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Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos
The authorities of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) were during the week advised to listen to public outcry, and contain the excesses of the officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, gave the admonition in a press release signed by the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu.
While rating the intention of the NPF for setting up SARS to curb incidents of armed robbery and related crimes as noble, the archbishop said that the unit had resorted to molesting the very people they were meant to protect.
According to the prelate, the recent increase in allegations of police brutality, particularly SARS operatives, against Nigerians, especially youths across the country was not only a breach of professional conduct but also showed wickedness, and lack of respect for citizens, for whose welfare they were set up.
Said he: “In recent times, we have received several reports and seen many online videos alleging that some personnel of the Nigerian Police Force, especially SARS operatives, have been involved in various acts of brutality and extortion against innocent citizens of this great country.
“It is sad that a good number of the very persons who are constitutionally empowered to provide security and ensure peace and order have now turned against the very people they are meant to protect. We have also received reports of how some SARS officials are accused of executing victims in extrajudicial manner. To say the least, this is incredibly sad and troubling. The only way of assuaging the anger in the land now is to ensure that the guilty ones are brought to face the law, and justice seen to have been done. Such heinous crimes must not be condoned or allowed to continue.
“Unfortunately, we have been witnesses to the seeming inability of our police authorities to put an end to this outright siege on hapless Nigerians. We understand that there have been no less than four attempts by the topmost hierarchy of the Nigerian Police to call these special units to order without success. One wonders why this is the case. Inability to bring them under control gives room for people to insinuate that the top echelons are themselves compromised. It would be sad if this is found to be true”.
The Archbishop also warned that failure of the leadership of the country to take appropriate action against the excesses of the security operatives this time, might exacerbate the worsening state of insecurity across the country.
Supporting the ongoing protests by youths in the country for government to ban SARS, the archbishop called for a better unit that is well constituted, monitored, and accountable for its actions.
Said he: “The officers in charge of such units must be specially trained, well-funded and equipped for such purpose. SARS at present, has compromised the purpose of its existence.
“There is need for total overhauling of the present structure of the Police Force and reorientation of the personnel to make them more efficient and accountable for their actions”.
The archbishop also advised that the process of recruiting officers and men of the Police Force should be re-evaluated, to attract well read people of sound mind and body, who must be exposed to international standards of training.
Stressed he: “We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police to commence a thorough and realistic review of the entire structure of the Police Force in order to restore its integrity. It would not be fair to the hardworking and thoroughbred professionals among the officers whose integrity have been put on the line unless a permanent halt is brought to the rot that has been festering in the system over the years.
He emphasised the need for adequate funding of police operations, and an enhanced remuneration package for all policemen across board.
Further calling for an end to the brutality associated with SARS and other law enforcement agencies, Archbishop Martins affirmed the right of Nigerians to peacefully protest against the excesses they experienced.