Oct 14, 2020

The Menace Of The Nigeria Police Force Special Anti - Robbery Squad (The Group of Death): Beyond Its Existence | Debo Oladinni Esq.

                                                         

In recent days, the clamour by Nigerians across the country that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) be proscribed due to the apparent excesses of members of the death squad (which has reached an alarming crescendo), is fast gathering momentum. Prior to this time, SARS, as a unit was an elephant in the room that no one was willing to frontally confront or demand for the curbing of the excesses of a good number of its dare devil personnel masquerading as law enforcement officers.

Founded in 1992SARS, was setup as a unit under the umbrella of the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to confront the rising cases of armed robbery and kidnapping in Lagos State. Sadly, like an aircraft which has overshot and skidded off the runway in an airport in an attempt to land, SARS has deviated/lost sight of the very essence why it was established. Essentially, SARS has gone beyond its scope of duty, and is fast assuming the toga of a terrorist group in the minds of well-meaning Nigerians.

Unfortunately, a sizeable number of men of SARS have metamorphosed into blood thirsty rabid dogs roaming around seeking for whom to devour. How ironic that men of this unit who are meant to protect the lives of law abiding Nigerians going about their legitimate businesses have turned around to maim, harass, decimate and exterminate the lives of Nigerians, whom, ordinarily, they are paid to protect. Many families have over the years, been thrown into deep sorrow and gnashing of their teeth, due to the loss of lives of their loved ones at the hands of a good number of these dare devil and trigger happy angels of death in SARS.

Paradoxically, the acronym SARS reminds me of the deadly and life threatening viral respiratory disease called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) triggered by a SARS associated coronavirus, which was first discovered during an outbreak in China at the tail end of the month of February 2003. To my mind, there is a thin line of difference between SARS as a virus and SARS as a unit  under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). Both are life threatening and indeed snuff out lives. Indeed, the fear of SARS is fast becoming the beginning of wisdom, as if you are unfortunate to land in the dragnet of its personnel, life becomes short, nasty and brutish. The fundamental human rights of Nigerians enshrined in section 33 (right to life), section 34 (right to dignity of human person) section 35 (right to personal liberty), and section 41 (right to freedom of movement) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) mean absolutely nothing to a good number of the blood thirsty and trigger happy angels of death operating in SARS.

 

Recently, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu issued a circular banning SARS and other tactical squads from routine patrols, due to the public outcry against personnel of SARS, who engage in extra-judicial killings, brutality and extortion etc. However, a sizeable number of well-meaning Nigerians via street protests, issuance of public statements, agitations on social media platforms etc. are clamouring for the outright ban of SARS.

While this is a plausible and legitimate demand, I have my serious doubt if the Government would accede to such a demand in its entirety. Assuming without conceding that the Government agrees to out rightly disband SARS, the personnel of the proscribed unit would be drafted to other units of the Nigeria Police Force. In essence, cases of extra-judicial killings, brutality and extortion would not still abate. Furthermore, a question that agitates my mind at this juncture is: How often do the men of the NPF undergo mental health/emotional evaluation to ascertain whether or not they can make use of weapons appropriately? In this wise, the Government should seriously consider partnering with psychologist/emotional therapists who would from time to time conduct trainings/tests on the men of the NPF. Mental health wellbeing experts like Oyinkansola Alabi (a leading Trainer, Speaker and Founder of Emotions City), amongst others can be partnered with to ensure the emotional/psychological needs of men of the NPF are well addressed. An emotionally and mentally disturbed police officer is a disaster waiting to happen.

Going forward, I want to appeal to the Government and the IGP to embark on holistic reforms which would reposition the NPF, in terms  of the yardstick for recruitment of its personnel, welfare and other ancillary issues to ensure the production of better trained and equipped police officers. Nigeria as a country, is sitting on a keg of gunpowder that might blow up anytime soon. As for men of the NPF within the system, there is a need for periodic training. No doubt, the issues bedevilling the NPF are a fallout of the endemic corruption that is affected every stratum of the Nigerian society. It is hoped that the Government would give the IGP the needed support/wherewithal to reform the NPF in its entirety. Permit me to conclude by stating that a nation that does not protect/safeguard the fundamental rights of its citizens is encouraging citizens to rely on self-help, which brings to the front burner of my mind the evergreen postulation of Nelson Mandela (former President of South Africa and Respect World Citizen), who posited at the inauguration of the Constitutional Court at Johannesburg, South Africa, on 14th February, 1995 that: “People come and go. Customs, fashions and preferences change. Yet the web of fundamental rights and justice which a nation proclaims must not be broken.”

NOTE: Shortly after I concluded my write-up, as I rightly envisaged, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has disbanded SARS nationwide today 11th October, 2020 at about 2:00pm vide a live broadcast. While this is good news for agitators of the disbandment of SARS, I still have my serious doubts that it would lead to the drastic reduction of extra-judicial killings, brutality etc. The redeployment of this same set of officers in SARS would not change their orientation overnight. A lot of re-orientation, retraining etc. must be done as soon as possible.

 

Debo Oladinni, Esq.

11th October, 2020

 


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