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SARS activities unacceptable — Osinbajo

VICE-PRESIDENT Yemi Osinbajo on Sunday condemned the actions of some policemen, especially those attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Several Nigerians including former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar and the ex-Senate President, Bukola Saraki had condemned the SARS operatives, many of whom had been accused of harassing and killing Nigerians.

Atiku had on Saturday charged the Federal Government to reform the SARS and rid the police unit of “rogue elements.”

And in his reaction to public outcry on the activities of the SARS operatives, Osinbajo told State House correspondents that reprehensible actions from those saddled with the responsibilities of protecting citizens are unacceptable.

He, therefore, commended the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for moving to address the various complaints about the police unit.

The vice-president said it was wrong for policemen to seize laptops and phones from young Nigerians in the name of fighting cybercrime.

He urged Nigerians to continue to bring the issue regularly to the attention of the government and the police.

He stressed that the reform of the police, particularly the SARS is in the offing.

Osinbajo said: “I am very concerned and in fact sometimes angry about what I see happening to young men and women who are arrested and, in some cases, maimed or killed by men of the police force, in some cases, those who man tactical units of the police force such as SARS and other units.

“It is completely objectionable. It is unacceptable. These are individuals who are meant to protect Nigerians. The arrest, maiming, killing of young people, or anyone at all by these individuals is completely wrong. It is unlawful, it is illegal and all those involved ought to be investigated and prosecuted.

“This afternoon, I had a meeting with the IG of Police. We reviewed several of these issues. The president and I had had discussions on this. He is very concerned about this and he wants to see a reform of this process and I am sure you are probably aware that the IGP has issued a statement, looking at all these issues, in particular, warning against the use of these tactical forces such as SARS for the purposes of anything other than anti-bribery as it is supposed to be.

“For example, in the statement, he specifically said that we can’t have a situation where SARS will say they are investigating cybercrime and arresting young men and women who are carrying laptops and their phones.

“Cybercrime is electronic crime. There is no way that you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi. I think it is very obvious that this is a major concern. The few bag eggs within the police force are causing a lot of these.

“Of course, it is all over the place in different states. There is the need of course to take serious action. I think that the IG’s statement today is a good first step. He has said clearly that policemen 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, reform is in the offing.

“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.

“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 the 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.”

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