Human rights organisation, Amnesty International has lauded the presidential directive to overhaul the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
A statement by the organisation’s Media Manager, Isa Sanusi, on Tuesday quoted its Director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, as saying the directive was proof that the growing outcry over the brutality of SARS had finally caught the attention of the country’s authorities.
Ojigho, however, stressed that although the move was a step in the right direction, the reforms must be robust to have any effect.
“This is an overdue yet hugely important move by Acting President Osinbajo. The growing outcry over the brutality of Nigeria’s notorious SARS police unit has finally got the attention of the country’s authorities.
“While this is positive news, it is crucial that any overhaul of SARS is far-reaching and immediately effective.
“Restructuring SARS is not enough unless the government takes concrete steps to protect Nigerians,” Ojigho said.
According to him, the reforms must translate into ending the torture, unlawful detention, extortion, extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations which SARS has been accused of.
“The reform ordered by the Acting President must translate into ending the torture, unlawful detention, extortion, extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations that SARS officers have been committing for years across Nigeria. That includes bringing to justice SARS officers found to have committed atrocities,” he said.
“There is much compelling public evidence of human rights violations committed by SARS, some of it directly documented by Amnesty International, and this should now be used to aid an effective investigation into the unit’s crimes”.
The Amnesty International director also asked that the special panel convened to investigate SARS must be independent and impartial.
As part of the overhaul, SARS has now been renamed Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), with a new commissioner of police appointed to head the unit.
Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, announced the changes in a statement on Tuesday, hours after Acting President Yemi Osinbajo ordered the immediate overhaul of the unit.