NHRC indicts 35 SARS officers, AGF approves prosecution

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NHRC Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu sars
NHRC Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday submitted a list of 35 operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), for prosecution.

Submitting the list at the AGF office in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu, said the list was an extract of the full report of the Special Presidential Panel on SARS earlier submitted to the President Muhammadu Buhari, on June 3, 2019.

Ojukwu said the submission of the list of the indicted officers to the AGF was in line with the mandate of the panel.

He said, “In line with mandate of the panel, the commission is here today to submit the list to you, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the list of all officers who have been indicted in the report.

“The list contains the names of all those who are to be prosecuted for various offences by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.”

He noted that the report of the panel contained the findings on the complaints gathered from Nigerians during the sitting of the panel in the six-geopolitical zones of the country.

He added that the list of the indicted operatives was accompanied with the full report of the panel to guide the prosecution of the indicted operatives.

“We have also brought the original copy of the full report which will also guide the office of the Attorney-General in looking at the details for the required prosecution, because the summary will not have all the documents.

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

“We brought the full report which will guide the prosecuting officers.”

Responding, Malami said his office would do justice to the list “through prosecution and taking associated incidental administrative steps”.

The minister, who said the Buhari administration had embarked on policies and legislations such as the Police Act 2020 to ensure deep reforms of the police in the country, also said the panel’s report would not be implemented to protect the interest of the victims without considering the interests of the general society.

He said the report would be implemented in line with the “multi-way-traffic nature of the justice system”.

The submission came amid protests by the youth in different parts of the country calling for the scrapping of SARS, an end to police brutality and reform of the police force.

President Muhammadu Buhari PIB Girls sars
President Muhammadu Buhari

Ojukwu told journalists after the presentation of the report to the AGF that the submission of the list of the indicted SARS operatives came over one year after submitting the report to the President Muhammadu Buhari, because of the long time it took the white paper panel to conclude their job and to obtain the necessary approvals for the recommendations of the implementation committee.

He noted that the list submitted to the AGF on Monday contained the names of 35 operatives earlier handed to the Police Service Commission last week for disciplinary action.

“All the people to be dismissed are going to be prosecuted,” he said.

He added that the report of the panel contained the list of operatives to be dismissed and demoted, as well as lists of people to be compensated or apologised to via newspaper publications.

Justifying the setting up of the fresh panel to be headed by a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, the NHRC boss said the new panel was to look into fresh violations by the police since 2018 when the previous panel concluded sitting.

Ojukwu who described the ongoing anti-SARS protests as genuine, said the continuous moves to probe SARS activities was designed to prevent the accumulation of unaddressed grievances that led to the demonstrations.

He said, “SARS violation is a daily thing. For instance, that report was about violations as of 2018. There have been violations from 2018 till today. Some people were shot last week. Even if the panel finishes sitting today, after some time, it has to sit again so that it can look at new cases.

“Part of the recommendations of the former panel is that this panel that should sit over complaints on police impunity continually from time to time. As they accumulate like that, they should be dealt with, so that in our country we will never have a time when we will get to this stage.

“Because of past years of not attending to these things in this way, they have accumulated and you see the results on the streets.

“They are genuine concerns, they are genuine reasons to be on the streets. So,we are saying never again, this will never happen again in our history.

“What we are trying to institutionalise is a system that will keep making sure that impunity does not go unpunished.”