President Muhammadu Buhari has received the report of the Presidential Panel on Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Reform.
The panel was constituted as a result of public outcry and various media reports on allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by officers and men of SARS.
Buhari said: “Reforming and repositioning the Nigeria Police Force to be more effective and efficient in safeguarding lives and properties, apprehending offenders and generally improving the internal security of our Nation in line with our laws and international best practices has been one of the major policies of this Administration.
“In order to reposition the Nigeria Police Force to effectively carry out its statutory responsibilities, I have taken major steps by increasing the workforce of the Nigeria Police as well as improving the welfare of Police officers, because they put their lives on the front line on a daily basis so that the rest of us may freely go about our business in safety.
“However, in carrying out their statutory responsibilities, the Police must at all times act within the ambit of the law and must not violate the fundamental human rights of Nigerians whom they have sworn to protect.’’
He said that the government has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of Nigerians were not violated by Police Officers while discharging their functions.
The president said that police officers would be held accountable where human rights were violated.
“It is in recognition of our obligations under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and International Human Rights Laws, that this Administration decided to set up this Presidential Panel.
“It directed the National Human Rights Commission to constitute its membership in order to investigate the various public outcries and media reports alleging human rights violations against citizens by officers of SARS.’’
He said that the panel was empowered to make appropriate recommendations not just for holding Police Officers found wanting accountable, but also, on ways SARS and by extension, the Nigeria Police could be generally reformed.
Buhari said that the decision to direct the National Human Rights Commission to constitute the membership of the Panel and to take the lead in investigating the said allegations of human rights violation, was borne out of the mandate of the Commission.
The mandate include the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights in Nigeria as enshrined under sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act, 1995 (as amended).
“It is also in recognition of the fact that the decisions, determinations and recommendations of the Commission are binding and enforceable as provided under section 22 of the NHRC Act, 1995 (as amended).’’
He said he believed that the report and recommendations 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.’’
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