By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has expressed concern about the timing for the creation of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) squad by the Nigerian Police to replace the dissolved Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS).
The 36 state governors expressed the concern in a communiqué issued on Thursday after the NGF 19th teleconference.
It was signed by the forum’s Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, in Abuja.
The communique said that the governors deliberated on a number of issues affecting the country particularly the nationwide protests, riots and demonstrations against the activities of officials of FSARS and the Nigerian Police.
It noted that the governors at the meeting were briefed by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu, on protests against SARS and plan to create an intelligence-driven SWAT.
It quoted the IGP as informing the forum that about 50 SWAT officers would be posted to each state and the FCT after a psychological and medical evaluation.
It said that the officers, according to the IGP would not take part in routine operations, but specifically on intelligence after which they would return to their Commands.
It said that the IGP assured governors that he would leverage on the provisions of the new Police Act 2020 to carry out extensive reforms within the Police.
It said that the governors argued that the timing for the SWAT creation was inauspicious as the mood of the nation negates it “and may understandably be misinterpreted as a surreptitious move to dress FSARS in another garb.”
It also said that the governors agreed that there was need for greater consultation with the public before any decision was taken.
The communique stated that the governor’s advised that:
“The IGP immediately convene a meeting of all stakeholders and agree on a format of engagement with all State officials in order to address concerns.
“The state leadership should meet simultaneously nationwide, to address matters arising.
“Reforms must include the training and retraining of operatives on the rules of engagement with the general public.
“Policing in Nigeria must ensure freedom for all Nigerians to carry out their lawful and legitimate businesses anywhere in the country without fear of harassment, intimidation or molestation.
“Throughout the reform process, the room for consultation may include sessions and direct feedback from the public as there is no single solution that applies to all the 36 States of the federation and the FCT.”
It disclosed that the forum resolved to set up a panel for compensation to all victims of police and FSARS brutality in each state and see to it that the necessary compensation was made to those who deserved them.
This, according to it must be systematically done to ensure that nobody who deserved to be compensated was left out.
“The Forum directed its secretariat to work with the police authority to develop a framework for setting up a panel of enquiry across all States to determine claims and compensation;
“Governors are aware that some States have already started engaging protesters and urged all States that have not commenced same to invite all stakeholders in the matter to resolve these issues.”
The governors also said that all police officers who participated in the abuse or actions that might have led to injury or the death of innocent citizens must be fished out and brought to book.
The governors also stressed the need to compensate Nigerians who had been adversely affected by police brutality or other actions that were injurious to them or their loved ones.
The forum acknowledged the concerns of many Nigerians, especially the youth who had been affected by the excesses of some officials of the FSARS and the Nigeria Police.
“This notwithstanding, forum members noted the efforts of officials of FSARS in their States.
“They have greatly assisted in containing the increasing spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, and other high-end crimes particularly in the Northern States, where containing these criminal activities would have otherwise been very challenging.
“Members, therefore, expressed concern about the sweeping decision to scrap FSARS even while acknowledging the need to address its excesses.”
The governors were unanimous in their support for the IGP and endorsed his plan to carry out far-reaching reforms geared towards greater effectiveness, accountability and transparency.
The forum called for increased regularity in the meetings of the Nigeria Police Council in order for it to effectively carry out its regulatory and supervisory roles as contained in the Nigerian Constitution.
The forum recommended that the IGP, the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Council should immediately review the remuneration and emoluments of police officers and explore ways to fund this.
It said that this was key in order to motivate police officers who had pledged themselves in service of the country.
“Governors enjoined the IGP to be ready to forge stronger partnerships with State governments and the civil society to improve civil relations between the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Public.”
The NGF members agreed that the concerns of the public went beyond a need for Police/FSARS reforms and included a demand for better governance.
“They noted the need to engage, consult the public and take decisions that address the underpinning issues leading to the protests.
“Members noted that some States had already started the process of engaging protesters and urged all States to engage all stakeholders for a collectively agreed resolution.”
The NGF commended President Buhari for acknowledging that the protests and demonstrations reflect genuine concerns of many Nigerians while calling for speedy implementation of all the agreed points. (NAN)