By Deshi Munkuwe
In line with the popular slogan “police is your friend”, it is phenomenon that police is the hope and protector of people and property. The primary obligation of the police officer includes; crime investigation and arrest, policing neighborhoods, responding to emergencies, delivering warrants, arresting of violators, controlling traffic, etc.
In Nigeria, The Police force since inception have shown professionalism, competency and credibility in discharging its lawful roles and duties assiduously in accordance with its formation acts and the constitution, in spite of minor lapses. Contrary to this affirmation, not too long Nigerians raised an unabated alarm on the vicious and aggressive manner at which one of the police units known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operates. SARS was established by the police to fight violent crimes, robbery and its kind.
It went viral on social media and several other mediums the anti-SARS campaign using the hashtag #EndSARS where Nigerians unanimously condemned the entire activities of SARS, calling on the authority to proscribe the unit, as well as investigate allegations of abuse against the public. Nigerians out cried on the claimed barbaric activities of the unit ranging from alleged cases of illegal arrest, torture and extra judicial killings of many citizens.
Prior to this pressure and call months after, on 14th August, 2018 the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo who was on acting capacity reacted through a statement signed by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, in Abuja that reads: “Following persistent complaints and reports on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, that border on allegations of human rights violations, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to, with immediate effect, overhaul the management and activities of SARS and ensure that any unit that will emerge from the process, will be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.”
The Acting President also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International human rights law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects. The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty, as well directed the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to set up a special panel to conduct an investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS in order to afford the public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.
The Inspector General of Police at the time, Ibrahim Idris in apparent response to the Acting President’s directive, ordered the immediate overhaul of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS to address complaints and allegations of human rights violations against some of its personnel.
In effecting the changes, Special Anti-Robbery Squad became Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS), expected to be intelligence-driven, overseen by a commissioner of police, operates under Department of Operations, Force Headquarters Abuja, contain human right desk and as well other positive effects.
This development, to many Nigerians and even some international bodies, is a progress and welcomed. However, to some Nigerians there is more to be done regarding the changes. Amnesty International among other international bodies commended the Federal Government of Nigeria for the directive on overhauling the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and called for investigation and prosecution of officers found guilty of any human right violations.
However, the Acting IGP Mohammed Adamu on assuming into office launched certain pragmatic reforms and reorganizations among which is the order for immediate re-organization of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. This came as he set up what he called “Special Election Investigation Team,SEIT, ahead of the general elections, saying the body would be tasked with the “exclusive functions of taking in custody and undertake detailed investigation of all arrested electoral offenders across the country.”
At this point of reorganization measures, F-SARS had been decentralized, urging the Commissioners of Police in each of the 36 police command and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to assume full command and control authority on all SARS in their commands, adding that the Force Headquarters’ unit of SARS was now “subsumed under the command of the DIG Force Criminal Intelligence Investigation Department, FCIID.
Here, Adamu admitted that the comprehensive reorganization will be undertaken in an investigative and intelligence manner to restore order and apply a break to the current slide in policing standards, discourage the proliferation of multiplicity of outfits competing for operational space in the most unprofessional manner.
The Acting IGP acknowledged that the reorganization will enhance the capacity of the Force towards situating its operations within the principles and practice of intelligence-led policing and human rights standards and align its operations to modern dynamics.
Having these reforms in place, there is no doubt, the operations of Force is more organized and welled strategized towards effective execution of the set down duties of the Force in accordance to its formation acts as well the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In essence, it will help in regaining the supposed image and integrity of the Nigeria Police Force within and outside the country.