By Gom Mirian, Abuja
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohamed Adamu, has dissolved the special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) commands.
The IGP, at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, said the dissolution of SARS was in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people.
Adamu, however, observed that by this dissolution, all officers and men of the now defunct Special Anti-robbery Squad were being redeployed with immediate effect.
The IGP noted that the Force was not oblivious of the ever present need to combat armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country, which was before now the core mandate of the erstwhile Squad.
He assured that a new policing arrangement to address anticipated policing gaps the dissolution of SARS would cause has been evolved and shall be announced in due course.
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 Forum is constituting an Investigation Team which shall include Civil Society Organizations and Human Rights Bodies to work with the Police in investigating alleged cases of human rights violations.
The measure, the IGP said, “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”.
” The IGP appreciates and commends all citizens particularly those who genuinely express their concerns for a better policing orientation in an organized, patriotic and civil manner.
“He reaffirms the determination of the Force to bequeath to the country a Police Force and System that is professional in service delivery and most importantly, accountable to the people.
Ex-Police Commissioners, Stakeholders Hail Dissolution
Two Commissioners of Police yesterday hailed the decision of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) squad throughout the country.
The dissolution followed their alleged reckless behaviours on the society.
The commissioners, who spoke with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that the dissolution of SARS would help in reducing violence erupting from various anti-protesting groups across the country.
One of them, Mr Fatai Owoseni, said that the peaceful protest organised by responsible citizens had been hijacked by hoodlums to perpetuate crime and create unrest in the society.
“The dissolution of the anti-robbery unit will help to lessen the aggression fuelled by protesting youths and hopefully stabilise decorum in the society,” Owoseni, a retired commissioner of police said.
Also speaking, Commissioner Awotunde Awoshola said that the IGP made a smart decision by disbanding the unit for peace to be restored in the country.
Awoshola said that the excesses of the anti-robbery unit had to be checked and that could only be achieved by disbanding the unit.
“However, the disbandment of SARS will only create room for the establishment of another security outfit. We hope that the new outfit will carry out the objectives of the Federal Government to the letter,” he said.
Also, Mr Monday Ubani, a lawyer, supported the decision of the government to bring an end to SARS as a way of listening to the voices and cries of the public.
Ubani, however, said that the disbandment would only create room for a better anti-robbery unit to be brought to play to continue the fight against crime in the society.
“There is going to be a workout programme by the Nigeria Police Force, Civic Society group and major stakeholders on who will replace SARS in fighting crime,” he said.
Ubani said that the officials of the disbanded unit usually picked on well-dressed young men who use expensive phones and try to extort money from them based on the premise they were internet fraudsters.
“This has led to harassment and an infringement on the rights of such citizens which is unacceptable,” he said.
Also, a social critic and a human rights activist, Mr Kehinde Nubi, said that the government should set up a panel to investigate the crimes committed by the officials of the SARS for justice to prevail.
Nubi said that this was not the first time that a special unit of the police would be disbanded after a public outcry only for the unit to be brought back.
“A disbandment of the unit is not only satisfactory. We need the government to set up a panel that will punish erring officials of SARS as a deterrent to others,” he said. (NAN)
‘It’s Throwing Baby with Bathwater Water’- Group
However, a socio-political group in Bauchi, the Northern Youth Assembly of Nigeria (NYAN) has advised the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) against scrapping the Special Anti-Robbery Squad popularly known as FSARS.
Addressing newsmen in Bauchi through its spokesperson, Mr Ukasha Hamza, the group said the role being played by the squad in checking the activities of criminals, especially on the highways, could not be waived aside.
It said what the squad needed was reform to enable it operate in conformity with the rules of engagement by respecting and upholding the fundamental rights of the citizenry.
The group described as commendable, the recent directive by the IGP that Commissioners of Police in charge of state commands and Assistant Inspectors General of Police in charge of zones, should monitor the activities of the squad.
NYAN lamented that security breaches, especially highway robbery and kidnapping, were in the increase, saying scraping of FSARS would further compound the already deplorable security situation.
Advent and Growth of SARS
SARS was founded in 1992 by former Police Commissioner, Simeon Danladi Midenda when one Col. Rindam of the Nigerian Army was killed by police officers at a checkpoint in Lagos.
When the information reached the Army, soldiers were dispatched into the streets of Lagos in search of any police officer and they withdrew from checkpoints while some resigned, others fled for their lives.
Due to the absence of police, crime rate increased and another SARS was formed with only 15 officers operating in the shadows without knowledge of the Army, while monitoring police radio chatters.
Midenda named his team Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). After months of dialogue, the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force came to an understanding and official police duties began again in Lagos.
In 2009, after several years of operations, the squad grew in number and strength, but due to the surge of internet fraudsters and cultism in universities, SARS operatives infiltrated Nigerian universities, made several successful arrests, but in the process harassed innocent youths.
In May 2010, Amnesty International vowed to sue Nigerian Police over human rights abuse stating that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Borokiri, Port Harcourt arrested three motor cyclists, detained them for over one week with routine beating.
On June 3, 2011, the Nigeria Police Forced discovered an attempt by a SARS operative Musa Agbu to bomb the Force Headquarters because the then IGP, Hafiz Ringim, scuttled his ambition.
Following several reports of human rights violation by members of the public to the office of the Inspector General of Police, on 7
On August 7, 2015, the then IGP Solomon Arase announced that it would be splitting the SARS unit into two units, operational unit and the investigation unit to curtail case of human rights violation and abuse.
At its formation, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was known to operate covertly, not allowed to wear uniform, publicly carry guns or have walkie-talkies. They were given unmarked vehicles with sometimes no license plates or private plate numbers, but today the story has changed.
While some well-placed politicians, over the years, had been using members of members of SARS to perpetrate their nefarious acts, the police had not been exonerated from other forms of crimes and molestations in the country.
On 14 August, 2018 the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo ordered the overhaul of the SARS following reports of human rights violation.
The acting president ordered the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, to reform SARS as well as carry out an independent investigation after “persistent complaints and reports” that concerns human rights violation.
After the order, the IGP announced that the unit would be renamed to Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a new head of the unit would be appointed and also the provision of human rights desk officers to check reports.
Last January 21, Mohammed Adamu, ordered the immediate decentralization of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
The SARS unit was centralized from the force headquarters in Abuja and directed that the DIG of Force Criminal Investigations Department and Commissioners of Police in each state would be held accountable for actions of the SARS.
Also last year, while SARS operatives were on a raid in Ijegun to arrest kidnappers in the area, operatives of the unit fired several shots in a bid to subdue the kidnappers and during the course of action, a stray bullet hit a pregnant woman, she reportedly died on the spot. An angry mob was said to have lynched two police officers on spot.
Four SARS operatives were arrested and charged with murder after being caught on film manhandling and then shooting to death two suspected phone thieves in broad daylight, last August
On September 5, 2019, SARS Squad in Lekki, Lagos allegedly kidnapped, tortured and robbed Nigerian rapper Ikechukwu Onunaku and forced him to make several withdrawals at the ATM.
The antics of SARS continued until recently, when Nigerian youths, adult men and women took to the streets of major towns demanding their disbandment.