They noted that, before the creation of the extra-legal departments, there were and are still in existence, traditional departments and units recognised under the Police Act.
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has called for the disbandment of extra-legal departments of the Nigeria Police Force such as the Special Tactic Squad, Intelligence Response Squad and several Inspector General of Police Monitoring units.
In a statement jointly signed by Kemi Okenyodo, Partners West Africa; Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Spaces for Change; Z.O. Senbanjo, Confluence of Rights Nigeria; and Okechukwu Nwanguma, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, the CSOs questioned if there was any legal grounds for the creation of such extra departments.
They noted that, before the creation of the extra-legal departments, there were and are still in existence, traditional departments and units recognised under the Police Act that carry out operational duties within the police.
The organisations highlighted the Anti-robbery units which handle armed robbery cases and other violent crimes; the homicide unit was also identified as handling murder and manslaughter cases while the X-Squad monitors police conduct, among other roles.
The CSOs argued that the above-mentioned police units have been performing their roles as expected, stressing that they can perform better if the force can be provided with the required funds, equipment, and training.
They also pointed out that there have been allegations of violations of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings by officers of such extra-legal, especially the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a defunct unit of the Nigeria Police with a long record of abuses.
The unit was disbanded last year after protests were held in some states to demand its disbandment.
It was later replaced with the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT).
The statement released by the CSOs read, “By way of introduction, please, permit us to post the following posers: Is there any necessity or justification for the creation of special units like SARS, STS, IRT and IGP Monitoring units by the IGP? Does the IGP even have the powers to do so?
“Before creating multiples of the so-called specialised units became rampant and widespread, we had and still have the traditional departments and units recognised under the Police Act that carries out intelligence, investigative, monitoring, training, planning, research and statistics as well as other operational duties within the police.
“The Anti-robbery units at the state and other command levels handle armed robbery cases and other violent crimes. The homicide unit handles murder and manslaughter cases. The X-Squad monitors police conduct, etc."
“It has turned out that over the years, Police authorities use the so-called specialised units for special self-serving purposes. They use wrongful and brutal methods of 'law enforcement' and engage in extortion and outright robbery. Some IGPs have been reported to get returns and shares from the proceeds of the criminal activities of the commanders and operatives of these rogue units.
“Research by Action Group on Free Civic Space, a coalition of non-state actors on civic space, has revealed that Anambra and Enugu State SARS were supplying cadavers to teaching hospitals in exchange for money.
“There are also repeated allegations by victims, relatives of victims and survivors of Awkuzu SARS that the operatives may also have been dealing in body parts trading with some (obviously) depraved men of means, with all the trappings of savagery and criminality.
“This suspicion is strengthened by the fact that in many cases, the dead bodies of victims of extrajudicial killings are never seen by or released to their relatives even when they request for them for decent burial. The operatives flagrantly disobey court orders to produce detained or disappeared persons.
“The Nigeria Police should disband these suspiciously privileged extra-legal units and allow the Nigeria Police Force return to the legally recognised departments and units, thereby making this quintessential establishment live up to its true bidding as civil force created by law.
“It must stay and remain within its legal precincts for it to be seen as lawfully discharging its responsibilities under constitutional governance, thus, earning the respect and admiration of Nigerians whose lives and property it is primarily created to preserve,” it added.