By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Not many people were surprised that barely two years after the decentralisation of the Operations of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS Unit, and the establishment of other tactical squads by Mohammed Adamu , the Inspector General of Police,IGP, he could bow to pressure ah to ban them from the road, with a warnings never to go out on operation without uniform for proper identification.
Fatai Owoseni, a one-time Commissioner of Police in Lagos state said the ban of the SARS, was not the solution to bringing the officers to their right senses to do carry out their Constitutional Responsibility of fighting Crime . Owoseni had said that the best way to handle the matter ‘’is to properly audit the internal oversight mechanism that is in place’’.
Adamu , the IGP, had reorganised the operations of the SARS following alleged unethical conduct by officers deployed to the Unit. With the decentralization of the operations of the Unit, he IGP, had made it clear that the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force Criminal Investigation Department, DIGFCID, and the state Commissioners of Police , CPs, who had assumed full Command and control on all SARS operations, particular, in their Commands would be held liable for any professional misconducts of the Unit personnel in their Commands.
In spite of the fact that the SARS Operations was decentralised in 2019 by the police IGP, there had been criticisms against the SARS personnel as people called for its disbandment over alleged atrocities. The former Lagos state Police Commissioner and now, security Adviser to Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo state had accused the SARS Operatives of failing ‘’to abide by the rules and regulations that govern them in the discharge of their duties’’.
Omo-Agege ,a Deputy Senate President may have dropped a bomb shell when he said the activities of the personnel of the Unit have not helped in curbing criminal activities in the society , as the SARS personnel have been linked with several cases of extra-judicial killings, harassment , illegal arrest and extortion of defenseless citizens in different parts of the country.
He had cited the shooting of a man by the SARS Operatives in his Senatorial District in Ugheli, Delta state over the victim’s alleged refusal to allow the Operatives to search his phone . He had lend his voice for a Comprehensive reform s and overhaul of the security units in the country, particular, SARS.
Atiku Abubakar, a one -time Vice President and former Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019, Presidential elections who could not hide his feelings had described the SARS, personnel as ‘’Oppressor of the people it was supposed to protect from criminal activities’’.
Abubakar, had said that that the police Anti-Robbery Squad was set up to confront violent crimes in the society such as armed robbery , kidnapping and other related offences but it had had turned into an oppressor of the Nigerian masses who strive every day for a better life. He cited ‘’reports of intimidation , harassment and outright extortion by officers of SARS, which had continued unabated , an indication that the DIGFCID and the CPs had failed in their control of the SARS personnel Operations in their respective Commands , Zonal and Federal level.
Bukola Saraki, a former Senate President , who is not happy over the continued harassment , illegal arrest, detention and high handedness by rogue cells of the SARS Unit of the police against Nigerians, mostly young people in spite of the police Authorities effort to reform the Force and raise standards of policing , may have joined Abukar ,a former Vice President and other Nigerians to call for the reform of the Police Anti-Robbery Squad.
Sunday Dare , minister of Youths and Sports may have provided the ammunition for the IGP to take the extreme action of banning the Anti-Robbery personnel from Patrols based on the report from other government relevant agencies which had investigated their operations which was very damning.
Dare, who was worried about the menace , increasing harassments and attacks by the SARS , personnel on innocent Nigerians was said to have brought it to the attention of Department of State Security, DSS, and other relevant security agencies in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to step into the matter in order to protect the youths and the Fundamental Human Rights of every Nigerian.
Perhaps, what may have forced the IGP to cave in to people’s demand to gag the Anti-Robbery Squad was the viral video and a Statement by a concerned Nigerian man alleging that his driver connived with SARS personnel to harass and extort him of N0.1 million on September 25, 2020, which may have embarrassed he Force Authorities.
This may have informed why the IGP quickly expedited action ,to ’’ban SARS and the other tactical squads personnel Operating at the Federal, Zonal and Command levels from carrying out routine Patrols and other Conventional duties –stop and search, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks among others with immediate effect’’ to avoid further abuse of office.
The ban may have come barely few hours after Enoch Adeboye Adejare, the General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God, RCCG, called on President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, last to move fast to restructure the country to avoid disintegration.
The IGP may have read the Riot Act to the Officers when he said ‘’ no personnel of the Force is authorised to embark on Patrols or tactical assignments in mufti’’, insisting that ’’they must always appear in police Uniform or approved tactical gear’’. Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, and the Force Spokesperson said the IGP, took the decision to ban SARS, Special tactical squads, Intelligence Rsponse Team, IRT, Ant-cultism Squads and other police tactical squads at the backdrop of the findings by the leadership of the Force that ’’a few personnel of the tactical squads hide under the guise of being members of the quads ‘’to perpetrate all forms of illegality’’, contrary to the Standard Operating Procedure, sop, Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement establishing he squads.
The no nonsense Adamu, who has the ear of the Katsna state born Nigerian President may have disarmed the tactical squads personnel when he warned against the invasion of the privacy of individuals , particular, through the usual indiscriminate and unauthorised search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices.
Although, the IGP, had read the riot Act to the Officers, he could not hide his feelings as he had told those that cares to listen that that ‘’SARS and the other police tactical squads remain critical component of the Force in confronting prevailing and emerging violent crimes in the society
. He may have given a signal that to the Force tactical squads personnel that they would not return to the road but their Operation this time they would be ‘’to concentrate and respond to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the society when the need arise’’.
The police IGP, may have won the heart of Yemi Osibajo, a Professor and the country’s Vice President for banning SARS personnel, particular, from routine Patrol and other Conventional duties as he gave kudos to him.
He is optimistic of a new Anti-Robbery squad. An aggrieved Osinbajo, had described ‘’the routine attacks on young people is infuriating’’. Appealing to the Force to stick to its mandates of confronting crimes, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country, the Vice President maintained that it is the only way to win the confidence and support of the people. He is right.
.Many believe that the problems which the reorganised SARS the other police tactical squads had caused the country over the last two years could not have occurred if Adamu, the IGP, had allowed strictly the ban on SARS to stop indiscriminate search of the individuals, handsets and laptops and raid on Individual homes to stay in force instead of giving them a blank cheque to continue in their old ways of operation.
Recall that Ibrahim Idris, the former IGP, had told the SARS personnel and other tactical squads under his Administration that they could only embark on embark on stop and search Operation if it is linked to a case directed by him or another Authority delegated to do so.
Osinbajo, may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he confirmed that Buhari was not unaware of the illegal Operations of the SARS personnel and now wants to see a reform. He had said that the President had already discussed the issue with the IGP, showing his concern. He further disclosed that he had equally held a meeting with the Force helmsman where all the issues raiseed against the SARS and the other tactical squads personnel were reviewed. He is optimistic of the country may soon have a ‘’reformed Police Force as the process have begun’’.