Following protests against Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) including a Prelate’s statement supporting the protests and calls for far-reaching action against the controversial police force, the country’s Federal Government has disbanded the entity.
In his Sunday, October 11 statement announcing the disbandment, Nigeria’s Police spokesman, Frank Mba said that the Inspector-General of Police had dissolved SARS “across the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with immediate effect.”
The decision to disband SARS followed days of online outcry under #EndSARSprotest and nationwide protests over claims of harassment, kidnappings and extortion by the police unit.
In a report by the Director of Social Communications of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese, Fr. Anthony Godonu published October 10, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins expressed his support for the protests against SARS.
“SARS at present has compromised the purpose of its existence,” Archbishop Adewale was quoted as saying.
He added, “We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police to commence a thorough and realistic review of the entire structure of the Police Force in order to restore its integrity.”
In the report, the Nigerian Archbishop indicated that he had received credible reports and seen online videos showing the atrocities of SARS operatives including acts of extortion and brutality against Nigerians. He added that
Some SARS officials are accused of executing victims in an extrajudicial manner, he said, adding, “It is sad that a good fraction of the very persons who are constitutionally empowered to provide security and ensure peace and order have now turned against the very people they are meant to protect.”
“Unfortunately, we have been witnesses to the seeming inability of our police authorities to put an end to this outright siege on hapless Nigerians,” the 61-year-old Nigerian Prelate bemoaned.
He recalled previous unsuccessful attempts to call for change saying, “There have been no less than four attempts by the topmost hierarchy of the Nigerian Police to call these special units to order without success.”
For Archbishop Adewale, the inability to bring members of the police unit under control gives room for Nigerians to insinuate that “the top echelons are themselves compromised” and that “it would be sad if this is found to be true.”
“The only way of assuaging the anger in the land now is to ensure that the guilty ones are brought to face the law and justice seen to have been done,” he was quoted as saying in the October 10 report.
He added, “It would not be fair to the hardworking and thoroughbred professionals among the officers whose integrity have been put on the line unless a permanent halt is brought to the rot that has been festering in the system over the years.”
“Failure of the leadership of the country to take appropriate action this time is bound to exacerbate the worsening state of insecurity across the country,” the Archbishop said.
Despite the action to disband SARS announced October 11, protests in Africa’s most populous have continued, with protestors expressing their dissatisfaction with the government’s decision to redeploy police officers who were serving under SARS to other police units instead of punishing them.
According to a BBC report Monday, October 12, protests “against police brutality” have been going on in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, for six days in a row, with demonstrators clashing with security agencies that has resulted in the death of a police office and a 55-year-old man.
“After Sunday’s announcement that the police unit would be disbanded, there were reports of officers continuing to use tear gas, water cannon and live rounds against protesters in the capital, Abuja, and the south-western state of Oyo, fueling concerns that people in Sars had not been removed from duty,” BBC reported.
President Buhari has, in a Monday, October 12 video posted on Twitter, promised more “extensive” police reforms and justice for victims of police abuse saying, “The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people.”
The President assured citizens that investigation into the death of a protester in Oyo state will be carried out.