IG dissolves SARS, adopts measures to protect Nigerians

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…..APC, NHRC, CSOs, CPs, others hail decision

… action amounts to throwing out bathwater with the baby – Northern youth

The Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr Mohammed Adamu has ordered the dissolution of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) across Police Commands in the country.

Adamu disclosed this at a media briefing on Sunday in Abuja.

The dissolution followed widespread  protests in several cities and towns in the country mostly led by the youths,  calling for the scraping of SARS over harassment and intimidation by some of its officers.

The Inspector General said the dissolution was in response to the yearnings of Nigerians adding that, by the dissolution all officers and men of the defunct SARS were being redeployed with immediate effect.

The IG said the force was not oblivious of the need to combat armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country which was before now the core mandate of the erstwhile Squad.

Adamu pledged that a new policing arrangement to address anticipated policing gaps by the dissolution of SARS had evolved and would be announced in due course.

According to him, as part of measures to prevent a recurrence of events that gave rise to the dissolution of SARS, a ‘Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum’ is being formed.

He said the forum would regularly interface with police leadership at all levels and advise on police activities as they affect the general public.

“In addition, 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. “The measure, will enhance transparency and accountability in police services as well as provide a system of deterrence for erring police officers whose action clearly violates the rights of citizens,” he said.

He commended Nigerians, who genuinely expressed their concerns for a better policing orientation in an organised, patriotic and civil manner.

Adamu pledged the commitment of the force to bequeath to the country, a Police Force and System that is accountable and professional in service delivery.

In the meantime, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Sunday in Abuja, said it welcomed Federal Government’s decision to disband the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) and the reform of the Nigeria Police Force.

The party said this in a statement issued by Mr Yekini Nabena, its Deputy National Publicity Secretary.

It said it viewed the responsive decision as a major and concrete step toward President Muhammadu Buhari’s affirmed resolve to achieve better policing and necessary reforms.

“From the recent #BlackLivesMatter social movement to other global clamours for review of police operations, particularly in regard to citizens they are empowered to protect the need for police reforms in Nigeria is urgent and continuous.

“With benefit of experience and public outcry over the operations of the disbanded SARS, the APC is confident that the new policing arrangement promised by the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed will balance the need to effectively combat armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country,” he said.

Nabena expressed optimism that the police reform would also ensure humane, professional and accountable police operations in the country.

He called on Nigerians to take advantage of the Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum formed to regularly interface with police leadership at all levels and advise on its activities as they affected the general public.

“The Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force otherwise known as SARS is hereby dissolved in all the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory,” the IGP had said.

Similarly, the National Human Rights Commission has commended the Federal Government for promptly dissolving SARS, an action it said showed the qualities of a listening government.

The Commission spoke in reaction to an announcement on Sunday by the Inspector General of a Police, Mohammed Adamu, dissolving the special squad.

According to a statement by Mr. Tony Ojukwu, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, on Sunday in Abuja, the NHRC has been monitoring reports from individual victims and the media with respect to human rights violation of innocent members of the public by SARS operatives as well as other police units across the country.

He said that the Commission is equally aware of the public outcry to scrap SARS so as to put an end to these violations, revealing that the Federal government, by its action, has demonstrated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights of Nigerians.

“The Right to protest is a constitutionally protected right as long as it is carried out responsibly and without resulting in the violation of the rights of any member of the public, including law enforcement personnel.”

He said with the dissolution of SARS, as recommended by the Presidential Panel, the stage is now set to implement the other recommendations of the panel.

He added in this regard, the government had requested the Commission to constitute a broad-based implementation committee, inclusive of relevant government agencies and civil society organizations.

According to Ojukwu, this is to ensure the transparent, comprehensive and accountable implementation of the white paper on the presidential panel report.

The Commission assures Nigerians that the federal government is wholly committed to protecting the human rights of all Nigerians in accordance with the 1999 Constitution as amended, Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and respect for the rule of law.

“Nigerians should appreciate the critical role being played by the Nigerian police and Special Anti-Robbery Squad in bursting armed robbery and other heinous crimes in the country even at the risk of their personal safety and some of them have paid the supreme sacrifice too.

Also commenting, two Commissioners of Police on Sunday hailed the decision of the Inspector General, to disband SARS

The commissioners speaking to our correspondent said that the dissolution of SARS would help in reducing violence erupting from various anti-protesting  groups across the country.

One of them, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, said that the peaceful protest organised by responsible citizens had been hijacked by hoodlums to perpetuate crime and create unrest in the society.

“The disolution of the anti-robbery unit will help to lessen the aggression fueled by protesting youths and hopefully stabilise decorum in the society,” Owoseni, a retired commissioner of police said.

Also speaking,  Commissioner Awotinde Awoshola said that the IGP made a smart decision by  disbanding  the unit for peace to be restored to the country.

Awoshola said that the excesses of the anti-robbery unit had to be checked and that can only be achieved by disbanding the unit.

“However, the disbandment  of SARS will only create room for the establishment of another security outfit. We hope that the new outfit will carry out the objectives of the Federal Government to the letter,” he said.

Also, Mr  Monday Ubani, a lawyer, supported the decision of the government to bring an end to SARS as a way of listening to the voices and cries of the public.

Ubani, however,  said that the disbandment would only create room for a better anti-robbery unit to be brought to play to continue the fight against crime in the society.

“There is going to be a workout programme by the Nigeria Police Force, Civic Society group and major stakeholders on who will replace SARS in fighting crime,” he said.

Ubani said that  the officials of the disbanded unit usually picked on well-dressed young men who use expensive phones and try to extort money from them based on the premise they were internet fraudsters.

“This has led to harassment and an infringement on the  rights  of such cutizens which is unacceptable,” he said.

However, a socio-political group in Bauchi, the Northern Youth

Assembly of Nigeria (NYAN) has advised Adamu against scrapping the Special Anti Robbery Squad popularly known as FSARS.

Addressing newsmen in Bauchi through its spokesperson, Mr Ukasha Hamza, the group said the role being played by the squad in checking the activities of criminals, especially on the highways,could not be waived aside.

It said what the squad needed was reform to enable it operate in conformity with the rules of engagement by respecting and upholding the fundamental rights of the citizenry.

The group described  as commendable, the recent directive by the IGP that Commissioners of Police in charge of state commands and Assistant Inspectors General of Police  incharge of zones, should monitor the activities of the squad.

NYAN lamented that security breaches, especially highway robbery and kidnapping, were in the increase, saying scraping of FSARS would further compound the already deploration security situation.