BAUCHI, Nigeria – Human rights groups in Bauchi State have decried the non-inclusion of investigation of activities of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) in the mandate given to the panel set up by the state government to investigate human rights abuses by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, had on Wednesday, 28th October, 2020, inaugurated a 17-member judicial panel of inquiry, headed by Justice Habib Idris Shall (rtd) to probe cases of human rights abuses by the defunct SARS of the Nigeria Police Force.
The governor set up the panel of inquiry on the directive of the National Economic Council, which directed the 36 state governors and the FCT Minister to do so in their respective states to probe police brutalities.
The directive followed protests by the youth which rocked parts of the country in October. The protesters protested against the recurrent highhandedness and brutality by the SARS, with the hashtag #EndSARS.
However, some human rights organizations in the state have written the governor to decry the exclusion of investigation of alleged human rights violations by the RRS unit of the police in the state.
In the letter, addressed to Governor Mohammed, written on behalf of Cleen Foundation and Network on Police Reform In Nigeria by the Managing Director of Prison Inmate Development Initiative (PIDI-NIGERIA), Mbami Iliya, lamented the exclusion of RRS alleged rights violations in the panel’s investigation activities.
The groups lamented that the governor omitted the investigation of RRS activities in the terms of reference given to the investigative panel despite the unit’s alleged notorious activities in the state.
They alleged that the RRS is notorious over the years for its rights violations, including beating, intimidation, extortion, and extrajudicial killing of suspects.
“On 27 October 2020, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate human rights abuses by the police, most especially the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“Over the years, investigations have showed that police brutality in Bauchi State by Rapid Response Squad and other units of the police in Bauchi include beating, intimidation, extortion and extrajudicial killing of suspects.
“With reference to our claims on the 19th August, 2020; PIDI-Nigeria drew your attention through a letter titled: “Re-emergency: A letter of demand and a complaint against SP Baba Yola of the Rapid Respond Squad over harassment, intimidation and inhumane treatment meted on petty traders at Awala roundabout of Bauchi State.
“Your Excellency, the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force is not pronounced in Bauchi State as such.
“However, if truly Bauchi State government is willing to seek justice for the downtrodden citizens whom have been victims of police brutality in the state, the government should include other units of the police for investigation,” the rights groups stated.
They, however, advocated the inclusion of civil society groups which have been advocating police reform in the state in the panel of inquiry.
“Finally, we suggest that rights civil society organizations that have been advocating for police reform in Bauchi State should be part of the Committee for effective implementation and monitoring,” the groups added.