15 August 2018

Nigeria: Osinbajo Orders Overhaul of Police Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS

Photo: The Guardian
Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has directed Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris to immediately overhaul the management and activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The security outfit has been widely accused of highhandedness and extra-judicial killings.

It was the subject of #EndSARS, an intense online campaign that called for its dissolution and morphed into street protests in different parts of the country. There were also counter demonstrations.

The acting president's action came a week after he sacked the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS) for an unauthorised deployment of masked personnel to the National Assembly complex.

President Muhammadu Buhari is in London on vacation.

Osinbajo, in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, yesterday, asked the IGP to ensure any unit that would emerge from the process, would be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping as well as apprehension of offenders linked to stated offences, and nothing more.

The acting president directed the police boss 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 constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects.

The operatives would also bear proper identification whenever they are on duty.

Osinbajo further directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a panel to investigate the alleged unlawful activities of the squad.

This would give members of the public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to getting redress, he said.

The development, meanwhile, has continued to generate reactions from members of the public.

"Thank you Prof. This is a very big relief for Nigerians," tweeted Onyia Chinyere.

"In jubilation and celebration of #EndSARS triumph.

It's celebration of liberty. More to come! Nigeria shall rise again!" said Rossonero Oladapo Olawole.

But Jèfé Juān Jọsé had a warning: "Dear Kings and Queens, as you all celebrate Osinbajo's 'SARS overhaul' directive, bear in mind that SARS will, out of anger, in the coming days, rain terror on innocent youths before the overhaul is effected.

I pray for your safety and do be careful as you go out."

Convener of the #EndSARS initiative, Segun Awosanya, in a chat with The Guardian, yesterday, said: "We know the commander's intent.

We know what led to the pronouncement but we don't want it to just be a political pronouncement.

We need to monitor it and ensure it does what we, the people, have demanded.

"The experience and feedback from people must not be that of pain and anguish ever again," he said, urging government to rein in the police so "they won't be tempted to abuse the citizenry anymore."

Also, in a statement yesterday, the Nigeria Police Force announced that Inspector General Ibrahim Idris has ordered all formations to comply with Osinbajo's directive.

A special squad has been charged with monitoring observance and apprehending erring officers.

Among other reviews, personnel of the reformed squad would abolish stop and search duties except in response to distress calls, robberies or kidnappings.

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