How not to reform SARS

by | December 11, 2017 1:45 pm



For more than two weeks, youths on twitter have waged a campaign tagged #ENDSARS. It is in response to the well documented abuse that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force has been putting Nigerians through over the years.

Amnesty International has over the years documented many of these atrocities. But now, citizens using the power of social media are narrating their ordeals in the hands of these very brutal police unit. And the stories have been very heart rending, a depiction of man’s inhumanity to man.

Obviously, SARS, which is symptomatic of Nigeria security agencies generally, have little respect for the rights or lives of citizens when they are arrested. Even of more concern, is that you do not have to be a criminal to be arrested by SARS. You just have to be in the right place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, once you are picked up by SARS, you have little chance of walking scot free without paying a bribe or getting tortured.

 

The truth is that SARS, like most security organisations in Nigeria, is broken and needs urgent reforms to make them fit for purpose. But as it is often the tendency of the Nigeria Police, they are always quick to deny these atrocities, despite the fact that it is obvious that many Nigerians do not consider the police credible.

 

In response to the campaign, the Inspector General of police has announced a hurried and cosmetic re-organisation of SARS, which will largely not meet the yearning of Nigerians. What Nigerians want is an accountable and responsible SARS and police force that respects their rights, even when they are in the wrong. Sadly, the Presidency has been largely silent on an issue that deals with the fundamental human rights of its citizens.

 

What the country needs currently, is the immediate setting up of an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) like what is obtainable in the UK, whose members are none police officers and independent of the police and even the government. Their tenure should be guaranteed and they should be given the power to handle  criminal and non-criminal complaints made by members of the public against the police force. The IPCC should be given the power to sanction a police officer where it is established that he has clearly abused his position. This is the minimum reform needed for the Nigeria Police Force and even all other security agencies. Anything short of this is just cosmetic and should be ignored. Nigerian lives matter.

 

The Refineries are coming but…

 

Even Nigerians line up in long queues struggling to get some fuel for their cars, hope is rising in the horizon, as more companies announce their intention to set up refineries in  the country. Nigeria has three refineries that have been comatose for more than two decades, despite promise after promise of each government to get them fixed. Perhaps, Nigeria’s refineries could easily qualify as the longest mechanical fix award in the world.

 

But tired of waiting for the government, the private sector is beginning to intervene, even though there is still little or no government support in sight, in terms of enabling policies. The 650,000 barrels per day Dangote refinery has reached advanced completion stage and is expected to largely help Nigerian become almost self-sufficient.

 

But other private sector operations are also coming on board. Petrolex Oil & Gas Limited announced on 6 December, plans to invest US$3.6 billion in a 250,000 barrels per day refinery project. Chief Executive Officer of Petrolex, Segun Adebutu told Bloomberg that the “front-end engineering design” is ongoing and that the plan is to complete construction in 2021. This is another good news that will create jobs and help Nigeria in its drive to stop the importation of refined products into the country.

 

But the government must also move fast to deregulate the downstream sector and make it easier for companies to raise the finance that they need to operate in the sector. Without deregulation, it is difficult to make these projects bankable. Most entrepreneurs going into the sector are taking huge risks, possibly hoping that the government will see the sense in deregulating the sector soon.

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