It was a battle well fought, and a victory well won.
Following the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), some Nigerians have commended the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammadu Adamu, for aligning with the vast majority of the people against a unit of the Nigeria Police that had been accused of inflicting death and distress on innocent Nigerians.
To many, SARS operatives had become utterly lawless, killing and maiming Nigerians – young and old – without cause.
For days, Nigerian youths took to the streets in several parts of the country, demanding an immediate end to the illegal activities of SARS. Using the hashtag #EndSARS, aggrieved youngsters marched in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Onitsha and several other cities. They called for an end to police brutality and justice for innocent people killed by SARS operatives.
On Sunday, the IGP announced the disbandment of SARS. A statement by Frank Mba, the police spokesman, said the unit had been dissolved in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The statement said officers and men of the disbanded unit were to be redeployed immediately even as new policing arrangement to address anticipated policing gaps the dissolution would cause had been evolved and would soon be announced.
“Meanwhile, as part of measures to prevent a re-occurrence of events that gave rise to the dissolution of SARS, a Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum is being formed to regularly interface with police leadership at all levels and advise on police activities as they affect the general public.
“In addition, the Force is constituting an investigation team, which shall include civil society organisations and human rights bodies to work with the police in investigating alleged cases of human rights violations. The measure, the IGP believes, will enhance transparency and accountability in police services as well as providing a system of deterrence for erring police officers whose action clearly violates the rights of the citizenry.”
Since the SARS dissolution, some ordinary Nigerians have commended the leadership of the police, especially the IGP, for acceding to the demands of the people. They charged Adamu to ensure that officers indicted in the killing of innocent people were brought to book.
Jude Igila, an insurance executive, lauded the IGP and the Federal Government for taking immediate action to permanently halt the illegal activities of SARS operatives. He also welcomed the assurances by the police that alleged cases of human rights violations would be investigated in partnership with civil society organisations.
“The IGP should also investigate other special units within the police, aside from SARS. These guys wear tattoos, earrings, dreadlocks and look frightening. They do and undo. Those ones should also be cautioned,” he said.
He said there was the need for the Federal Government to put in place procedures for holistic and comprehensive reforms in the security agency. He asserted that more comprehensive reforms were needed to fully redirect the minds of police officers and relieve them of their well established colonial mindset.
Some others also praised the IGP for curtailing the excesses of police officers on special assignments whenever such cases were brought to his attention.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Babajide Tanimoowo, recalled how his client was embarrassed while being arrested in Ibadan, Oyo State, in July, by some police officers.
He said the police operatives wrongfully tagged his client a kidnapper even though the young man was accused of involvement in a fraud case in the organisation where he was working. The police officers also recorded the incident and released the video on social media.
The incident, it was learnt, involved a certain young man, Ojo Olumide Stephen, and a lady called Towobola. The man, who was involved in a fraud case, was arrested in Ibadan alongside the lady on July 19.
In the video that went viral on social media, drawing wide condemnation locally and across the globe, one of the police officers, who identified himself as Wyclef, allegedly threw professionalism to the wind when he openly taunted and intimidated Ojo and the young lady, calling them kidnappers even when the fraud case against the young man was already being resolved.
The lady said she was just meeting the man and denied any amorous relationship with the suspect. But the said Wyclef, described as a police informant, accused the lady of sleeping with the man for money, intimidating her and threatening to slap her.
“If I want to date you now, would you agree? You were sleeping with him because of money. Look up! Show your face to the world,” Wyclef shouted at the lady in the video.
Many Nigerians condemned the action of the police officers, noting that they shot the video all in a bid to further shame and embarrass the accused man and his innocent female acquaintance.
It was gathered that when the IGP Adamu saw the video, he ordered an immediate investigation into the matter. Subsequently, the said Wyclef was pronounced culpable. He was thereafter arrested and subsequently arraigned at the Yaba Magistrate’s Court in Lagos.
Olumide’s lawyer, Babajide Tanimoowo, praised the IGP for coming to the aid of his client, regretting that the video did substantial damage to his client and his female acquaintance. He said, in the Nigerian legal system, every accused person is presumed innocent until such a person is proven guilty in the court of law. He insisted that arresting police officers had no right to declare anyone guilty of an offence.
“This is equally enshrined in Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended and other fundamental rights which every accused person is entitled to. This right should not be the subject of ridicule or abuse by our security agencies and people who assist police in the discharge of their lawful duties,” Mr. Tanimoowo said.