THE society has been rife with tales of Police Special Anti-robbery Squad’s (SARS) personnel overreaching their mandate and authority, and #ENDSARS was an hashtag that trended on the social media, with complaints from Nigerians against the unit, ranging from arbitrary arrests, extortion, torture and extra judicial killings by power drunk police officers.
THE hashtag brought to the fore the fact that SARS which was supposed to be a blessing, had become a curse, a cancer, and innocent people are regularly harassed with total impunity by the squad, which was behaving as if it is above the law.
IN response to the numerous outcry against the operation of that arm of the Nigeria Police Force the Federal Government recently ordered the review of its operations with the aim of repositioning it and demanding a new frame of operation for it.
IN a letter released by the presidency to inform the public about the development, the spokesperson of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, wrote that following persistent complaints and reports on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that border on allegations of human rights violations, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has been directed 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 statement also states that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should set up a Special Panel that will conduct an investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS to afford the general public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.
IN his reaction to the news of the FG’s directive, the Director, Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, stated that the reform “must translate into ending the serious human rights violations, such as torture and extrajudicial executions, that SARS officers have been committing for years across Nigeria. That includes bringing to justice SARS officers found to have committed such atrocities.
“THERE is much compelling public evidence of human rights violations committed by SARS, some of it directly documented by Amnesty International, and this should now be used to aid an effective investigation into the unit’s crimes.”
IN his response to the directive given by the presidency, the IGP, Ibrahim Idris released a statement revealing not just an overhaul of the unit inclusive of renaming it Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad under a Commissioner of Police, channels have also been created through which people can communicate their complaints about the excesses of Squad.
THE IGP reveals the steps taken to remediate the various lapses of the Squad, setting out modalities to make it conform to International Human Rights Law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects.
THE statement from the office of the IGP, partly states: “In observance of full compliance with the Presidential directives, the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad will be intelligence driven and will be restricted to the prevention and detection of Armed Robbery, kidnapping and the apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences only.”
ACCORDING to the IGP, part of the guidelines for FARS, is that the squad will not perform Stop and Search duties except on distress call to respond to armed robbery and kidnapping offences only. Added to that is the promise to fully cooperate with any investigation into the activities of the unit, and to subject the FSARS operatives to special training in respecting human rights and also psychological profiling to determine their fitness for the job.
THE HOPE notes that while no one can doubt the importance of such a squad in the country to confront the various activities of daredevil robbers, their activities should neccesarily be within the confine of the law.
THE same people who are supposed to protect the people based on the law, should not be found contravening the same through arbitrary arrests and other displays of impunity for pecuniary gains.
THE government directive has now beamed a searchlight of correction on the Squad, proving that it is truly on the side of the people and responsive to them.
WE commend both Federal Government for taking the right step in the right direction and the IGP for his very quick response to it.
FEOM this it is expected that a better culture of policing in the nation will be created and police-people relationship enhanced.