By Ayuba Ahmed
Like a bolt from the blues, the deluge of the campaign for the scrapping of the police special Anti-Robbery squad, SARS, took generality of Nigerians by surprise. Few could have foretold its occurrence. Not even the police, with all their ears to the ground saw it coming. They were literally caught napping. All because, it was an unplanned, spontaneous action taken by a few courageous and give in desire to right their perceived wrong in the conduct and activities of a special unit of the nation’s Police Force.
However, as it is usual with such ruptures of emotions, a large measure of reason and caution is easily thrown to the wind. More significantly, while the initiators might have been propelled by genuine and perceptible grievances, there are the opportunists that are always there to jump into the train.
This later crowd, consisting of the rabble rousers, anarchists and people in pursuit of narrow self-interests are louder in orchestrating the initial motif force. The advent of SARS, its operations and the cacophony in the clamor for its abrogation contains all the elements of this view. That is, a typical depiction of the scenario of: the good, bad and the ugly.
Established as a special unit in Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, CIID, of the Police Force, SARS, came into existence in response to the spread and rising tempo of all sorts of violent crimes in the country. Without any sense of equivocations, the SARS project or, an experiment, has greatly worked, yielding huge results for the purpose of its creation.
People of objective minds will for instance; agree that, while hardened, violent criminals take flight from zones where there are SARS operatives, a large number of notorious, hitherto dreadful armed robbers have been tracked and put out of circulation by men of SARS either by way of death during exchange of file or, taken captives and arraigned before the court of law.
Obviously specially trained, motivated and equipped to take on ferocious armed bandits, the SARS have also recorded several feats of triumphs in tackling the menace of cattle rustling, kidnappers, ethnic and religious armed militia, hired assassins, among violent criminals.
In a prompt response to the public outcry against alleged excesses of SARS and the attendant clamor for its dissolution, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, ordered for an immediate re-organization of SARS.
Aimed at repositioning the unit for more diligent and effective service delivery, the IGP announced that the envisioned reorganization will make operations of the anti robbery outfit compliant to international best practices in policing with the core values of integrity, observance of the rule of law and respect to the citizens fundamental human rights even as suspects in police custody.
. For a start, the IGP announced instant changes in the command structure of SARS to bring I under the direct control of the Force Headquarters with the implications that state commands will no longer have their personnel “posing as SARS Operatives.”
While at that,, Mr. Idris has also directed, “Nationwide and instant investigations into all the allegations, complaints and infractions”, with a strong assurance that, disciplinary actions will be taken against every officer of the outfit found wanting.
To buttress the furiousness of the IGP to redress and arrest future occurrence, his office has further provided GSM numbers, email, WhatsApp and fax addresses through which aggrieved members of the public can directly lay their complains or, incidents of infractions not only by SARS officers, but, all personnel of the Police Force, to the office of the Inspector General.
Devoid of alterior motives other than a genuine craving for improving the qualityof policing, the measures being put in place by the Inspector General must be appreciated at least, to the extent of giving him the benefit of doubt.
The observed lapses in the conduct of personnel of the SARS that triggered the ongoing rage of some people, must also be subjected to empirical analysis in order to usher logical and enduring solution to a crisis that has been long in coming.
In this context, it will be easily realised that the officers of SARS or, of the Police Force in general, are basically, Nigerians whose behaviourable patterns and propensities have been tinkered and moulded by the wider society.
As it is, the country is still essentially at the nascent stage of transition from decades of military dictatorship with all its negative repercussions on almost every fibre of our national life. The Police, like other institutions, surely needs to undergo the teething period of coming to terms with the spirit and niecities of democracy.
When he came on the saddle of leadership about a year ago, IGP Ibrahim Idris clearly indicated that he was aware of the myriad of impediments in the way of the Police Force. For example, he announced in his very inaugural address, his plan to revitalize the latent X-Squad of the Force as a mechanism for checking abuse and other unprofessional conducts of Police personnel in the course of duty and in their dealing with the public.
In pursuit of his agenda of transformation and refocusing the agency by injecting discipline and humaneness into the personnel, perhaps no other IGP has subjected the number of personnel that have been either dismissed, demoted, compulsorily retired or given other forms of disciplinary actions on the grounds of extortion, bribery and sundry actions of professional misconduct.
The “Bail Is Free” campaign is just one other pragmatic step that he has initiated to free members of the public from age old practice of trampling on their fundamental human right at police stations.
To redress the challenges of shortage of personnel, poor welfare package and inadequate equipent, Mr. Idris has been advocating inrease in the number of enlistments into the force. He has similarly been strindent in the campaign for a Police Trust Fund as a feasible and enduring solution to the crisis of paucity of funds available for effective policing.
Thus, it will be more rewarding, pragmatic and logical for Nigerians desirous of positive changes in the attitude of the police towards the public to key into the campaign of addressing those fundamental causative factors that result into some of the untoward behaviour of officers and men of the Force.
With adequate funding, many policemen would have been given the needed training, motivation and equipment that will surely stave off frustration and propensities towards the kind of brutish attitude for which some officers of the SARS have been accused of.
In other words, the way to go about it, is a gradual process of transformation and consistent sifting of the grains from the chaffs, rather than a rash, and anarchical approach of outright throwing away the baby and the bathwater.
– Ahmed writes from Kaduna
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