Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Northern states have rejected the total disbandment of the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), saying that the police unit has been useful in the fight against insecurity in the region.
The Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and Plateau state Governor, Simon Lalong, made this declaration while fielding questions from State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Thursday.
According to him, that even though President Buhari has already approved the scrapping of SARS, the northern states do not believe that the baby should be thrown away with the bath water.
According to him, SARS was not made up of bad elements alone as it also included personnel who were doing their work diligently.
The Governor said what is needed is the reformation of the unit to enable it to discharge its functions optimally.
He, however, acknowledged that there are divisions in the country concerning the continued existence of the unit.
Lalong said he was in the Presidential Villa to commend Buhari for approving community policing of which training has commenced in earnest in the various zones of the country.
When asked his message to the protesting youths, he said: ‘We had a meeting yesterday, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). I’m sure my Chairman addressed the press. When we see issues like this, because most of the complaints vary from one state to the other. In one aspect, some people said they don’t want SARS, some said they want SARS, but a reformed SARS. They want a reformed SARS because, as far as they are concerned, some of these SARS operatives help them in addressing insecurity. If there are bad ones under, holistically, bring them together and reform them. Then, you work for them.
‘So, our opinion and conclusion at that stage was that let us not just say that we are throwing away the baby with bath water. If there are good ones, you don’t chase them away. So, as SARS is banned, we are now looking forward to…. because most of the States in the North said no. They want SARS because SARS helps them.
‘Borno said without SARS, it would not have been surviving today. Niger also wants SARS. So, if you are addressing this issue of SARS, you need to know what is wrong in some places. Is it the process of recruitment? Is it the character of the people? You can’t say because somebody is wrong, everybody is wrong in the country. These are some of the issues we concluded yesterday. And it’s for the Chairman to go and meet Mr President to still look at this issue holistically and critically so that we understand where we are going.
‘On a whole, we all agreed that there must be general reform within the police. But you can’t do general reform without proper funding. You must address the issue of proper funding so that they don’t say government is responsible for lack of funding and we attack them for non-performance of their duties. I’m sure our Chairman will meet Mr President. We all went back that everybody should go back and address the issue in his state. Because in some of the states, you find that people moving people to do protest are people from other states.
‘But in a real sense, some of the things are not even happening in our state or they are very minimal. If there are complaints that people are coming outside, let’s not begin to generalise it or we will miss the point. Let’s address it and find out if in those environment, things are happening like this; we must go back. It’s just like we are addressing Coronavirus. When we say Coronavirus is everywhere. At the end of the day, we said no. In some places, Coronavirus is not there. We generalise.’