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Promoting Good Governance.

Jubilation on Twitter as Osinbajo orders overhaul of SARS

IF Twitter were a real-life community, shouts of celebration and jubilation will be ringing out in its streets following the reports that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has ordered a total overhaul of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force.

In a statement on Tuesday, media aide to Osinbajo said the Acting President gave the directive “following persistent complaints and reports on the activities of SARS”.

“His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, Acting-President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, has directed the Inspector General of Police to, with immediate effect, overhaul the management and activities of SARS and ensure that any unit that will emerge from the process, will be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more,” Akande stated.

“The Acting President has also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Humanitarian Law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects. The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.”

Akande further stated that Osinbajo also directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a probe panel “that will conduct a nation-wide investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS in order to afford members of the general public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress”.

There has been a campaign on the social media, Twitter particularly, codenamed #EndSARS, calling for the scrapping of that department of the police force. Hundreds of Nigerians, using the #EndSARS hashtag have shared countless encounters at the hands of SARS operatives, most time involving gross violation of their rights.

The originator of the #EndSARS campaign, Segun Awosanya, took to his Twitter handle to celebrate the Acting President’s directive, describing it as a victory for the ordinary citizens.

“We WON Guys! Time to build anew. The new Nigeria is real. Congrats to the Nigerian police as we begin to reform. Out with the Old and welcome the New. Osinbajo delivers,” Awosanya, a legal practitioner, tweeted.

“The Devil is in the details. The implementation of the order is key. We will remain vigilant as we press on to ensure effective monitoring,” he added.

Awosanya’s tweet was followed by hundreds of tweets celebrating the development and pouring accolades on the convener of the campaign.

However, while celebrating the imminent overhauling of SARS, Twitter users also called for the sack of Abayomi Sogunle, Director of Police Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit, who made life more difficult for victims of SARS, by taunting them on social media and making jest of them.

In one of his tweets, Shogunle said SARS can only be scrapped if his post was retweeted 186 million times, a post which Nigerians interpreted as making mockery of the #EndSARS campaign.

Many says the #EndSARS campaign will not have succeeded if Shogunle remain in office.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAILS DIRECTIVE

Amnesty International, a global human rights group, hailed the directive to overhaul SARS but added that the reform “must translate into ending the torture, unlawful detention, extortion, extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations that SARS officers have been committing for years across Nigeria”.

“There is much compelling public evidence of human rights violations committed by SARS, some of it directly documented by Amnesty International, and this should now be used to aid an effective investigation into the unit’s crimes.

“The special panel convened to investigate SARS must be independent and impartial. Its aims can only be achieved if victims are given time and protection to present their cases.”
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