For several months, Nigerian citizens demanded the removal of the disreputable Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), famous for its severe disregard of the human rights law – an unlawful act that took a deadly turn with reports pouring in daily of cruel activities involving killings, robbery and inhumane torture.
The protest took its center stage on social media and was spearheaded by Segun Awosanya.
— SEGA L’éveilleur®🚨 (@segalink) August 15, 2018
Several notable personalities also lent their voices to the cause, including Bring Back Our Girls Convener, Oby Ezekwesili, condemning the continuous brutality perpetrated by SARS operatives.
Yesterday, 14th August, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo made a definitive move. In a press release signed by Laolu Akande (Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity), the Acting President directed the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris to completely overhaul the unit with immediate effect:
“Following persistent complaints and reports on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that border on allegations of human rights violations, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to, with immediate effect, overhaul the management and activities of SARS and ensure that any Unit that will emerge from the process, will be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.
“The Acting President has also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging Unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Human Rights Law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects.
“The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.”
In the statement, the Acting President also directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a committee with a sole purpose to conduct a nation-wide investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS operatives in other to afford members of the general public the chance to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.
In compliance with the directive of the Acting President, the IGP, according to a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, has restructured the SARS unit and appointed a new commissioner to head the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad, otherwise known as FSARS.
— Nigeria Police Force (@PoliceNG) August 14, 2018
“The Inspector General of Police in compliance with the Presidential directives has ordered the immediate overhauling of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to address complaints and allegations on human rights violations against some of the personnel of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) from members of the public in some parts of the Country.
“In the new arrangement, a new Commissioner of Police has been appointed as the overall head of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide.
“In observance of full compliance with the Presidential directives, the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad will be intelligence driven and will be restricted to the prevention and detection of Armed Robbery, kidnapping and the apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences only.
“New FSARS Commanders are being appointed for the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) across the country that will now exist and operate in the State and Zonal Commands under the Commissioner of Police (F-SARS) at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. A Federal SARS Commander of a rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) but not below Superintendent of Police (SP) will be in charge of FSARS in State and Zonal Commands across the country.
“All Commissioners of Police have been directed by the Inspector General of Police to comply with this directive with immediate effect and warn their personnel not to pose as SARS operatives. The IGP X-Squad and Monitoring Unit have been mandated to go round the Commands and Police Formations nationwide to ensure strict compliance with the Presidential directives and apprehend any erring police officer.
“A new Standard Operational Guidelines and Procedures, and code of conduct for all FSARS personnel to ensure that the operations of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad is in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regards to international human rights law and constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects will be enforced in totality by the Commissioner of Police, FSARS.
“A committee of Senior Police officers, Technical Consultants, Human Rights/Civil Society organizations (CSOs) has been setup to review the activities of FSARS under the new arrangement. They are to pay unscheduled visits to FSARS formations across the country with particular attention to States with high complaints index, to assess facilities and situations in these States and submit report to the Inspector General of Police on regular basis.”
— Excerpt of the statement issued by the IGP
We will release an official position on #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG shortly, we are not relenting or slowing down the pace. We respond to visible impact/action and not political pronouncements however commendable. This has been a recurrent decimal in our polity. We press forward. pic.twitter.com/pLqo3sFaLH
— SEGA L’éveilleur®🚨 (@segalink) August 15, 2018
Victorious as this sounds, the #EndSARS campaign will no relent until desired change comes to every citizen. As Awosanya reminds us, this isn’t the first time such promises have been made. The eyes of the public are therefore on the government and the police force to bring lasting change that will ensure innocent citizens suffer no harm in the hands of those commissioned to protect them.