SARS And The Untold Story

By Muhammad Baba Busu

There is no doubt, policing is a complex job the world over. This is because every action a police personnel takes at any point in time attracts different interpretations by different people. Police is also one of the organizations in the world that has more enemies than friends. In fact, a friend to the police today, may tomorrow become its 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, the SARS unit of the Force, one cannot deny the fact that it 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, so we should not remember the good aspect of the SARS unit, hence, scrap it out?

It is instructive to note that the same SARS many people are calling for it to be scrapped were 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 terrorizing and robbing residents of Ire Akari street, Ejigbo and Isolo areas of Lagos, snatching and vandalizing 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 criminals including kidnapers and armed robbers in Edo state, the IGP Idris dispatched a special crack squad comprising SARS officers to Edo to tackle the situation. The situation was, few days, after brought under control.

On the other hand, the arrest of over 3000 kidnappers since the assumption of office of the IGP, Idris, one year ago, is largely due to the efforts of the 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 kin-pin kidnappers that have terrorised the country for more than 6 years who are popularly known and called Henry Chibueze a.k.a Vampire and Onwumadike Chukwudumeme a.k.a Evans were 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 has been reduced to the nearest minimum because of the tireless efforts of SARS, they have also recovered thousands of cows from the hand of this criminals and had return to the owners.

Most security experts are with the consensus that the drastic reduction in the rate of armed robbery and kidnapping in all parts of the country in recent times is as a result of intense activities of the SARS.

With these, it is important to stress that despite 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 operative stay awake in bushes and dangerous places just to make sure the country is secured. Most of them, in fact, spend more than three months without seeing their families.

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  so as 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 the 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 following the recent uproar in the social media.

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

He, has, therefore, appointed a Commissioner of Police to be the overall head of 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 FSARS in State and zonal commands across the country,” the police boss said.

The IGP has also disclosed that: “Furthermore, a new training program to be organized by the Force in collaboration with some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Local and International NGOs, and other human rights organizations on core police duties, observant of human rights and handling, care and custody of suspects have been directed by the IGP for all Federal SARS personnel nationwide with immediate effect.”

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

Mohammed Baba Busu, a public affairs analyst writes from Abuja.