Jubilation as Presidency orders overhaul, investigation of SARS
Nigerians were thrown into jubilation Tuesday when news of the Presidential order to overhaul the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police filtered into town. SARS has been in the news for most of the time for reasons bordering on criminal activities against the purpose of setting up the division within the police. Allegations of violation of human rights, extortion and abduction have trailed the activities of men of SARS in recent months.
This may have prompted Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to direct the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to, with immediate effect, overhaul the management and activities of SARS.
According to a statement by Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity in the office of the Vice President, Osinbajo directed 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 statement revealed.
“The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.
“In the meantime, the Acting President has directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a Special Panel that will conduct an investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS in order to afford members of the general public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.”
Many Nigerians who spoke to our correspondents commended Osinbajo for heeding the clarion calls of Nigerians by demanding a public hearing and inquiry into the activities of SARS.
A respondent in Port Harcourt, Rivers State (name withheld), said men of SARS have become the chief abductors of innocent persons in the oil city. “It has gotten out of hand. You can be abducted and extorted anytime by SARS who were expected to protect you. They do it with impunity. Ask anybody in this Port, SARS are more dreaded than armed robbers.
“Many families have fallen victim but they always keep quiet because if you complain, they may come after your life. So people prefer to pay money to retrieve their relations and go home and cry silently.”
In Lagos, a respondent, who prefers not to be named, said “just last week in Ejigbo, a surburb of Lagos, some SARS men drove round and arrested four boys walking on the streets. If you dress in jeans and T-shirt and you are young you are a target no matter whether you are a criminal or not”.
Investigations by Political Economist reveal an internal worry among top officers in the police who felt that some elements in SARS have brought shame upon the police. Recently, four men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police were sacked in Lagos.
The four were dismissed for various crimes including armed-robbery. The dismissed officers are Sgt. Adeoye Adekunle, Sgt. Adekitan Adebowale, Sgt. Agbi Lucky and Sgt. Odighe Hehosa. They were dismissed and subsequently charged to court for armed robbery, kidnapping, unlawful detention, and intimidation, as well as threatening violence, the police said.
A panel recommended them for dismissal based on the report of investigation carried out on a petition (dated May 2, 2018) against them by Citizen Chukwudi Godwin Odionye, popularly referred to as ‘Bishop’.
According to the police: “The petitioner stated that on June 4, 2017, he was in his house around Alagbado area of the state, when four armed men stormed his house to effect his arrest on the allegation of performing ‘Fake’ miracles.
“He stated that after his arrest, he was taken to one hotel at Agege, where he was detained and threatened to be killed, if he fails to cooperate.
“He explained further that the following day, June 5, 2017, he was taken to the bank where he was made to transfer N7 million to the account of one of the operatives.”
Dolapo Badmus, spokesperson for Zone 2 Command, said that on receipt of the petition, the AIG, Adamu Ibrahim, ordered investigation into the matter.
“On the strength of the investigation, it was revealed that no proper police procedure for investigation was followed in Chukwudi’s arrest.
“The four SARS operatives actually abducted the man from his house and unlawfully detained him in the hotel for personal gain,” she said.