The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Reverend Alfred Adewale Martins, has asked the Nigerian Police authorities to listen to the legitimate public protest against the excesses of the Special Anti-Theft Squad (SARS).
Martins, in a statement signed by the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, on Saturday in Lagos, said that the allegations of police brutality against the masses have become more urgent and constitute an unprofessional act.
He said that while the intention to establish the special police team is noble, the staff have resorted to sexually abusing the very people they are supposed to protect.
“The recent increase in reports of police brutality, in particular SARS agents, against Nigerians, mostly young people from all over the country, is not only an infraction of professional conduct but also pure evil.
“It also showed a lack of respect for the citizens for whose welfare they were created,” he said.
He expressed his support for the ongoing protests demanding the end of SARS as it is currently constituted and the emergence of a better constituted, better trained and better monitored unit.
“The officers in charge of such units must be specially trained, well financed and equipped for this purpose. SARS currently has compromised the purpose of its existence, ”he said.
Martins reiterated the need for a total overhaul of the current structure of the Nigerian Police Force and the reorientation of its personnel to make them efficient and accountable for their actions.
He advised that the process of recruiting men and officers into the force should be re-evaluated to attract more sane graduates who should be exposed to international training standards.
He emphasized the need for adequate funding of police operations and an improved compensation package for all police officers in general.
“We have received reports and seen many videos online alleging that Nigerian Police personnel have been involved in various acts of brutality and extortion against innocent citizens.
“It is sad that a good fraction of the people who are constitutionally empowered to provide security and guarantee peace have now turned against the people they must protect.
“We have also received reports of how some SARS officials are accused of extrajudicially executing the victims.
“The only way to quell the anger on earth now is to ensure that the guilty are brought to justice and that justice is seen to have been served,” he said.
He said such heinous crimes should not be tolerated or allowed to continue.
“Unfortunately, we have witnessed the apparent inability of our police authorities to end this total siege of the hapless Nigerians.
“We understand that there have been no fewer than four attempts by the highest hierarchy of the Nigerian Police to bring these special units to order without success.
“You wonder why this is so. The inability to keep them in check leads to people implying that the upper echelons are compromised, ”he said.
He also asked the Inspector General of Police to begin a comprehensive and realistic review of the entire force structure in order to restore its integrity.
Martins said Nigerians have the right to peacefully protest against the excesses they experience at the hands of SARS and called on the country’s leaders to take appropriate measures to prevent the worsening state of insecurity across the country.