It used to be the toast of Lagosians and other security agencies in the country. Its prowess was not in doubt neither was it found wanting. The agents professionalism was indisputable. Apart from their professional ability, they were also a thorn in the flesh of vicious men of the underworld. They are the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Their outings attracted endless and enormous media coverage. In 2002, as the crime reporter for the National Concord newspaper, this writer had the rare privileged approval of the then Inspector-General of PoliceAlhaji lbrahim Coomassie (now late) to interview many of the arrested notorious armed robbers, a task that culminated in the voluminous book I authored, titled, “Dark Cloud: Confessions of Notorious Armed Robbers in Nigeria.
SARS was meant to rid the country of criminal elements, and, with positive results, resounding public applause trailed their operations.
Regrettably, today, the story has changed. Leaders of the police unit have completely abandoned their duty and the special unit had been left to rot away in all facets of normal policing, thereby creating openings for bad eggs to infiltrate the special unit and exhibite strange and unknown character traits like brutalisation of innocent citizens, torture, killing and extorting money from members of the public.
Unfortunately, their once soaring fame and achievements in rooting out notorious armed robbers that planted tears and pains in innocent Nigerians started waning. Petitions upon petitions were forwarded to the office of both the former and present Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, who was nonchalant despite the public outrage. However, when his successor, Adamu Mohammad, took over, many had envisaged he would address the public agitation against SARS, being a police officer with international pedigree.
Unfortunately, from every indication, nothing concrete was done to effectively checkmate the unruly activities of personnel of the police unit. Regrettably, the police unit set up as an anti-robbery organ, suddenly reverted on their mandate and it is being accused by aggrieved and outraged Nigerian youths, who are staging an anti -SARS nationwide protest, of committing atrocities.
This reversal of position brings to mind the vision of Daniel in the Holy Book, where he saw a hand writing “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (Daniel 5:25-26). The mysterious writing, had the interpretatio: “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.” Indeed the notorious kingdom of SARS that lasted 28 years has been numbered and torn into shreds by events of the past few days.
Also, its den of wickedness and brutality that were unleashed on many Nigerian has ended disastrously.
Many members of the shamed unit would be licking their wounds today. lf truly they got enlisted into the unit with ulterior motives to perpetrate evil on Nigerians, then they should not be allowed to escape punishment and prosecution. Also, all the heads of units who, due to negligence and complete lack of supervision in their official duties, should be adequately reprimanded to serve as a deterrent to others.
Considering the level of carnage, disruption, death and economic waste inflicted on Nigeria, we should not shy away from placing blame on the appropriate table. After all, the buck stops somewhere.
Therefore, if justice must be done, we must retrace and start from 2019 when Adamu was appointed as the IGP. His appointment met the first public agitation against SARS. The question is, what did he do? He only paid lip service to de-escalate the tension among aggrieved Nigerian youths. All through his tenure, the SARS unit grew wings and became monstrous, killing and operating as if they were above the law of the land. Instead of unleashing terror on armed robbers, they redirected the nozzle of their gun towards citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The IGP failed the test of supervision. During the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections, lGP Adamu issued a terse directive warning all Command Commissioners to be ready to be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order in their command. The directive also trickled down to all the divisional and area commands.
Since then, it was the President that had to step in to correctly evaluate the deteriorating situation in the country and he ordered that SARS be disbanded. Many are wondering what criteria President Buhari uses in appointing his police chiefs. The last one before Adamu flagrantly flouted the President’s directive to proceed to Benue State to quell a rising insecurity there, instead, he headed to Nasarawa State for an unrelated assignment. Yet, the President only decried the insorbordination.
Idris was left to complete his remaining three months in service before retiring.
Again, a blunder exhibited due to dwindling professionalism on the part of the IGP was the failure to nip in the bud the year-long public agitation against the unruly, untrained and unsupervised SARS unit that has attracted odium and widespread insecurity to the country.
Even after the protesters had issued a five-point demand, among which was the disbandment of SARS, one would have expected the IGP to first ask them to help fish out the bad eggs in the unit, since he failed in his job. Instead, there was a quick copy-and-paste of the American-styled SWAT, without any disciplinary steps against the bad eggs in the disbanded SARS. This does not show good leadership, especially when juxtaposed against the fact that restructuring of SARS ought to have been the first item on the list when Adamu took over office as the IGP in January 2019.
Such swift action would have saved the country all these disgrace and international embarrassment. Indeed Adamu has failed not only the police but the country. So, what legacy is Adamu leaving behind, if I may bluntly ask?