Police brutality: Archbishop of Lagos calls for clarification

AFRICA/NIGERIA -s (Agenzia Fides)
“Recently there have been reports and videos documenting that members of the Nigerian police, in particular SARS operatives, have been involved in various acts of brutality and extortion against innocent citizens of this great Country”, said His Exc. Mgr. Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of Lagos.  This comment was made in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides following the decision of the Nigerian authorities to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which was supposed to act against violent robbery, but instead was apparently responsible for criminal acts against the population.

“It is sad that a good fraction of the persons who are constitutionally empowered to provide security and ensure peace have now turned against the people they are meant to protect”, said Mgr. Martins. “We have also received reports of how some SARS officials are accused of executing victims in an extrajudicial manner.

The only way of assuaging the anger in the land now is to ensure that the guilty ones are brought to face the law and justice is seen to have been done. Such heinous crimes must not be condoned or allowed to continue”, said the Archbishop of Lagos. For years, the population has been complaining about the abuses of power by SARS members. After violent protests, the Nigerian police chief ordered a restructuring of the SARS special unit three years ago. However, according to an Amnesty International investigation published in June 2020, “torture and other ill-treatment” continued with impunity. Amnesty International documented a total of 82 cases between January 2017 and May 2020.

“Unfortunately, we have been witnesses to the seeming inability of our police authorities to put an end to this outright siege on hapless Nigerians”, said the Archbishop of Lagos. “We understand – continues Archbishop Martins – that there have been no less than four attempts by the topmost hierarchy of the Nigeria Police to call these special units to order without success. One wonders why this is the case. Inability to bring them under control gives room for people to insinuate that the top echelons are themselves compromised”. “It would be sad if this were true”

Archbishop Martins therefore asks “President Muhammadu Buhari, the Commission of Police Services and the Inspector General of the Police to commence a thorough and realistic review of the entire structure of the force in order to restore its integrity”.

(L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 13/10/2020)