The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris on Monday, ordered the restructuring of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) due to incessant complaints from Nigerians – innocent young citizens being intimidated and killed more often.
Over the weekend citizens took to social media, Twitter, in particular, to share sordid tales of harassment, inditimation and outright murder of Nigerians by men of the squad. The tales sparked outrage on the cyberspace as the hashtag #EndSARS started trending.
In a statement through the Force Public Relation’s Officer, Jimoh Moshood, Idris said the squad would be immediately reorganised, while the IGP’s X-Squad will commence “instant investigation into all the allegations, complaints and infractions levelled against the personnel of the Special Anti Robbery Squad across the country”.
The statement read, “The Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim K. Idris NPM, mni concerned with public interest and the need to reposition the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) for more efficiency and effective service delivery to all Nigerians and ensure that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operates based on International Core Value of Policing with integrity and make sure the rule of law prevails in the operations and activities of the outfit, the IGP has directed the immediate re-organisation of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) nationwide and instant investigation into all the allegations, complaints and infractions levelled against the personnel of the Special Anti Robbery Squad across the country by the IGP X-Squad of the Force.”
This comes after Moshood on Sunday dismissed claims by Nigerians that SARS no longer deal with issues they should be concerned with but, go after innocent young Nigerians found with a laptop, expensive phones, cars or other items they feel is usually owned by “Yahoo Boys”. The Force PRO in his reaction alleged that “such people spreading such information may likely be armed robbers themselves”.
Mr Moshood said, “As we speak, SARS is doing fantastically well across the country in reducing incidents of robbery to the barest minimum… they are doing very, very well.”
But, it will be foolhardy to take Moshood’s claim and the IGP’s directive at face value. This is because the Force, and in particular, Idris has a history of handing out directives to his men which are never adhered to. This cannot be overstated.
The Police has repeatedly said its personnel have NO RIGHT to stop any citizen and ask for his or her phone. The order went further to ban officers from going through phones.
During an interview in January with Linda Ikeji TV, the Lagos State Police PRO, Dolapo Badmos said, “…I didn’t (sic) know the time that the Police issued a statement that they should not search phones but, what I want you to know is that phones are private.”
Explaining the “privacy part of her statement” Badmos said individuals use their phones to store private information, like bank account statements, adding that any attempt to go through someone’s phone might result into an intrusion.
Daily Nigerians recount encounters with the men in black, on attempts to go through their phones, and the police is yet to do anything on this illegality and harassment.
The checkpoint menace
In 2012, Mohammed Abubakar, the then acting Inspector General of Police ordered the removal of roadblocks mounted by policemen. Speaking at an interactive session with traditional rulers, leaders of thought, businessmen and town union executives in Awka, Anambra, Abubakar, said, “This is the only country in the world where roads are blocked with sticks, drums and all sorts of things in the name of police checkpoints.” Five years later, roadblocks by policemen remain part and parcel of the Police code of conduct.
Subsequent Inspector Generals of Police have issued a similar directive which is yet to be effected. In the space of five months, Idris issued the “removal of checkpoints” directive twice, and the status quo remains. No one would claim that checkpoints have been phased out after the most recent order for personnel to stop mounting checkpoints as they cause “nuisance” on the roads.
When citizens observed that the order was “gloriously disobeyed”, the Abia Police Commissioner, Mr. Anthony said “checkpoints and roadblocks are two different things. Nigerians should stop confusing the two.” If a CP can defy an order from the IGP, then what is expected from personnel posted to man such checkpoints.
Remember the Apo Six?
In 2005, a group of six young Nigerian traders were murdered in cold blood on their way home.
The then President, Olusegun Obasanjo ordered an investigation into the matter but what happened?
Twelve years after, the Nigerian Police reinstated, Ibrahim Danjuma, the Officer, who was found complicit in the killings. Giving reasons for Danjuma’s reinstatement, the police said,“The police only acted on the instructions of the Police Service Commission that the officers be reinstated.”
“They were suspended by the PSC and have now been reinstated by the same body.
“The Nigeria Police Force as an institution will always obey instructions from the Police Service Commission, which is the regulatory body.”
Just reading the Police’s “reason” for Danjuma’s reinstatement should send shivers down your spine, and also trigger your understanding that the Police which sees nothing wrong in recalling someone indicted for cutting short the lives of six young Nigerians in their prime, is not about to change overnight due to Idris’ directive.
This piece is not intended to burst your bubble but to ensure that your hopes are not raised to the roof that any change will be effected in the operations or structures of the SARS in the nearest future.
This ‘marketplace’ order from the police hierarchy, as usual, will not be effected, and nothing will happen to the defaulters as Nigeria is a country where complaints from the citizenry is taking lightly by those in authority.
Or have we forgotten how long we have been screaming about Police Reforms?