Beyond F-SARS’ Overhaul

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Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, last Tuesday, directed the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to with immediate effect, overhaul the management and operational structure of the notorious Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) with a view to making the police unit respond to the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the country, it was set up, ab-initio, to serve.
Apparently bowing to pressure and complaints of millions of Nigerians on the nefarious activities of men and officials of the SARS, which border on allegations of impunity and human rights abuses, the Acting President directed the Police High Command to immediately investigate the many reported infractions and atrocities allegedly committed by desperate SARS operatives in different states of the federation. Osinbajo further ordered that any security outfit that would emerge from the reorganisation and restructuring of SARS should be intelligence-driven and professional in conduct of its policing duties.
In fact, he specifically directed that the new organisation must restrict itself to the core mandate of preventing and detecting armed robbery and kidnapping across the country to reduce the menace of insecurity and violence in the land. Osinbajo cautioned the new outfit not to deviate from its founding mandate but to ensure strict adherence to the principle of rule of law and constitutionality, especially in respect to the rights of suspects to be presumed innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction avers otherwise.
This is what it should be. And The Tide completely agrees with the guiding intent and purpose of the presidential directive on F-SARS restructuring. Although coming very belatedly, given the outpouring of angst and condemnation over the draconian and militaristic operational style of the controversial police unit over the last three years, we think that the time to fully implement Osinbajo’s directive, and indeed, the many suggestions and recommendations of hundreds of thousands of victims and witnesses of SARS brutality against innocent Nigerians, is now. Even so, we insist that the overhaul, which the IGP has already begun implementing, should go beyond the SARS as a police unit. It should have sweeping impact on the entire Nigeria Police Force, by tacitly reforming the organisation, whose image has been battered over the years by not just the civilian population but the fulcrum of the police itself.
The Tide believes that the police force needs immediate reform that is total and people-focused. In fact, the police needs to adapt in line with global best practices and conform to the realities of modern policing. This is why we think that restructuring SARS’ command and control apparatus alone is not enough.
We know that the lawlessness, brazen impunity, crass abuse of human rights and recklessness of personnel of the police have recently heightened the threats the larger civilian population face in this country. This, essentially, informed our hard stand that the Nigeria Police requires serious and complete re-orientation to reboot and key into the general atmosphere and feelings of Nigerians so that its personnel can truly combat crimes and criminality in their real form. We say so because we know that any attempt to restructure just one unit of the Police Force instead of the entire superstructure would fail to achieve its desired objective of curbing crime, corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency in the system.
The Tide reckons that they are thousands of criminal elements and purely untrained and illiterate personnel in the service of the Nigeria Police, who urgently need to be flushed out of the nation’s security system in order to keep the citizens safe and secure through diligent and responsive policing. In the same token, we insist that the authorities must take advantage of this opportunity to bring erring SARS officials to book.
While we caution that the Police High Command must not politicise the ordered probe into the activities of SARS operatives in line with glaring evidence of human rights abuses, impunity and lawlessness unleashed on innocent Nigerians, particularly against the backdrop of events leading to the 2019 general elections, we believe that it is time to change the drumbeat of the police force in Nigeria. This is why we align with Osinbajo’s directive to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Civil Society Organisations to set up effective monitoring panels to investigate any alleged unlawful detentions or other unsavory activities of SARS, either consciously or unconsciously committed against innocent Nigerians, with a view to bringing law and order to the land. This is the way forward.