NIGERIA: Will proscription of SARS end Police Brutality in degenerate society?
On Sunday, following a huge outcry by members of the public particularly the youth and celebrities, the Nigerian Government banned the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS), a mutation of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). For some two years, SARS has been in the news for bad reasons. The section of the Nigerian Police Force could kill at a snap of finger. Where they obtain their powers to kill recklessly, one does not know. But there is hardly a Nigerian who has not seen or heard or experienced SARS. Some two years ago, after accumulated reports of killings and maiming suspected criminals, the public outcry mounted. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was acted for President Muhammadu Buhari at that time changed the name of the Squad from SARS to F-SARS. Bu the change in name was just like a giving a criminal a baptismal name. The mode of operation of the SARS did not changed. If anything, it became worse.
Recently, anger rose again when these men killed a young man in Warri, Delta State. Finally, Police boss, IGP M.A Adamu announced the banning of FSARS and Tactical Squads from Patrols. However, people have rightly voiced their misgiving about the ban. How effective will this be? The entire police force is due for reform and restructuring. So, ordinary pronouncement of ban would not solve the problem of crass brutality by the men in uniform in a decadent society like Nigeria where the rights of the citizen are brazenly jeopardised and the citizen would have no place to run to—not to the court or church or mosque or politician or civil servant. In Nigeria, once you are jeopardised, you are jeopardised and there is nothing you can do about it.
The Police statement on the ban read: The Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has banned the personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other Tactical Squads of the Force including the Special Tactical Squad (STS), Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Anti-Cultism Squad and other Tactical Squads operating at the Federal, Zonal and Command levels, from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties – stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc – with immediate effect. In addition, no personnel of the Force is authorized to embark on patrols or tactical assignments in mufti. They must always appear in their police uniforms or approved tactical gear. The IGP’s directives come against the backdrop of findings by the leadership of the Force that a few personnel of the Tactical Squads hide under these guises to perpetrate all forms of illegality, contrary to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement establishing the squads. Specifically, the IGP has warned the Tactical Squads against the invasion of the privacy of citizens particularly through indiscriminate and unauthorized search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices. They are to concentrate and respond only to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes when the need arises. The IGP notes that the FSARS and other Police Tactical Squads remain a critical component of the Force in confronting prevailing and emerging violent crimes in the country. He however condemns every act of unprofessionalism, abuse of human rights and high-handedness by some personnel of the Squads. He has therefore ordered the X-Squad and the Monitoring Unit to embark on immediate and massive nationwide monitoring of activities of Tactical Squads and other police officers on the road. They are to ensure prompt arrest, investigation and prosecution of all erring police officers who violate these directives and other extant regulations of the Force. The IGP has equally warned that henceforth, the Commissioner of Police in charge of FSARS, Commissioners of Police in charge of State Commands and the FCT as well as their supervisory Zonal Assistant Inspectors General of Police, will be held liable for any misconduct within their Area of Responsibility (AOR). He therefore charged them to ensure effective supervision and mentoring of the personnel of the Tactical Squads under their jurisdiction. Meanwhile, two operatives of the FSARS and their civilian accomplice operating in Lagos State, INSPR Sale James, INSPR Monday Uchiola and Okechukwu Ogbonna, have been arrested by the Lagos State Police Command, for acts of professional misconduct including extortion and intimidation of innocent citizens. The operational vehicle of the men has also been impounded and disciplinary procedure has already commenced against the defaulters. The IGP reaffirms his commitment to bequeathing to Nigerians, a reformed Police Force that is accountable, responsible and ever ready to defend and uphold the rights of the citizens while discharging its duties of keeping the people safe and secure. He enjoins the citizens not to allow the misconduct by a few personnel of the Force to negatively impact on their belief, confidence and trust in the Police. DCP FRANK MBA FORCE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER FORCE HEADQUARTERS ABUJA
While the public may take a deep breath, at least on the surface of it, that an official announcement of the SARS ban has been made, the people who are half-hearted about the end of SARS menace on the Nigerian roads are right. The ban of SARS should start from a thorough reform of the entire Police system. If that is not done, it will remain a circus, the trigger-happy personnel will keep mutating from nomenclature to the other while their mode of operation would not change.
Kings Uba is a Senior Writer with Discover Africa News