By Christie Doyin
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Coming across this quote prompted me into this write up.
Issues around the campaign to end or disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) arm of the Nigeria Police Force is taking several dimensions than expected, with those for and against the end SARS now making overtures and putting their cases forward.
Actually, there have been several reports of misdemeanor against this special arm of the police formation in recent times. The several and proven instances of extra judicial killings of innocent persons, rape allegations and other atrocities, especially of the youth are becoming alarming. Indeed, one wonders the purpose for setting up these squads.
However, when weighed properly, it becomes obvious that the squad, like any other body put up for one reason or the other does not only comprise of the bad eggs and criminally minded but also has those who will not sacrifice their integrity on the altar of criminality. This is why it may not be apt to generalise.
The fact is that in most setups in Nigeria, there is systemic failure and this sadly has opened up avenue for most things if not everything to take a dismally sad turn, making the purpose for their establishment regrettable.
Innocent lives have sadly been snuffed out by selfish and irresponsible detestable policemen and officers. Even the military and paramilitary are not left out of the various crimes being perpetrated against innocent and unarmed civilians, while the civilians are not often without blame. In recent times, some bad eggs among the SARS operatives have inflicted untold pains and sorrows on families and friends of their victims in most unfortunate but avoidable circumstances than ever before.
Severally, the IGP and those at the helms of affairs on matter concerning policing in Nigeria, have passed circulars and issued orders on illegal and criminal operations, but unfortunately, there have not been any positive result, and those acts have continued unabated. Rather than protect lives and property of citizens, those who crossed their paths are maimed, threatened with death or killed outrightly and for no just cause.
In the last couple of weeks, the President and the Inspector General of Police have been called out over the illicit and indiscriminate killings and brutality of youths, especially and others in the society as well as extortion by those who are supposed to be protecting them.
As a result, there were arrays of protests by the youth across the country last week. In Ilorin, Kwara state and some other states, witnessed peaceful protest hash tagged #EndSARS Protest, however, in places like Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state, Delta state among a few others witnessed violent protests from angry youths, who felt they have had enough of the SARS. In Abuja, the nation’s capital, there were reports that the police turned brutal, shooting live bullets at the protesters.
It is commendable that youths in Ilorin, who also lent voice to the end Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) made their demand in a peaceful protest. The fact is that just as there are many demanding the scrapping of the squad, there are also those asking for a reform rather than outright scrapping of the body, noting that the bad eggs should be investigated and fished out.
My take is that there should be total overhaul of the whole police set up. We have those who are civil and passionate about their job. There are still many of them that can be referred to as gentlemanly but firm and strict operatives.
I believe that there is need for systematic reformation, this is however very pertinent at this time considering the plight of young people as a result of the systemic failure that has seems to defy all efforts towards positive change.
They are no two ways measure to it. If the unit is not scrapped, which is not necessary, then there should be total overhaul of the Nigeria Police Force.
Even then, this special squad is in two units vis a vis the Federal SARS, FSARS and the states’ unit, SARS without the ‘F’. Both are specialised unit of the Nigeria Police Force at both the federal and state levels.
The Kwara state Commissioner of Police, Kayode Egbetokun has said that there is no FSARS in Kwara but SARS.
According to CP Egbetokun, “the SARS in Kwara State Command is fully and completely operating under strict supervision of the Commissioner of Police, they don’t investigate cases and could be seen on the street only when responding to distress during emergencies or while performing their core assignments of robbery and kidnapping.”
He knows better and in a better capacity to tell us more.
I actually has never supported crime and criminality but looking at the society, one would agree that the Nigeria society has failed us all, especially the youth. And that probably is why many of the youth are in to various kind of crimes and this has inadvertently affected the Psyche of both the youth and the aggressive security men and officers.
They believe most youth, male and female are in to crime.
This actually is very erroneous and should be adequately addressed. They are to investigate and not interpret, execute or take laws into their hands.
For those who became violent in the course of the protests, caution is the word. Two wrongs they say, don’t make a right. Destroying police vans and impounded vehicles in police premises in the name of protest is also as barbaric, criminally as well as the reason that led to the protest in the first place.
Reasons could be adduced for the turn of event though. One of such, and very cogent is the fact that the laxity of the police command in taking decisive action against errant men and officers indulged in impunity when reported made them continued in the illegality unabated.
Although I am in agreement with those calling for reform and reorientation, reorganisation and monitoring of the Police Force generally, I am not in tandem with those calling for scrapping or dissolution of SARS because doing so will ultimately be giving free rein to hardened and unrepentant criminals who are often too strong for the regular police to handle. There is
For Frank Mba’s reaction while responding to question on the #EndSars matter, I want to say that he was only doing his job though playing to the gallery
President Muhammadu Buhari’s reaction that Nigerian Government is determined to reform the Nigeria Police however, may not hold water now until the reformation is put in place and monitored.
The President on his twitter handle said, “I met again with the IGP tonight. Our determination to reform the police should never be in doubt. I am being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the Police are fully accountable to the people.”
“Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future ” so says Steve Jobs.
I can only hope it is done and the ‘Nigeria psycho mentality’ does not prevail or else, if care is not taken, citizens may start taking up arms against the police in self defence and we know what this could lead to.
I read this somewhere and I trust that it will help in no small measure –
Stop recruiting Illiterates!
Create another sovereign unit responsible for reprimanding offenders/rule breakers in the law enforcement.
Make enough examples out of Offenders.
If you must recruit illiterates, train them thoroughly.
Introduce psych evaluation into the recruitment process and psych evaluation should be conducted by a body that is entirely not connected with NPF.
The buck stops on the President’s table ant the IGP’s, to do the needful in getting a better service orientation for the Nigeria Police.
On Sunday, we heard that the IGP has dissociated the SARS Unit as a result of public outcry and pressure. The question now is “Is that the solution?”
*Doyin writes from Ilorin via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Christie Doyin