Molly KILETE, Okwe Obi, Abuja, Tony Osauzo, Benin and Christopher Oji
Following local and international outcry, police authorities acting on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, announced the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS).
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said it was done in the spirit of democratic, citizen-centred and community policing.
The announcement came after days of online and offline protests against the brutality and extra-judicial killings by SARS operatives nationwide.
The IGP at a media briefing in Abuja, said officers and men of the now defunct SARS would be redeployed with immediate effect even as he assured Nigerians that a new policing arrangement to address anticipated policing gaps the dissolution of the unit would cause would be announced in due course.
The announcement was made at a press conference in Abuja shortly after armed policemen, again fired teargas to disperse peaceful protesters in Abuja.
Teeming youths led by celebrities and influencers across the country had mounted pressure on government through street protests and social media in the now famous #EndSARS.
In fact, the #EndSARS campaign also garnered global support with the UK, Us and others weighing in.
SARS operatives have been repeatedly accused of various crimes including assault, extortion and murder.
Owing to the outrage, the IGP had earlier banned operatives of SARS, the Special Tactical Squad (STS) and Intelligence Response Team (IRT) from undertaking routine patrols including stop and search duties.
Not convinced owing to similar promises of reforming the unit in the past which failed, citizens persisted in protests which soon gained global attention as world figures and celebrities joined in.
Speaking yesterday, the IGP said the Force was not oblivious of the ever present need to combat armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country which was before now the core mandate of the erstwhile squad.
“The Special Anti-Robbery Square of the Nigerian Police, otherwise known as SARS, is hereby dissolved across all formations, the 36 State Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where they currently exist.
“All officers and men currently serving in the Unit are to be redeployed with immediate effect.
“New policing arrangements to address the offences of armed robbery, and other violent crimes that fall within the mandate of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad shall be presented in due course,” the IGP said.
He appreciated and commended “all citizens particularly those who genuinely express their concerns for a better policing orientation in an organized, patriotic and civil manner.”
The IGP at the briefing said: “The government acknowledges the inalienable rights of citizens to freedom of association and expression. The current agitation, in this context, is seen as a manifestation of the natural desire of citizens to participate in matters concerning policing and internal security in the nation. This is in deed one of the fundamental principles of Community Policing, which we are currently implementing.
“The Nigeria Police leadership has, since the commencement of the protests, been engaging the leadership of some Civil Society Organisations with a view to initiating meaningful and wide-ranging discussions on the subjects of their concern.
“Our valued covenant with the citizens of this nation is to serve and protect them and integrate their concerns and views into our practices, especially within the dictates of community policing principles, which constitute a critical component of the National Policing and Internal Security Strategy of the Federal Government.
“Following a review of the current developments, and in due cognizance of the wide and legitimately held concerns of well-meaning citizens on the existence and operations of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, as a responsive and citizens-oriented Police Force, it is hereby directed as follows:
“The Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police, otherwise known as SARS, is hereby dissolved across all Formations, the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where they currently exist
“All officers and men currently serving in the Unit are to be redeployed with immediate effect.
“New policing arrangements to address the offences of armed robbery, and other violent crimes that fall within the mandate of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad shall be presented in due course.
“A Citizens and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum will be formed to regularly interface with the leadership of the police at all levels and advice on police activities.
“To deal with the reports of crimes committed against citizens, an investigation team will be constituted which will include civil society organisations for transparency, and culprits will be punished, he said.
IG pronouncement beauty of democracy – Sanwo-Olu
Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended youths for their bravery and resilience in the campaign against police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
He said the protests over police brutality and extra-judicial killings were beauty of democracy which made it legally right for every individual to air their views on issues without being molested or harassed.
He implored the protesters to shield their swords on the issue and gave government the chance to keep their promise.
“This is democracy, the youths have won the battle, every should go back home and leave the streets, I appeal to everyone to give government chance to work on what they have promise,” he said.
CPs, others hail IGP
Two Commissioners of Police, yesterday, hailed the decision of the IGP to disband SARS in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) saying it would help in reducing violence erupting from various anti-protesting groups across the country.
