Following the dissolution of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, the #EndSARS campaigners have insisted on extensive police reforms and the prosecution of culpable officers of the disbanded outfit.
The IG has, however, promised to constitute a new investigation team that would involve Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights groups in the conduct of investigations into human rights violations.
The IG, who spoke yesterday at a media briefing in Abuja where he announced the formal dissolution of SARS, said a new policing arrangement would be put in place to fill the gap created in order to reinvigorate the fight against armed robbery, kidnapping and other criminalities.
The dissolution followed widespread protests across the country over extra-judicial killings, extortion and general human rights abuse by the SARS police unit.
The IG said: “As part of measures to prevent a re-occurrence of events that gave rise to the dissolution of SARS, a Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum is being formed to regularly interface with Police leadership at all levels and advise on police activities as they affect the general public.
“The Force is constituting an investigation team, which shall include civil society organisations and human rights bodies to work with the police in investigating alleged cases of human rights violations.”
He said the measure would enhance transparency and accountability in police services as well as providing a system of deterrence for erring police officers whose action clearly violates the rights of the citizenry.
Briefing newsmen at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, the IG said the decision to dissolve SARS followed a review of the current development and in due cognisance of the wide and legitimately held concerns of well-meaning citizens on the existence and operations of the SARS as a responsive and citizens-oriented Police Force.
“The Special Anti-Robbery Squad of Nigeria Police otherwise known as SARS is hereby dissolved across all formations, the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory where they currently exist,” Adamu said.
He said all officers and men currently serving in the unit would be redeployed with immediate effect while new arrangements to address the offences of armed robbery and other violent crimes that fall within the mandate of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad would be presented in due course.
“A citizens and strategic stakeholders’ forum will be formed to regularly interface with the leadership of the police at all levels and advice on police activities,” he said.
Adamu maintained that in order to deal with the reports of crimes committed against citizens, an investigation team will be constituted, which will include civil society organisations for transparency and that culprits would be punished.
He explained that the call by cross-sections of Nigerians for the scrapping of the SARS as a unit in the Nigeria Police Force had remained under constant monitoring and due assessment by the government.
He noted that the government acknowledged the inalienable rights of citizens to freedom of association and expression in which the current agitation is seen as a manifestation of the natural desire of citizens to participate in matters concerning policing and internal security in the nation.
“This is indeed one of the fundamental principles of community policing, which we are currently implementing,” Adamu said, revealing: “The Nigeria Police leadership has since the commencement of the protests been engaging the leadership of some Civil Society Organisations with a view to initiating meaningful and wide-ranging discussions on the subjects of their concern.”
Reacting to the development, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, welcomed it, describing the action as a positive detour from the established unheeding tendency of the Buhari administration.
“They heeded the uproar of citizens against SARS, and for once, acted promptly in disbanding the special squad, whose personnel went off their duty lines and core mandate of combating armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country, and virtually became a terror gang with disturbing reports of wanton misdeeds, particularly against young people, across the country”, the group stated in a press statement by its spokesman, Mr. Ken Robison.
As at press time, the clamour for President Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation and confirm SARS has been proscribed heightened as it generated over 500,000 tweets.
Also trending with over 200,000 tweets were words like ‘audio,’ a social media parlance used to depict when fake promises are made.
Describing the proscription as audio, the protesters vowed that only an Executive Order backed by law would convince them that SARS has been dissolved.