By Chukwudi Ikpe with Agency reports
The recent decentralization of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force by the recently appointed Acting Inspector-General, Adamu Mohammed, has elicited mixed reactions from some prominent Nigerians.
It will be recalled that SARS was reorganized by the former IG, Ibrahim Idris following a directive by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbanjo to have its operations reviewed.
It is believed that the reorganizations and changes were geared towards addressing the yearnings of Nigerians who have been at the receiving end of the unprofessional behavbiour of some of the operatives of the squad.
There were public outcry against SARS by both individuals and organizations. Human rights violations, extra-judicial killings, cases of extortion and harassment as well as other serious allegations were leveled against SARS through several protests across the country under the auspices of an ‘End SARS campaign’.
The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC also launched a public hearing to investigate claims of human rights abuses against SARS and the revelations were shocking.
The outcome from the Presidential Panel on SARS reform held in November 2018 in Lagos was no different as it exposed the failure of the squad to follow due process in the discharge of its duties.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of Imo State Police Command, SP Ikeokwu Godson Orlando who spoke to Christian explained that SARS is a special unit of the force charged with the important responsibility of responding, cracking and investigating armed robbery related cases.
He gave kudos to the squad and called for caution on agitations and protests against it.
“They have been very wonderful and have always been able to achieve tremendous results”, Ikeokwu said.
He blamed the allegations on issues bordering on social media adding, “There is no job without hitches. Sometimes we make mistakes on duties, it is all across everywhere not only in the police. But I can tell you, the clamour were not very right because SARS has done very well when it comes to cracking, arresting, investigating and tackling armed robbery cases. It is very unfair for anyone to say that the unit is bad because of one or two mistakes”.
The police spokesman who spoke to us in his office clarified that “the IGP returned the command and supervision of SARS operations back to the State Commissioners of Police”.
Also speaking on the matter, a renewed legal practitioner, Chief mike Ahamba said he believes that what led to the changes in mode of operations and administration of SARS were “their stories which I hear from other people and which were that of extreme brutality against suspects, perceived or real”.
According to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who commended the news of the training and reorientation of SARS, now called Federal SARS (FSARS), “these stories, which led to the public outcry, were not in line with international standard of human rights and rule of law”.
On the changes, Ahamba said “Nigeria Police is centralized. If the present IG has decided to decentralized SARS, it does not change the whole police as a central body. It is a question of devolution of power of control of SARS to some authorities of the Police Force”.
Chief Ahamba cautioned against using SARS in elections saying, “They should carry with them the new orientation which was publicly propagated. I say this because FSARS is a special squad and therefore must not be deployed by the state CP for any election duty”.
He advised SARS and the police in general to “adhere to constitutional provisions which only authorizes the police, through the IG, to obey only lawful orders in the discharge of their duties”.
Another legal Practitioner, Barr. Wisdom Durueke who added his voice on the matter regretted that the story of SARS has not been so interesting, stressing that the Nigerian populace has not been pleased with them especially for “their mark of abuses on human rights”.
He, however, acknowledged that “Thus does not mean that they did not record some successes. They recorded some successes but reports if gross abuse, extortion, impunity and criminality made them notorious.
The expressed displeasure with the latest development saying “I don’t understand the shift of power or decentralization of FSARS. These does not address the yearnings of Nigerians. What Nigerians want is bringing them to account for their actions, stopping their excesses and making them operate under the rule law”.
“We need to reform the Nigeria Police Force and retrain the man and women of the Force and raise them to international standard “Barr. Durueke said.