Governors of the 36 States have voiced concern about the sweeping decision to scrap the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS).
The governors express concern after receiving briefing from the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, on protests against FSARS which they said technically started since 2017.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, in a communiqué issued on Wednesday but released on Thursday at the end of the 19th teleconference meeting, acknowledged the need to address the excesses of FSARS.
Fayemi particularly noted the concerns of many Nigerians especially youths that had been affected by the excesses of some officials of the FSARS and the Nigeria Police.
He, however, said that the Forum’s members noted the efforts of officials of FSARS in their States, as they had 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.
Constitute panels for compensation to all victims
The governors agreed 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 while other Nigerians who have been adversely affected by police brutality or other actions that were injurious to them or their loved ones, should be compensated.
Each State, the communiqué read, is to set up a panel for compensation to all victims and see to it that the necessary compensation is made to those who deserve them.
This, the governors added, must be systematically done to ensure that nobody who deserves to be compensated is left out.
The forum also 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.
Members, who noted that some States had already started the process of engaging protesters, urged all States to engage all stakeholders for a collectively agreed resolution.
Urgent review of police remuneration
Governors also 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 in order to incentivize and motivate police officers who have pledged themselves in service of the country.
The governors, who lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for acknowledging that the protests and demonstrations reflect genuine concerns of many Nigerians, urged for a speedy implementation of all the agreed points.
The governors, who endorsed IGP’s plan to carry out far-reaching reforms geared towards greater effectiveness, accountability and transparency, 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 governors, while speaking on the IGP’s plan to create a new, strictly intelligence driven Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team, stated that even though the effort might be necessary and in good faith, the timing is inauspicious as the mood of the nation negates it and may understandably be misinterpreted as a surreptitious move to dress FSARS in another garb.
No single solution to all States, FCT
They also agreed that there was need for greater consultation with the public before any decision is taken, advising the IGP to immediately convene a meeting of all stakeholders and agree on a format of engagement with all State officials in order to address concerns.
The added that State leadership should meet simultaneously nationwide, to address matters arising,
Governors stressed that reforms must include the training and retraining of operatives on the rules of engagement with the general public as 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.
Governors advised that throughout the reform process, the room for consultation may include sessions and direct feedback from the public, stressing that there is no single solution that applies to all the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Governors also urged 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.
Members also agreed that the concerns of the public went beyond a need for Police/FSARS reforms but also 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.
SWAT creation may be misinterpreted
Earlier in his briefing, the IGP informed the Forum that after a psychological and medical evaluation, SWAT Officers will be trained and posted to all State Commands – about 50 per State, where they will operate only on intelligence-driven operation. They will not take part in routine operations but will operate specifically on intelligence after which they will return to their Commands.
Adamu assured governors that he will leverage the provisions of the new Police Act 2020 to carry out extensive reforms within the Police and he pledged for the support, understanding and guidance of Governors to embark on the new reforms.