Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says the reports of harassment of young people by officers of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) of the Nigeria police force makes him “very angry”.
Laolu Akande, media aide to the vice-president, said Osinbajo stated this while speaking with state house correspondents in Abuja on Sunday.
According to Akande, the vice-president said the reports of brutality were “completely unacceptable because these are individuals who are meant to protect Nigerians”.
Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari has also expressed displeasure over the reports of human rights abuses by SARS, and urged Nigerians to expect a reform of the police force.
“The President and I have had discussions on this. He is very concerned about it. He wants to see reform,” Osinbajo was quoted as saying.
“I am very concerned, in fact, very angry about what I see happening to young men and women who are arrested — in some cases maimed or killed by men of the police force.
“The arrest, maiming or killing of young people or anyone at all, is completely wrong. It is unlawful and illegal, and anyone involved in this act ought to be investigated and prosecuted.”
The vice president also said he met with Mohammed Adamu, inspector-general of police, over measures to check SARS operations.
“Today, I had a meeting with the inspector-general of police. We reviewed several of these issues,” he said.
“You are probably aware that the IGP has issued a statement looking at all these issues; in particular, the warning against the use of these tactical units such as SARS for purposes of doing anything other than anti-robbery.
“For example, and I think in his statement, he specifically said that you cannot have a situation where SARS says they are investigating cybercrime by arresting young men and women carrying their laptops and phones. Cybercrime is an electronic crime. I don’t see how you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi or in their cars.
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“It is very obvious that this is a major concern; a few bad eggs in the police force are causing all of these problems because it is all over the place, in different states. There is a need to take serious action.
“The IG’s statement today is a good first step. He has said clearly that policemen must wear police uniforms. You cannot say that because you belong to a tactical unit, you can dress in your casual clothing and be armed, because people can’t even tell the difference between robbers and the police if you are not properly dressed in police uniform. So, clearly, a reform is in the offing.
“So, I will like to encourage civil society activists, young men and women, who bring this regularly, by the way, to the attention of government and the police. And I think that activism is important because they have been able to bring a lot of these issues to the attention of the police and government, and that is an important part of the process of the reform.”