President Muhammadu Buhari Monday received a report on the reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and requested that the report be studied and a white paper produced within three months.
Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), who was reacting to media reports that the President has approved the setting up of State and Local Government Policy said that President Buhari’s specific directive is that a three-man panel be set up to produce the white paper.
“The report of the white paper committee will form the basis of the decisions of the government on the many recommendations, including the setting up of state and local government police made by the Ojukwu panel,” the statement said, stressing that “until a white paper is produced, it will be premature and pre-emptive to suggest that the recommendations contained in the report have been approved by the President in part or whole.”
The President had, on Monday in Abuja directed the Inspector General of Police, Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to work out modalities for the implementation of the report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the SARS within three months.
The President gave the directive while receiving the 2804 page-report from the Panel headed by Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, NHRC, at the State House.
The report of the Panel, which is in Four Volumes had among other things recommended the dismissal of 37 police officers from the force and the prosecution of 24 others.
The Panel also directed the IGP to unravel the identity of 22 officers involved in the violation of human rights of innocent citizens while the police was directed to pay compensation of various sums in 45 complaints and tender public apologies in five complaints, and to obey court orders in five matters.
The Panel recommended the establishment of State and local government police and the renaming of SARS to Anti-Robbery Section (ARS) which was its original name and to make the section operate under the intelligence arm of the Police.
Responding, President Buhari said, inter alia:
‘‘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.
‘‘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.
‘‘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).
‘‘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’’