One year after the mass protest for the disbandment of the then deadly police team, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and the total reform of the Nigeria Police Force, LEADERSHIP’s investigation has revealed that the Force has not recorded any major reforms.
Many Nigerians are still complaining of police harassment and extortion on the roads and at police stations. Police have also been known to be intolerant of street protests. A recent confrontation with members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria resulted in several deaths.
On October 11, 2020, the then inspector-general of police, IGP Mohammed Adamu disbanded the unit after days of persistent protests by youths nationwide against the activities of SARS,
Announcing the disbandment, IGP Adamu assured Nigerians of a determination to accelerate reforms of the police system.
He had said: “I assure the nation of our firm determination to advance our police reform agenda, with a view to bequeathing to our beloved nation a police institution and system that are not only accountable to the citizens, but professional in all components of its service delivery. I call on all citizens to partner with us in our drive for a peaceful and secure internal security order.
“Our valued covenant with the citizens of this nation is to serve and protect them and integrate their concerns and views into our practices, especially within the dictates of community policing principles, which constitute a critical component of the National Policing and Internal Security Strategy of the federal government.
“Following a review of the current developments, and in due cognizance of the wide and legitimately held concerns of well-meaning citizens on the existence and operations of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, as a responsive and citizens-oriented Police Force, it is hereby directed as follows:
“The Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police, otherwise known as SARS, is hereby dissolved across all formations, the 36 states police commands and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, where they currently exist.
“All officers and men currently serving in the unit are to be deployed with immediate effect. New policing arrangements to address the offences of armed robbery and other violent crimes that fall within the mandate of the dissolved SARS shall 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. To deal with the reports of crimes committed against citizens, an investigation team will be constituted which will include civil society organizations for transparency, and culprits will be punished.”
The Special Anti Robbery Squad was created as a special branch of the Nigerian Police Force in 1992 with a task to deal with firearms and robbery-related crimes.
However, in recent years, the group has become highly controversial due to its association with violent acts such as extrajudicial killings, torture and other illegal activities.
A report published by Amnesty International in June 2020 revealed a pattern of abuse of power and human rights violations.
The reports highlighted at least 28 cases of torture, extra-judicial execution and ill treatments of civilians between January 2017 and May 2020 by officers belonging to SARS.
The Nigerian authorities’ failure to bring the perpetrators to justice not only enraged people, but soon, thousands of youth-led people to take to the streets in cities across the country with “#EndSARS” banners, clearly voicing their grievances and dissatisfaction with the current government’s handling of the situation.
After the disbandment of SARS, the police quickly announced the establishment of a new police outfit to take over.
The new team known as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team was to fill the gaps arising from the dissolution of the defunct SARS.
However, Nigerians condemned the unit and the unit never took off.
However, as attacks on police stations and formations heightened, the current inspector-general of police, IGP Alkali Baba, launched a new outfit ‘Operation Restore Peace’.
Force PRO, CP Frank Mba said in order to prevent further attacks and restore peace in the South-East and South-South regions, IGP Baba launched a new outfit ‘Operation Restore Peace’ in the two regions.
According to CP Mba, the special operation is to counter the IPOB threat and ensure the security of lives and property in the two regions.
Timeline Of Killings And Attacks On Police Stations
February 23: Two police officers reportedly lost their lives when some unknown gunmen attacked a police station in Aba, Abia State.
February 24: Hoodlums killed a police officer and razed down a patrol vehicle in Ekwulobia in Anambra State.
February 25: Four police officers were killed at MCC in Calabar, Cross River state by gunmen.
February 26: Gunmen razed a police station in Imo State, Nigeria’s South-East, the station that was just renovated after being razed down by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protests.
March 1: Some gunmen attacked a police station in Essien Udim local government area of Akwa Ibom State and by daylight another attack reportedly occurred at the Iboko divisional police station in Izzi local government area of Ebonyi State, Nigeria’s South-east.
March 9: Gunmen attacked a police station in Imo State and burnt several vehicles.
April 21: Adani police post attacked with two policemen reportedly killed.
May 16: Three officers killed in Delta. The Nsukwa divisional police station in the Aniocha South local government area of Delta State came under attack by suspected members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN). At least three officers and a suspect were killed during the attack.
The building and vehicles parked in the station were razed while the gunmen carted away ammunition.
May 19: Gunmen shot and killed a police sergeant whose name was given as Loveday Obilonu, on May 19 in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
May 23: Gunmen attacked the B Division of the Nigeria Police Force in Awka, Anambra State.
May 25: Gunmen in the early hours of May 25 attacked Iwollo Police division in Ezeagu local government area of Enugu State. The police station was set ablaze during the attack with five officers feared killed.
May 25: Gunmen burnt the Orji divisional police headquarters situated on Owerri- Okigwe road in Owerri.
May 28: Gunmen on May 28 killed three police officers during an attack on a police station in Delta State, Nigeria’s South-south. The attack occurred in Umutu police station in Ukwuani LGA in the early hours of Friday.
May 29: Gunmen on Saturday night, May 29, razed the Atta divisional police headquarters in Njaba local government area of Imo State, Nigeria’s South-east.
Also, On the same day, some gunmen touched the Police Criminal Investigation Department in Abia, causing panic and pandemonium in Umuahia, the state capital, and its environs.
May 25: Two police stations were razed while 15 policemen were killed in different attacks.
The police stations attacked include Iwollo Oghe police station.
Also, on July 21, a police checkpoint at Obeagu Uno-Amechi Road was attacked and four policemen were reported killed.
September 19: Angry residents attacked a police station in Sokoto, killing 13 detained suspected bandits while a police checkpoint at Nachi in Oji-River was attacked with two policemen reportedly killed on September 20, 2021.
September 30: Unknown gunmen said to be numbering over seven, attacked Ajali Police Station, in Orumba North local government area, Anambra state, killing five policemen, and setting the station ablaze.
October 9: Gunmen attack a police station in Umulokpa, Uzo-Uwani local government area in Enugu state.
The Police command in Enugu State ordered intensive investigation into a missing female officer during an attack on its divisional headquarters in Umulokpa by unidentified gunmen.
The divisional headquarters was attacked October 9 by yet-to-be-identified hoodlums who vandalised operational vehicles and other items in the station.
In reaction to the decline in attacks, CP Mba said it is classified into three major factors.
He said the first factor is that the police are more proactive which makes them to be more on the offensive rather than being defensive.
He said the other factors are improved intelligence gathering and the launch of the new operation in the two zones.
According to him, “We now engage the critical stakeholders in these communities to deal with some of these challenges.
“The launch of the special operation which is the very elaborate operation targeted at restoring peace within the two zones (has also helped). I believe it is the combination of these three factors.”