brutality of security operatives towards Nigerians has continued unabated. “While the Nigerian Army is doing good job in securing the territory against insurgents, allegations of human rights abuses by its officers cannot be overlooked.

“Senate is concerned that the chief in the abuse of Nigerians appear to be the Nigeria Police Force, in particular, SARS. “Despite assurances by the IGP in 2015 and 2017, that there will be reforms of SARS, Nigerians are daily being abducted and extorted under duress with no mechanism in place for complaints.” In their various contributions, senators decried what they called illegal and violent operations of some of the security agents, in contradiction to what the laws set them up to achieve.

Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, said: “We are beginning to wonder because you can’t tell when you see a SARS and armed robbers even the way they are dressed. “We have the Constitution which has guaranteed privacy to our citizens but these people have become more like extortionists looking for ways to force people to part with money.” Also, Senator Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers), described SARS operatives as agents of corruption, alleging that they had formed the habit of extorting money from road users and brutally dealing with those who would not cooperate with their demand.

Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo) also lamented that SARS members were dressing like armed robbers, stressing that those of them who killed (illegally) must be killed in accordance with the provisions of the law.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, while condemning human rights abuses by SARS, however, said that scrapping the Police unit would not provide the desired result. He also insisted that all the SARS members involved in extra-judicial killings should be arrested, investigated and prosecuted, to serve as deterrent to others. Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila,has said the lower chamber will work closely with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and other civil society organisations to draft new legislation that would hold erring members of the police force to account for their conduct in the performance of their duties.

The new legislation will also compel the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to take responsibility for the failures of training and discipline that leads to such violations and impose civil and criminal liability for violations of the police code.

The House, however, through a motion sponsored by the majority leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, asked the IGP to produce a comprehensive record of disciplinary and or judicial action taken against the officers accused of abuse of power in the past five years. Similarly, the House mandated the police boss to produce immediate plan for identifying and compensation for victims.

 

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