The Presidential Hearing on the Reform of SARS held its public sitting in Lagos on Tuesday with stakeholders calling on Federal Government to equip and improve the welfare of the police.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the public sitting, organised by Nigeria Human Rights Commission (NHRC), was attended by security agencies, lawyers, judges and civil society organizations.
Speaking at the public hearing, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, said the country could be effectively protected if the police was provided with the right equipment and training.
“There is need to equip and train the police. We have the best police as they usually come out on top whenever they go on international engagements.
“There is urgent need to equip, train and improve their conditions of service and the sky will be their limit.
“For example, when police make arrests, the suspect’s next of kin should be immediately contacted by the police through a phone call.
“Also there should be video recorders to take suspects’ statements in the presence of their lawyer but you need to tell the government adequate funding is needed for all these.
“Even the training of our policeman is colonial,” Falana said.
He advised that courses on human rights be included in the police college curriculum.
“Also, if damages are awarded against the police in court, the police personnel who caused the misdemeanor should be made to pay partly from his pocket, if he retired, the damages should be deducted from his pension,” he said.
He condemned the parade of suspects by the police and enjoined everyone to utilise the social media in reporting cases of violation of human rights.
The Executive Chairman, Nigeria Human Rights Commission and the Panel Chairman, Tony Ojukwu, said the police sometimes resort to unprofessional actions when not provided with working tools.
Ojukwu said the police needed proper funding to function effectively and urged police to also manage their funds well.
The NHRC chairman said the society was underpoliced and called for the creation of state police to remedy the situation.
He said the panel was set up to address unending list of alleged unprofessionalism of SARS ranging from unlawful detention, torture, extra judicial killing and other cases bordering in human rights abuse.
“The panel is to hear cases bordering on human rights abuse, review and render advice with the view of reforming the conduct of SARS and making other appropriate recommendations.
“I commend the I-G on this reform and I want to appeal that the complainants be protected as I have received reports that some complainants are being harrassed.
“I also want to appeal that recommendations of this panel be enforced so that we can have a better reformed SARS,” he said.
The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Mrs Opeyemi Oke, represented by Justice Kazeem Alogba, said that there were good policemen but the bad ones among them had continued to tarnish the image of the police.
The Attorney General, Lagos State, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, also represented by a director from the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mrs Titi Shitta-Bey, emphasised the need to provide the police with necessary working tools.
“The police needs to be provided with investigative tools so that they can see the need to do away with crude tools.
“In Lagos, we have the DNA centers which helps the police in investigation. This should be emulated all over the country.
“There is need to look at training, remuneration and the police working environment so that they can perform their duties according to the law,” she said.
The Director General, Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Prof. Deji Adekunle, commended federal government for setting up the panel, adding that the effort should be channelled at upholding respect for fundamental human rights.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Edgal Imohimi, represented by DCP Ayuba Elkana, said that SARS Commanders had continued to undergo training on human rights since the End SARS campaign started.
He said the training would continue and gave assurance that there would be less cases of human rights abuses.
NAN reports that the five-day public sitting holding at Ikeja High Court will end on Saturday.