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As the EndSARS Campaign attracts heated arguments nationwide, our correspondent sorted the opinions of Nigerian Lawyers on how best to handle the campaign in accordance with the 1999 Constitution as Amended.

Jude Ifesemen Esq

Jude Ifesemen Esq

The call is not to end SARs but end illegality! We are tired of high handedness! We want due process!

We want to cry and our cries not only heard but responded with progressive actions! We are demanding for accountability from the government and it’s agencies!

Policemen are part of us! Give them better pay! They should have dignity of office! Politicians should stop using them as attack dogs and bodyguards! They belong to Nigeria not the Government in power

Clinton Mabilo Esq

The legal way to handle the SARS issue for me is to firstly ensure that all officers of the unit involved in human rights violations be persecuted and brought to book.

Also, the Nigerian police force should undergo a massive reform to bring the officers of the force up to speed on their mandate to protect the lives of the Nigerian citizen.

Perhaps a whistle blowing platform should be established within the police force to flush out corrupt officers.

Ehis Princewill Esq

Let us begin by establishing that these SARS officials were first and are still police personnel.

 After disbanding them as SARS they retain their original status as policemen. Possibly to be redeployed into another special unit. Their attitude remains with them and transferred into the new roles they take up in the police force.

It becomes imperative to reform the police and give them proper training, orientation and continuous training on the rules of engagement with civilians. I believe this will put them on check.

Then once this police-civilian relationship is established, NGOs and CSOs should be given or take the mandate to educate and sensitize the civilian population on their rights and rules of engagement with the police under any form of special unit whatsoever. Sensitization should also extend to civic responsibility as well as consequences of criminality and the role of the civil population in combating insecurity.

There should be a reporting desk for police violation of human right and extortion. The police service commission should be reformed and empowered to punish erring police officers or personnel.

Joy Aduku Iorshenge Esq

Let’s look at the law that established Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

The essence to which it was established. The scope of their duty must have been defined in the law that created or established SARS.

That is in essence saying if the scope is breached the same law would do the needful in a duly constituted authority to end it by law.

Kamo Sende Esq

The easiest approach to the SARS issue is for the President to issue an Executive Order proscribing the group and banning all current officers of the group from being recruited into any special unit of the Police force that will have daily dealings with ordinary civilians.

There are those who would argue that the new Police Act gives the IGP powers to phase out the group and rightly so — for those I would say — The constitution guarantee’s financial autonomy for the Local Governments as every tier of Government as it does for the Judiciary and every arm of government.  An Executive order was however still made to this effect and the calls for it have drawn breath from that.

Few times in the world would anybody ever err on the side of surplussage and/or caution.

The Proscription of SARS needs a legal backing and the most logical and convenient now is an Executive Order.

Nnamdi Uzuegbue Esq

Nnamdi Uzuegbue Esq

My opinion on what the legal community can do rests mainly on the three-pronged approach taken by the President of the NBA who set out short-term, mid-term and long-term objevtives which the NBA according to him would be a part of.

One thing which I found curiously missing from his address was the role of some rogue members of the legal profession who enable police brutality and excesses. The uncomfortable and gradually rising trend is for lawyers to write petitions and commence criminal proceedings on behalf of their clients on purely civil matters which border on debt revovery but not always limited to same.

I am often embarrassed when I get distress calls from clients at police stations including the now defunct SARS office on civil matters. The officers are always quick to justify their position by the petitions drafted by lawyers to complainants. This to me is most discouraging as lawyers ought to know better than encouraging the erosion of public trust in the judiciary.

Lawyers led by the NBA can kick against this by directing separate agitations to the General Council of the Bar so this can be made a serious ethical issue. Lawyers should not be seen to enable police excesses.

I rely on section 66 of the new Police Act 2020 which prohibits the use of police officers in civil matters. The legal profession must complement this law and also help to escalate complaints of police misconduct to the highest level so victims of police misconduct can find justice.

