Why we do not accept the President’s and IGP’s assurances.
1. You have made at least 6 promises over the last 4 years on the subject. Not a single action was ever taken. These guys come back stronger and worse.
2. The recommendations of the 2018 Presidential Panel on Police Reforms have not been implemented. You set up the panel, empowered them, accepted their report, promised to implement all the recommendations, but failed to implement.
3. You have not actually heard us. You keep assuming what we want.
4. You do not regret the actions of your killer squad. You are only reactionary. Your words and body language suggest that it is still business as usual.
5. Your men and officers are still on the streets harassing and arresting peaceful protesters, and anyone that records their atrocities.
Now to why SWAT is not the solution.
1. It is difficult to believe that much thought was given to the creation of the new unit. It took less than 3 days to come up with a ‘perfect’ replacement for SARS. That is just too quick to be taken seriously. Especially in view of your past record of unfulfilled promises.
2. Your selection process for who will be on the SWAT team could not have been thorough. It is logically impossible to screen, approve and designate members of an elite tactical team within 3 days. And you are saying their training will start next week. How did you pick the new officers? It is obvious you are only changing the title from SARS to SWAT. Like NEPA to PHCN. No real difference. It appears you’ve only invited the dissolved SARS operatives to Abuja so that they can resume as SWAT.
3. You have not told us the mode of operation of the SWAT team, and the command structure. The problem of SARS was only half about the men. It had more to do with their lack of accountability, and fuzzy terms of reference. Add to that their poor training on human rights. You have still not addressed those issues.
4. Nothing has been said about the current detainees in SARS captivity or ongoing cases/investigations. No hand-over, no release. This proves that it is still the same old boys in a new garment.
5. SWAT as a team needs to be properly funded, trained and tooled. We do not have any confidence that there is any funding plan for this ‘new’ squad.
What then can the Police and Government do to convince Nigeria that this time around, you are serious?
While we wait for the implementation of the extensive reforms, we need tokens of commitment. Here are a few low hanging fruits you can implement in the immediate and short term to assure Nigerians that this is not mere words again:
Set up a website or digital data centre to receive all complaints and allegations against members of SARS from 1992 till date. We want to know that you’re listening to us.
Set up a Truth Commission with mandate to move from State to State to hear and receive complaints and evidence from all victims (or their families) of SARS brutality.
Order police officer to stop engaging peaceful protesters. NSCDC and FRSC are better suited to manage crowd and traffic at this time. The people are triggered already. Ensure your men don’t aggravate them. We should not even be talking about not harassing or arresting them. But this is Nigeria. Tell military and paramilitary man to stop harassing and arresting peaceful protesters.
Invite NBA, National Human Rights Commission, Legal Aid Council, Civil society groups, and the judiciary to audit all SARS detention facilities across the country. And unconditional release of detainees who are innocent or without reasonable cases to answer.
Order the immediate hand-over of all SARS detainees to the regular police formations in each State. With instructions to accelerate investigation and trial.
Announce a compensation scheme for all victims or families of those murdered.
IGP and top brass of the police should physically visit families of confirmed victims of SARS brutality, and condole with them. We want to see empathy. We want to see remorse.
Order immediate and phased psyche evaluation for all present and past SARS operatives. You need to understand why they act the way they do, so that you can preempt such psychological breaks among officers in future.
Order immediate forensic financial audit of all SARS operatives in the country. The monies they have extorted from people are kept somewhere. It wouldn’t be so hard to trace.
Announce the suspension of the heads of SARS formations across the country, and make them appear before disciplinary panels. Someone must be held accountable for the atrocities of their operatives.
Order immediate restructure of the police architecture to allow State Governors have effective oversight powers over the police infrastructure in their States.
Finally, when you address us, look into the camera. Stop reading a script. It makes you look like you don’t care. Better yet, come out and address the human beings. Do not just talk to cameras and the press.
My name is Michael Olaniyan.
Office of the Citizen of Nigeria.