Renaming SARS to SWAT can’t end police brutality – Falana

October 15, 2020
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A renowned legal practitioner in Nigeria, Femi Falana SAN, may have chided President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police over their seeming unsatisfactory responses to popular demands and massive protests by Nigerian youths to #ENDSARS in the country. Falana on a programme on Channels television, Lagos, emphasized that police brutality and extra-judicial killings cannot be resolved by changing the name of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) to Special Weapons And tactics (SWAT).

Falana pointed out that such action is are supersensible for the sustained #ENDSARS protest which has continued to gain momentum after the Inspector General of Police appeared to have taken preliminary actions, in accordance with the directive of President Buhari. He declared that the government only scratched the surface of the problem in changing the name of the controversial unit of the Nigeria Police from SARS to SWAT.

Falana commended the Nigerian youths for the renewed consciousness for good governance, liberty, justice, and equity in Nigeria. He stated that the youths are expecting fundamental actions from the government to demonstrate commitment to genuine change on the Nigeria Police.

Falana had declared: “We thank the protesters for waking us all up to our responsibilities. For me, it’s not the name that matters.

“I think what the youths are saying is that, beyond renaming, they want to see concrete steps being taken to show that it’s not going to be business as usual for policing in Nigeria.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve merely scratched the surface of the problem. There is no indication the government is prepared to respect the rights of the Nigerians people embodied in the constitution and other human rights statutes.

“Police powers in Nigeria have been hijacked by the presidency since 1999. That has to change. The laws that had been made to respect the rights of Nigerians will have to be respected.

“We have to actualise the provision of those laws in a way that there shall be no police brutality, torture, extortion of citizens. That is what has to change.

“The conditions of service for police personnel; the training has to change. You can’t have policemen in 2020 living in dehumanising military barracks. All that has to change if we want to have proper policing in society.

“The training of the police is colonial and completely primitive. A man, a woman goes to the police college dehumanised. Women can’t make their hair. Men shave their hair to the skull. The feeding is bad.

“They have no idea of human rights. They’re trained like colonial policemen to brutalise the society, tear-gassed in rooms without windows, and beaten. When they come out, they want to brutalise a society that dehumanised them.

“The challenges are enormous. Police stations are not funded. To run them, DPOs depended on extorting suspects.

“Sometimes these stations are not built by the government but by members of the community, including criminals. We’re not going to address this problem by merely changing or rechristening SARS and now call it SWAT.

“I will like to call on the government to stop allowing armed thugs or hoodlums to attack protesters who have conducted themselves peacefully, maturely, and patriotically.

“The Accountant-General of the Federation has a duty to open an account that will warehouse the money that has been earmarked under the Police Trust Fund to fund the police.

“My advice to the president is to get all agencies of government to carry out their statutory duties. FG must dialogue with the leaders of the protesting groups. After all, the government is negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers.”

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