For now, more lawyers should join their colleagues in providing pro bono services to victims

Ruth Olofin Esq

My further thoughts:

Beyond SARSMUSTEND, what we see today is a manifestation of the deep neglect of several recommendations to reform aspects or all of our policing system. Lack of sustainability of reform programmes by successive political leaders, cosmetic pronouncements here and there, low budget appropriation, decayed police training infrastructures, weak capacity of oversight bodies such as the PSC, lack of transparency and merit in the recruitment process, poor welfare, an institutionalized police culture that tends to leave bitter taste in the mouths of most Nigerians and poor accountability for human rights violations by the Police. We can go on and on. You cannot put the police in these situations and expect them to perform magic-SARS aside. I appreciate one of the demands of the protesters to improve on pay packages of the police but what is happening to the Police Trust Fund Act and its implementation more than a year after it was signed into law? What has happened to the 2018 panel reports on SARS submitted by the NHRC to the Presidency? We are now going to pick that up from the shelves to have a look? The implementation of the Police Trust Fund Act 2019 for instance is supposed to take care of issues of infrastructures, training and equipment amongst other demands. The police as it is presently is a reflection  of a mix of broader contemporary governance challenges in Nigeria and its historical origins. As Alice Hills argued in one of her timeless articles titled the ‘Dialectics of Police Reforms in Nigeria’ Police Reforms in Nigeria is like a “waltz dance-one step forward followed by one step sideways or backwards” and critically that “police reform can make a huge normative and organisational difference, but that in the absence of fundamental socio-political change, its effects tend to be superficial, localised and

temporary (Hills: 2008). We must reform the police truthfully. We must call for an end to police brutality. We must change the alienating culture of our policing system in Nigeria

Abubakar D. Sani Esq

Three options:

i. Retain SARS as it is;

ii. ‘Scrap’ it (more like modification, as has been proposed, and re-christine it – as SWAT); or

iii. Scrap it altogether, without a replacement

The last option is obviously neither desirable nor realistic. This leaves the other two.

The short answer to the question is that the problem (or challenge, if you will) which has led to the movement against SARS is no different than the problem which has bedevilled virtually all our public institutions, namely: the attitude of the operatives or those responsible, for service delivery therein.

The question to be asked, to my mind, is: what is responsible for the widespread public perception that they have failed to live up to expectations and have, in effect, become the problem rather than the solution? This is the real question and the Gordian knot, which must be untied, in order to find a meaningful solution to the conundrum. In other words, how do we ‘square the circle’?

The truth is there are no easy answers. What is clear, however, is that, as long as the orientation of our public officials is problematic – as long as they see public service as if they are doing the public a service, instead of serving the public – the public will continue to perceive them – rightly – as performing below expectations

Accordingly, a root-and-branch or wholesale re-orientation of our doing the public a favour- across the board, not just restricted to SARS – is imperative as an indispensable part of the policy mix to be deployed in reforming the entire system. 

Dimson D. Dimas Esq.

For me, disbanding SARS indicates the voice of the citizens is supreme, which is a good development.  However, this is not the solution. SARS is a department of the Nigeria Police Force, and the personnel deployed to that department are members of the police force. If you disband SARS you’ve only closed a department but those personnel still remain part of the police force. So the problem is with the entire police force.

The best way to handle the situation is by way of legislation. We can set up the SARS as an independent agency like EFCC with its own enabling Act circumscribing its functions, regulating the activities of its personnel, providing a medium of accountability by its personnel, medium of complaint by citizens against erring personnel and a controlling body that will be responsible for the agency.

Alternatively, we can amend the Police Act to reform the entire police force, accommodate entities like SARS and other departments and provide for their control and regulation and medium of complaint against its personnel.

Where the alternative is taken, the controlling body, though set up by the   Police Act, should be independent of the Nigeria Police Force, to avoid manipulation and to ensure it’s dispassionate in handling citizens complaints and handing appropriate sanctions and penalty to erring personnel.

Emmanuel Bagudu
Author: Emmanuel Bagudu

Abuja based award-winning multimedia journalist

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