By O’star Eze
The force public relations officer, DCP Frank Mba who made the disclosure during a recent interview on Channels TV, said the reform would go beyond “cosmetics” and would reposition the outfit as a professional crime-fighting outfit within the police force.
Recall how the immediate past IGP Ibrahim Idris Kpotun went about “reforming” the special anti robbery squad after an attempt to resist the nationwide protest against the SARS following allegations of abuse of human rights by this unit of the Nigerian Police Force.
It all started with the #ENDSARS campaign on twitter which swept across the media as more and more Nigerians cued in to call out against the perceived excesses of the popular special anti robbery squad (SARS). Citizens kept filing in petitions on twitter and to lawmakers of various instances of such excesses. Prominent among them was the allegation that young men were being arrested harassed and sometimes shot by members of SARS if they are found well dressed and in possession of an iphone.
One such twitter posts read as follows, “Be Young, Look good, Own an iPhone, Dress well, own a car
Extortion, Harassment, Time wastage, Detention, Invasion of privacy, seizure of phone #EndSARS”
The call became so intensified that the National Assembly had to wade into the matter. In the first week of December 2017, Senator representing Bauchi central senatorial district, Isah Hamman Misau, called on the senate ad-hoc committee on national security to investigate activities of special anti-robbery squad.
Confirming receiving series of petitions against SARS accusing it of extrajudicial killings and abuse of human rights, Misau recommended that the SARS should start reporting to the state commissioner of Police through the ACP in charge of CID. This was in December, 2017.
Reform, not scrap
Following that recommendation at the plenary, there was a pro-SARS rally at Eagle Square, Abuja calling on all to “let SARS be.”
While the protesters were tagged members of a civil society organization, a closer look showed that they were actually drawn predominantly from the police community relations committee.
Their argument was that SARS has good relevance and should not be scrapped but should rather be reformed. “SARS is a unit of the Nigeria Police Force created specifically to combat armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes,” they said. They called on Nigerians to support the move to reform the unit by IGP Idris.
IGP Ibrahim Idris went ahead to roll out his reform policy for the SARS which, however, did not ascent to the recommendation of the senate to decentralize the unit. He changed the name from Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) to Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (F SARS). According to Idris, ‘‘in the new arrangement, a commissioner of police is now the overall head of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide under the department of operations, force headquarters Abuja. ‘The police zonal commands, state commands and divisions will continue to operate anti-crime units/sections, crime prevention and control squads and teams imperative to prevent and detect crimes and criminalities in their area of responsibilities, and other crack squads necessary to sustain law and order and protection of life and properties in their area of responsibilities (AOR).
“Federal anti-robbery squad (FSARS) will now exist and operate in the state and zonal commands under the commissioner of police (F-SARS) at the force headquarters. A federal SARS commander of a rank of chief superintendent of police (CSP) and not below Superintendent of police (sp) will be in charge of FSARS in state and zonal commands across the country. All commissioners of police have been directed by the inspector general of police to comply with this directive with immediate effect and warn their personnel not to pose as SARS operatives. The IGP X-Squad has been mandated to go round the commands and police formations nationwide to ensure strict compliance and apprehend any erring police officer.
Fast forward to January 15, 2018 when the new IGP Muhammed Abubakar Adamu was appointed by President Muhammed Buhari with the retired of Ibrahim Idris Kpotun. One of the first things Adamu did was to decentralise FSARS nationwide and obviously implement the recommendation made by Senator Misau in December 2017.
Explaining the reason behind the move, NPF spokesman, Frank Mba said it was one of the moves being made by Adamu to “correct every anomaly, bureaucratic bottleneck and bring the police closer to the people.”
Already, the Anambra state police commissioner, Mr Garba Baba Umar, while interacting with the press recently in Awka Police Headquarters announced that he has already set up an anti-robbery unit that is under his watch. He went further to say that anyone still parading himself as a member of FSARS should be reported to the police.
Explaining further the reason behind the move by the police force, the Anambra state police public relations officer, SP Haruna Mohammed said that it was indeed to achieve “effective supervision” of this, no doubt, essential unit of the police.
It appears that the light at the end of the tunnel in Nigeria policing is closer as the incumbent IGP seems to have a good grasp of what the challenges of effective policing in Nigeria are. He also appears ready to work with the various arms of the government in applying effective solutions to these challenges in other to give Nigeria a safer society.