Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Sunday said he was angry about the actions of some policemen, especially those attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, who he accused of harassing and sometimes maiming and killing Nigerians nationwide.
He said such actions coming from those saddled with the responsibilities of protecting citizens were unacceptable.
Osinbajo spoke in an interview with State House correspondents at his official residence in Akinola Aguda House, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He, therefore, commended the police authorities for the statement issued earlier in the day on the matter, saying it was wrong for policemen to be seizing laptops and phones from young Nigerians in the name of fighting cybercrime.
The Vice President 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 IG 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 bad 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.”
Osinbajo urged Nigerians to continue to bring the issue regularly to the attention of the government and the police.
He added, “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.”
This step by the Federal Government comes as a welcome development to Nigerians especially those who have been in one way or the other been victims of police brutality and harassment.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese