Since 1988, their constitutional baptismal name has not changed, but their demeanor has gone through many transformational policies. Its name has remained the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). Two notable personalities helped shape its destiny despite widespread agitations and reservations: former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who initiated it and it was mid-wifed by Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, between 1988 and 1992. As a government agency with statutory responsibilities for road safety administration in Nigeria. Its founding fathers, who, incidentally, were military officers, never contemplated arming the personnel of FRSC except with walkie-talkie gadgets and fast vehicles.
Indeed, there was no reason for such upgrading. However, what could have stopped merely as street gossip was further fuelled by the pronouncement the House of Representatives Committee on FRSC, which disclosed during the 2020 budget performance and 2021 budget defence by the FRSC that personnel of corps may soon start to carry firearms to “curtail the excesses of road users in Nigeria.”
Since the announcement, Nigerians have been wondering and asking, why such a hasty decision and for what purpose and in whose interest? They ask if members of the House of Representatives Committee on FRSC are not toeing the path of regret. Here is a country already bedevilled by criminals of every shade brandishing different types of firearms despite the mopping up of illegal guns in wrong hands across the country. Are they not aware of the proliferation of assorted firearms? Are they not aware of illegal importation of firearms into the country? What exactly is behind their motive? Definitely, it is not born out of patriotism. A list of agencies officially armed with guns includes: Nigeria Police, Army, Navy, Air Force, DSS, Immigration Service, Customs Service, EFCC, DMI, Correctional Service and Civil Defence Corps.
In a country with 200 million population and about 60 million of youthful age, there is the need to be extremely cautious when the issue of security is on the discussion table, especially when it concerns firearms. The Holy Book says, “The heart of man is desperately wicked”. If the committee’s only argument is for the FRSC personnel on the highway “to curtail the excesses of road users in Nigeria,” the first question one needs to ask the legislators is if they are just returning from a journey abroad and on what basis they tendering their loose submission. If they have been in Nigeria and are very active and observant, such proposition would have been an anathema to them.
How else shall we accommodate such needless proposition in the light of glaring insecurity that is visible and challenging around the country?
(To be continued)
The Sins of SARS (1)
I am Nze Ibezimako Aghanya, an indigene of Anambra State. I retired meritoriously from the Nigeria Police as a Commissioner of Police in 2009 after 35 years of service. I served in all sections and departments of the Nigeria Police Force, from Division, Area Command, Zonal Command, Force CID and Force Headquarters. Some of the important offices I served in, among others, are, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Anambra State, Commissioner of Police, Benue, Ekiti and Kogi states. By virtue of my long years of service in the force, I agree that some police officers exhibit gross unprofessional conduct of BRUTALITY, particularly by members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). I have no specific case of brutality to submit but I believe I owe it as patriotic duty to present to the commission the numerous causative factors that encouraged unprofessional conduct in SARS Anambra State and the entire Nigeria Police Force.
Perhaps, to understand this memorandum, may demand definition of some concepts, thus: ‘Unprofessional’ means not reaching the standard expected in a profession. Conduct: Is to organize or do a particular activity
The activities of members of the force that amount to unprofessional conduct are: torture/brutality, extrajudicial killing, bribery and corruption, incivility to members of the public, and generally conduct unbecoming of a police officer. All these are disciplinary offences in the Police Regulation.
I will use the unprofessional conduct in Anambra State SARS as a case study, which is definitely a reflection of SARS team in most states of Nigeria.
Unprofessional conduct of Anambra State SARS
SARS was created in the 1980s to assist Lagos State Command in reducing the upsurge in violent crime. Lagos was then the capital city of Nigeria. They concentrated on combating robbery and violent crime. They had power to move to any part of the country in achieving their stated objectives. They were professional, controlled and supervised by their superior officers.
As robbery and violent crimes increased in states outside Lagos, the commissioners of police on their own established SARS in state commands in addition to the Anti-Robbery Squad in State CIDs. The anti-robbery team is under the supervision of an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) who reports directly to the command CP. By police force orders, the State CIDs are responsible for investigation and prosecution of all crimes.
When these CPs established SARS, they posted an officer far below in rank to the ACP State CID and the DPOs and in most cases the officers not experienced to head such sensitive sections. Officers in charge SARS were directly supervised by the CP. The intention of establishing SARS in some commands was absolutely in order. They actually assisted in Anambra State to reduce robbery and violent crimes but, at a stage, they lacked supervision and their commander, due to the enormous absolute powers given by the CP, derailed. In Anambra State, they started investigating civil matters, such as marital disputes, land disputes, Yahoo-yahoo boys, frivolous petitions from presidents-general and traditional rulers against their subjects, assisting politicians to manipulate elections, collection debts.
Investigation by SARS was not by direct complaints from citizens but through petitions to the CP; however, in Anambra, complaints went directly to SARS. They wrote false petitions to the CP against their fellow citizen on a purely civil matters that the person was a robber or intended to kidnap them. Most of the petitions were drafted by SARS officers themselves in such a way that the content would have ingredients of robbery or kidnapping so that the CP would direct the petition to SARS.
Anambra indigenes offered huge sums of money to the SARS commander and his men. The squad would swoop on the falsely accused person any time of the day. On arrival at the place of arrest, they would shoot indiscriminately into the air and any person seen around would be arrested. At SARS office, all phones were collected and those not mentioned in the frivolous petition would pay huge sums of money for bail and the main suspect would be brutalized. If the complaint against the main suspect was from one of these rich illiterates in Anambra that I call “Money-miss-road,” they would pay the SARS commander to torture the poor innocent person until he confessed to a robbery he did not commit.
As a DCP in Anambra State, I rescued a poor boy from extrajudicial killing due to land matter. I and my CP then supervised the SARS squad effectively.
On retirement, I have intervened in many cases of brutality by the dreaded Awkuzu SARS in Anambra. Anambra indigenes contributed a lot to the brutality of SARS against their fellow citizens. The shameful aspect was that it was the educated, including lawyers, rich politicians, top government officials, presidents-general of towns and traditional rulers that made Anambra SARS a monster. I pray and hope now SARS has been abolished they will not shift their wicked acts to other sections of the investigation arms of the force and make them monsters like SARS.
The states with the most devilish SARS in Nigeria are Anambra, Enugu, Rivers, Edo, Delta, Lagos, Abia and Imo. The lifestyles of rank/file and officers in SARS team in these states mentioned were extravagant. They built houses and drove vehicles their legitimate earnings could not afford.
(To be continued)