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Editorial: Need to Address the Negative Public Perception of SARS

In recent times, the traditional media in the country as well as social media platforms have been awash with mind bugging stories which, to say the least, give out the Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as a monstrous unit of the nation’s crime fighting agency.

It is quite unfortunate that the SARS, which was set up to primarily tackle armed robbery and kidnapping amongst other violent crimes, is being feared by members of the public in the same manner as perpetrators of armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of criminality the squad is meant to contain.

Reports of professional misconduct, including the application of brute force, which often result in the maiming and death of suspects in the hands of SARS, are wide spread across the nook end crannies of the country.

In this vein, victims’ families, human rights activists and concerned civil society organisations, have sufficiently brought to the attention of Nigeria Police authorities, the alleged atrocities committed by the squad.

Sadly, rather than improvements in its approach to human rights issues, complaints of abuses against SARS appear to be spiraling on a daily basis.

Vexed by the numerous complaints of human right violations against the unit, The #EndSARS Coalition recently staged a protest at the Unity Fountain Abuja, to demand investigation into various allegations against the operations of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and prosecution of indicted personnel by the Federal Government.

Besides, it issued a 21-day ultimatum for the scrapping of the SARS. The coalition also urged the Police Service Commission to set up a panel to reform the Nigeria Police Force and suggested among other things, enhanced training of police officers, better equipment and firearms, housing, insurance, prompt payment of salaries and pensions.

We totally agree with the suggestions made by the #EndSARS Coalition and call on the Inspector-General of Police and, indeed, the Federal Government, to take urgent steps to save the NPF.

The police is arguably the most criticized government institution in the country by members of the public for its unprofessionalism, endemic corruption and ineptitude.

Ironically, the Force has received international commendations over the performance of its personnel in international engagements, including United Nations Peace Missions. Pundits have identified high motivation   as the reason for the superlative performance of Nigeria Police officers on various UN assignments. This being the case, the Federal Government should borrow a leaf from the UN to sufficiently motivate the nation’s police to enable it perform at its best.

Against this background therefore, what SARS needs is the right orientation, motivation for the squad to discharge its duties in line with international best practices.

That said, we call on the IGP to live up to his pledge to reform SARS without any further delay. We urge the IGP to immediately identify the bad eggs in SARS and mete out severe disciplinary measures in line with the operational code of the NPF and   other extant regulations and laws of the land.

We welcome the remarks made by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Operations) Joshak Habila, while addressing pro-SARS demonstrators recently, to the effect that ‘‘all allegations against SARS will be investigated.” As the nation eagerly awaits the outcome of the investigation, we warn that the outcome should not be subject to any form of manipulations.

 

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