On October 13, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the formation of a new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team to replace the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS).
The announcement was made days after waves of protests were observed across the nation and internationally via social media platforms over the rising cases of police brutality which were particularly attributed to SARS.
The IGP said prospective members of the new SWAT would undergo psychological and medical examination to ascertain their fitness and eligibility for the new assignment.
It was gathered that to prepare police officers for the new tactical unit, the Police Counselling and Support Unit of the Force Medical Services collaborated with a team of experts to develop what it tagged an Operational Behaviour Assessment Tool (OBAT). The tool, the reporter was told, is aimed at helping the Nigeria Police Force to screen, identify and engage officers that will serve the nation’s citizens with more fairness, equity and accountability as well as safeguard the fundamental human rights and dignity of all persons they encounter in line of duty.
The Commissioner of Police, Police Mobile Force, Mr. Mohammed Akeera, told Daily Sun that over 1,817 police officers reported for the new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Squad, and the successful ones were trained both at the Police Mobile Force College, Ila-Orangun in Osun State and the Police Mobile Force College, Ende Hills, Eggon Local Government Area, Nasarawa State.
Akeera said on October 19, 345 of the officers were disqualified on medical grounds and 29 were disqualified based on indiscipline. The rest were trained for three weeks and the training ended on November 7, 2020.
Akeera said that the SWAT Squad members were lectured by the International Committee of Red Cross. The Red Cross members, he said, conducted the training of SWAT based on international standards and rules of policing, including code of conduct for law enforcement, arrests, search and detention modalities, international standard best practices, basic principles of the use of force and firearms and International Human Rights Law and ICRC, history, origin, mandate and activities in Nigeria.
“Also, there was more training from the Force Intelligence Bureau on intelligence-led policing,” he said.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Force Headquarters, Medical, Mr. Olawunmi Ogunsanwo, said there were 500 personnel from the disbanded Federal SARS undergoing psychological assessment and medical evaluation at Force Headquarters, Abuja. He said the state SARS would be evaluated medically by the medical service in the various state commands.
Ogunsanwo said the new SWAT squad, who were trained at Ila-Orangun Police Mobile Force College and Police Mobile Force College, Eggon, in Nasarawa State, were subjected to comprehensive medical evaluation and psychological assessment and were tested for drug abuse, among others.
“Also, we are working with psychologists at Hart-land Alliance and psychologists from Association of Clinical Psychology for those who are not fit. The officers are fit for the job and any officer involved in drug abuse is being disqualified immediately.”
Meanwhile, for medical screening at Ila-Orangun and Police Mobile Force College, Nasarawa State, it was gathered that three medical doctors, clinical psychologists and 10 members of police counselling and support unit were involved.
DCP Ogunsanwo explained further that the Operational Behaviour Assessment Tool (OBAT) is a self-report measure designed to assess the attitude and dispositions of prospective police officers who would be engaged under the new SWAT. The OBAT, he said, would be used at the state of the recruitment process for the new SWAT squad to allow the NPF get an overall sense of the prospective officers’ abilities to not only function effectively on the job but respond to the day-to-day challenges that might arise from public service.
He said, subsequently, officers engaged under the new SWAT will be required to respond to the OBAT at random, especially in the weeks after return from a critical operation.
“Also, the new SWAT officers, who respond to the OBAT with an assessment score that is significantly above the distress cut-off benchmark will be offered psychological evaluation to further ascertain the level of their functioning and operatives fitness before release for further assignments, especially when use of live arms is involved,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the OBAT was conceived following meetings between the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Force Medical, Mr. Olubunmi Ogunsanwo, Heartland Alliance LTD/GTE Nigeria (HALG), headed by Dr. Godwin Emmanuel.
The design of the questionnaire and protocol for SWAT assessment was further developed by HALG mental health technical advisor, Mwohu G. Nanribet, with support from Dr. Adegbite T.T., a chief superintendent of police (CSP); Dr. Ukeh Falewo, also a CSP at the Force Headquarters; and Prof. Andrew Zamani, immediate past president of the Nigeria Psychological Association (NPA). “The team worked collaboratively to ensure that key components requiring attention were captured in the new SWAT and OBAT and to ensure expert opinion as well as guidance on the design of the tool and developed for the pilot,” Ogunsanwo explained.
He spoke further: “The development of an Operational Behavioural Assessment Tool (OBAT) is in line with the desire to reform the Nigeria Police Force. This tool will be used to evaluate the new SWAT Squad of the NPF upon engagement and after initial orientation while the Police Counselling and Support Unit will be able to determine officers’ current dispositions and possible need for retraining or in-depth Mental Health and Psychological Support Services (MHPSS).
One of the resource persons, Mr. Chuks Ngbeken said the SWAT Squad was taught the principles of use of force and firearms; human rights and law enforcement; the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture; the right to freedom; the right for fair trial and the right for legal protection.
Ngbeken said: “The Nigeria Criminal Code Act (Section 25, 298 criminal Code Act 1990) makes it clear that police officers are individually responsible for their actions, including senior officers for their institutions and supervision or lack thereof. Therefore, the ultimate responsibility for the use of force or firearms rests with the individual officer who is answerable ultimately to the law in the court. Individual officers are accountable and responsible for each round they fire and must be in a position to justify them in the right of their legal responsibilities and powers. The officers concerned, whether international or otherwise, must report any discharge of a weapon other than in training. Use of firearms at any point must also be reported and recorded.”
Another resource person was CSP Veronic Akpa Amele from the Force Intelligence Bureau and Police Zone 2, Lagos State. She lectured on “Intelligence-led policing,” which she described as a response to the increasing concern of the international human rights community of abuse of police power of detention and interrogation.
At the opening of the training for SWAT officers at the Police Mobile Force College, Ende Hill, Nasarawa State were the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammed Maigari Dingyadi, Mr. Muhammed Akeera and other senior police officers.