The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, has called on authorities of the Nigeria Police Force to listen to the legitimate public outcry against the excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS).
Martins, in a statement signed by the Director, Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, on Saturday in Lagos, said that the allegations of police brutality on the masses have become more urgent and constituted an unprofessional act.
He said while the intention for setting up the special police outfit is noble, the personnel have resorted to molesting the very people they are meant to protect.
“The recent increase in allegations of police brutality, particularly SARS operatives, against Nigerians, mostly youths across the country, is not only a breach of professional conduct but also sheer wickedness.
“It also showed the lack of respect for the citizens for whose welfare they were set up,” he said. He expressed his support for the ongoing protests demanding an end to SARS as presently constituted and the emergence of a better constituted unit that is better trained and well-monitored.
“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,” he said. Martins reiterated the need for a total overhaul of the present structure of the Nigeria Police Force and the reorientation of its personnel to make them efficient and accountable for their actions.
He advised that the process of recruiting men and officers in the force should be re-evaluated to attract more graduates of sound mind who must be exposed to international standards of training. He emphasised the need for adequate funding of police operations and an enhanced remuneration package for all policemen across board.
“We have received reports and seen many online videos alleging that some personnel of the Nigeria Police Force have been involved in various acts of brutality and extortion against innocent citizens.
“It is sad that a good fraction of the persons who are constitutionally empowered to provide security and ensure peace have now turned against the people they are meant to protect. “We have also received reports of how some SARS officials are accused of executing victims in extrajudicial manner.
“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,” he said. He said that 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 Nigeria 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,” he said.
He also called on the Inspector General of Police to commence a thorough and realistic review of the entire structure of the force in order to restore its integrity.
Martins said Nigerians have rights to peacefully protest against the excesses they experience at the hands of SARS and appealed to the country’s leadership to take appropriate action in order to avert worsening state of insecurity across the country. (NAN)