Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has condemned the frequent harassment and brutalisation of young Nigerians by operative of the Nigeria Police Force.
Speaking to State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa on Sunday, Osinbajo described such acts by the Police as annoying and unacceptable.
While commending Civil Society activists and those who call attention to the menace, he vowed that operatives found culpable would be exposed, investigated, and prosecuted.
“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,” he said.
The VP, who had earlier held a meeting with the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, at his residence, on Sunday, said President Muhammadu Buhari and himself had discussed the matter on a number of occasions.
He noted the President’s displeasure about such reports and his resolve to ensure reforms.
According to Osinbajo, such violations are “completely unacceptable because these are individuals who are meant to protect Nigerians. 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.”
“Today, I had a meeting with the Inspector General of Police, we reviewed several of these issues. The President and I have had discussions on this, he is very concerned about it. He wants to see a reform,” 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 say, 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.
“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 police men 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.
“It is very obvious that this is a major concern. A few bad eggs in the police force are causing all of these problems. It is all over the place, in different states. There is a need to take serious action.”
The vice president urged that all hands be on deck to effect reforms.
“I think that we all have to work together to ensure that the police and law enforcement agents, do what their duty is and their duty is to protect us, protect our society and livelihoods and homes,” he said.
“By the way, many of them are doing their duties excellently well, but there are some of them who are engaged in these activities. So, we must see this as something we all must work together to achieve, as individuals, to bring to the attention of the police and government, where there have been violations.
“And on the part of government and the police: to ensure that every one of those allegations is properly investigated and those found responsible are prosecuted and publicized so that people know that prosecution has taken place and this is the consequence. I am very confident that we will have a reformed police force and that process has already begun.”
Earlier on Sunday, the IGP banned SARS and other Tactical Squads from “routine patrols and stop and search duties.”
But this is not the first time such order is coming from an IGP. In December 2017, former IGP, Ibrahim Idris, issued a similar directive.
Idris had promised to restructure and reposition the unit for effective service delivery but the illegal acts of the operatives have persisted since that time.