The Presidential Panel on SARS Reform, which began its public hearing in Lagos on Tuesday, Nov. 13, ended its sitting on Saturday after listening to 36 cases.
The five-day public hearing had some cases successfully resolved, while one was dismissed as complainants refused to show up. Some other cases were adjourned for panel’s decision and the rest reported to have been settled by necessary authorities.
The public hearing, organised by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), came to an end after evaluating the inadequacies of the police as well as members of the public. The panel revealed that failure of some complainants to report, as well as bad timing of report of some incidents were challenges in resolving some issues. NAN reports that most of the cases listened to by the panel exposed the failure of SARS to follow due process in discharging their duties.According to the Chairman of the Panel, Mr Tony Ojukwu, there are some cases which ordinarily should not be the business of SARS.
He cited such instances to include: a case where a SARS official was assigned to handle a matter bordering on debt between two parties. “This is a matter that a policeman can handle in any police station, not SARS. So, when you are called upon that a bank robbery is ongoing, you will say you are taking statements from market women,” he said.
The Chairman also addressed the issue of SARS officials covering name tags while on illegal duties and questioned why policemen would not register their presence at the nearest police station so as to check issues of illegal duty shifts.
On a case bordering on extra-judicial killing, Ojukwu questioned policemen on why they would carry out coroner inquest on a body without informing relatives of the deceased.
“If you have invited a pathologist to carry out autopsy on a body without a relation to identify the body, how are we so sure you have the right body?
“There is need to always do the right thing. You should have in mind that there will always be a day of account. All of these have to stop.
“Some of the reasons we face these inadequacies of the police is because people do not report, as they are not sure if any action will be taken.
“This is why impunity continues. Our people are docile and they don’t fight for their rights, because if an officer knows that someone will hold him accountable for his actions, he will do what is right.
“I know that recommendations of this panel will put things in order, but I hope we don’t degenerate into looking for other ways to evade being held accountable for our wrongs,” he said.
Ojukwu, however, commended the policemen that accepted their wrongs, saying that it is when policemen try to outsmart the panel that cases keep taking time to resolve.
Meanwhile, the panel is proceeding to Owerri for the joint South-East and South-South Zone public hearing.