CP Fatai Owoseni (retd) said the dissolution of the anti-robbery unit will help to lessen the aggression fueled by protesting youths and hopefully stabilise decorum in the society.”
Also speaking, Commissioner Awotinde Awoshola said the IGP made a smart decision by disbanding the unit for peace to be restored to the country.
He said the excesses of the anti-robbery unit had to be checked and that could only be achieved by disbanding the unit.
Mr Monday Ubani, lawyer, also supported the decision of the government to bring an end to SARS as a way of listening to the voices and cries of the public.
He said the disbandment would only create room for a better anti-robbery unit to be brought to play to continue the fight against crime in the society.
A social critic and a human rights activist, Mr Kehinde Nubi, said government should set up a panel to investigate the crimes committed by the officials of the SARS for justice to prevail.
“A disbandment of the unit is not only satisfactory. We need the government to set up a panel that will punish erring officials of SARS as a deterrent to others,” he said.
Kalu thanks IGP
Chief Whip of the Senate and former Governor of Abia state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has thanked IG for respecting the wishes of Nigerians on the recent call for the dissolution of SARS.
In a statement issued from Orji Uzor Kalu Media Office, the Senate Chief Whip said the IGP’s action has shown his concern for Nigerians, especially youths who have been accused, oppressed and subjected to all forms of abuse and brutality by some reckless members of the SARS.
Kalu said he had in the past written privately to the IGP for a total reform of the SARS, adding that what Nigeria needed was a trusted police force which is guided by the respect and protection of the rights of Nigerian citizens.
“Police must ensure that their actions are in accordance with the fundamental principles for the development of a just society. When people live in fear, they will be skeptical of what’s coming next in their lives and that is not right. Some of the SARS act with impunity. Many Nigerians have complained about how tensed they feel in check points even when they have their required papers , he said.
Throwing out bathwater with the baby – Northern youth
A socio-political group in Bauchi, the Northern Youth Assembly of Nigeria (NYAN) has advised the GP against scrapping the Special Anti Robbery Squad popularly known as FSARS.
Addressing newsmen in Bauchi, its spokesperson, Mr Ukasha Hamza, said the role being played by the squad in checking activities of criminals, especially on the highways, could not be waived aside.
It said what the squad needed was reform to enable it operate in conformity with the rules of engagement by respecting and upholding the fundamental rights of the citizenry.
Clerics, Martins, Bakare call for overhaul of police structure
Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins has stressed the need for a total overhaul of the present structure of Police Force in the country and the reorientation of the personnel to make them more efficient and accountable for their actions.
In a statement by Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, director of Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Martins called on President Buhari to prevail on the Police Service Commission (PSC) and IG to begin a thorough and realistic review of the entire structure in order to restore its integrity, saying it would not be fair to the hardworking and thoroughbred professionals among the officers whose integrity have been put on the line, unless a permanent halt was brought to the rot that has been festering in the system over the years.
He warned that failure of the leadership of the country to take appropriate action this time would exacerbate the worsening state of insecurity.
On his part, Pastor ‘Tunde Bakare said it was grave irony that SARS that was created with noble anti-robbery intentions reminiscent of Operation Sweep, the late ‘90s anti-crime initiative of the Buba Marwa administration in Lagos has become a grotesque embodiment of the problem it was created to solve and the tail is now wagging the dog.
Enugu CP denies report on killing of SARS operatives, attack on station
The Enugu Police Command has described claim that six members of SARS were killed during an attack as “malicious falsehood.”
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Daniel Ndukwe, in a statement issued in Enug, yesterday, quoted CP Ahmad Abdulrahman, to have advised the public to disregard the story allegedly published in some online media.
The PPRO said the police boss had directed “discreet investigation to fish out the peddlers of the misleading information.”
Similarly, Edo CP, Babatunde Kokumo, debunked reports that the police killed two of the #EndSARS protesters in Ekpoma in Esan Central Local Government Area over the weekend.
The denial contained in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, was in response to a viral video alleging the shooting to death of two young men who were protesting in the town.