SARS: The Untold Story

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By Muhammad Baba Busu

There is no doubt, policing is a complex job the world over. This is because every action the police personnel take at any point in time attracts different interpretations by different people.

Police are also part of organizations in the world that have more enemies than friends. In fact, a friend to the police today may tomorrow become the enemy because of vested interest.

The recent campaign in the social media calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force, has attracted mixed feelings. This is because, while many others have had sour encounter with personnel of the unit, others or their relations have, at one time or the other, been rescued from either kidnappers or deadly armed robbers by the officers of the SARS unit.

SARS is a special unit of the Nigeria Police Force which was specifically created to combat violent crimes.

SARS, according to many, has over the years, performed excellently well as it has assisted in arresting some notorious criminals in different parts of the country.

Just as there is no perfect human institution or person, one cannot deny the fact that SARS also has some bad elements who have acted over time beyond their line of responsibility.

The question though is, must we throw away the baby with the bath water?  Or must we, because some very few officers have misbehaved, not remember the good aspect of the unit, hence, scrap it ?

It is instructive to note that the same SARS many people are calling for it to be scrapped was instrumental to the arrest of  most of the notorious criminals in many parts of the country.

For example,  sometimes last year, two suspected notorious armed robbers terrorising and robbing residents of Ire Akari street, Ejigbo and Isolo areas of Lagos, snatching and vandalising vehicles in the area for long, were arrested by operatives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) in Adeniji Adele Road, Lagos Island.  This, no doubt, brought a sigh of relief to residence of the area.

Similarly, in 2015, due to the unabated activities of cultists and other violent crimes, including kidnapers and armed robbers in Edo State, the IGP Idris, dispatched a special crack squad comprising SARS officers to the state to tackle the situation. The situation was, few days after, brought under control.

On the other hand, the arrest of over 3,000 suspected kidnappers since the assumption of office of the IGP, one year ago, is largely due to the efforts of SARS operatives.

In fact, the recent successes recorded in reducing the high rate of crime and criminality, especially kidnapping and other deadly vices in most parts of the country, is largely the handiwork of SARS operatives.

Also, the arrest of the notorious kidnappers that terrorised the country for more than 6 years,  popularly known as Henry Chibueze a.k.a Vampire and Onwumadike Chukwudumeme a.k.a Evans,  was achieved following the ingenuity and gallantry displayed by the SARS unit of the Force.

Few months ago, the Abuja-Kaduna Highway became a danger zone as kidnappers and armed robbers almost took over the road. Many prominent Nigerians had been kidnapped and robbed on that axis.

The story has become different today because of the immense contribution of SARS operatives who were drafted to that highway. Also, cases of cattle rustling that had caused serious panic among Fulani herdsmen have been reduced to the barest minimum because of the tireless efforts of SARS; they have also recovered thousands of cows from criminals and returned them to the owners.

Security experts are of the consensus that the drastic reduction in the rate of armed robbery and kidnapping in all parts of the country in recent times is creditable to intense activities of the SARS.

It is, however, important to stress that in spite of the shortcomings of the very few disgruntled SARS operatives, they need the encouragement, prayer and the support of all Nigerians to do more.

It is pertinent to remind Nigerians that most of these SARS operatives stay awake in bushes and dangerous places to secure the country. Most of them, in fact, spend more than three months without seeing their families and making other personal sacrifices to make Nigerians sleep with the two eyes closed.

Rather than castigating them, labelling them all manner of names and calling for their scrapping, Nigerians need to explore avenues of supporting the Nigeria Police Force with constructive advice and suggestions, to make the unit better.

It is also relevant to say that not all the alleged wrong doings attributed to the SARS personnel are actually committed by them. In fact, many bad elements have been arrested in recent times for impersonating or claiming to be SARS personnel.

It is, therefore, necessary to applaud the effort of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotun-Idris, for his swift response in reorganising the SARS unit following the recent uproar in the social media.

In the course of restructuring the unit, the IGP directed the IGP X-Squad of the Force to undertake an instant investigation into all the allegations, complaints and infractions levelled against the SARS personnel across the country.

He, has, therefore, appointed a Commissioner of Police to head the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide under the department of operations in the  Force Headquarters.

According to the IGP Idris, 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.

Also, other crack squads necessary to sustain law and order and protection of life and properties in their area of responsibilities are to be sustained.

“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 F-SARS in states and zonal commands across the country,” the police boss said.

“Furthermore, a new training programme to be organized by the Force, in collaboration with some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), local and international NGOs, and other human rights organisations on core police duties and human rights observers, have been directed by the IGP for all Federal SARS personnel nationwide with immediate effect.”

One is, therefore, obliged to say that with the strategies by the IGP, Nigerians should be patient with the SARS operatives, pray for them and encourage them for a better and secured Nigeria.

– Busu, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.