231 views | Doris Emmanuel | October 5, 2020
“You cannot say that because you belong to a tactical unit, you can dress in your casual clothing and be armed, because people can’t even tell the difference between robbers and the police; if you are not properly dressed in police uniform. So, clearly, a reform is in the offing.”
There was a massive outrage across the country on Sunday over the harassment, extortion and extra-judicial killings of innocent Nigerians by operatives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, one of the units of the Nigeria Police Force.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; and the Minister of State of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, were among Nigerians who expressed dissatisfaction over the conduct of F-SARS operatives, describing it as unacceptable.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had earlier, in a swift reaction to the extra-judicial killings and harassment of innocent Nigerians, banned personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad from engaging in routine patrols, stop-and-search, mounting of roadblocks and traffic checks with immediate effect.
Videos of shooting of a young man by F-SARS in Ugheli, Delta State went viral on Saturday. The security men were said to have fled with his Lexus Jeep and left his body on the roadside.
On Thursday, a sales coordinator with Rifugio Communications Limited, a partner of Samsung, Joshua Oghenekevwe, was abducted by policemen at Epe on his way to Warri, Delta State. They were alleged to have seized his phone and forced him to pay them N100,000 after threatening to kill him.
On September 10, a graduate, Ifeoma Abugu, was allegedly murdered four days after her ‘introduction’ by SARS men, who whisked her away after storming the residence of her fiancé, Afam Ugwunwa, at Wumba village in the Lokogoma area of Abuja to arrest him.
I’m angry about F-SARS’ arrest, killing of young people, says Osinbajo
Briefing State House correspondents at his official residence in Abuja, Osinbajo said he was angry about the actions of some policemen, especially those attached to SARS, whom he accused of harassing and sometimes maiming and killing Nigerians nationwide.
He said such actions coming from those saddled with the responsibilities of protecting the citizens were unacceptable.
Osinbajo, therefore, commended the police authorities for the statement issued earlier in the day on the matter, saying it was wrong for policemen to be seizing laptops and phones from young Nigerians in the name of fighting cybercrime.
The vice-president said, “I am very concerned and in fact sometimes angry about what I see happening to young men and women, who are arrested, and in some cases, maimed or killed by men of the police force; in some cases, those who man tactical units of the police force such as SARS and other units.
“It is completely objectionable. It is unacceptable. These are individuals who are meant to protect Nigerians. The arrest, maiming, killing of young people or of anyone at all by these individuals is completely wrong. It is unlawful. It is illegal and all those involved ought to be investigated and prosecuted.
“This afternoon, I had a meeting with the IG of Police. We reviewed several of these issues. The President and I had had discussions on this. He is very concerned about this and he wants to see a reform of this process and I am sure you are probably aware that the IG has issued a statement, looking at all these issues, in particular, warning against the use of these tactical forces such as SARS for the purposes of anything other than anti-bribery as it is supposed to be.
“For example, in the statement, he specifically said that we can’t have a situation where SARS will say they are investigating cybercrime and arresting young men and women who are carrying laptops and their phones.
“Cybercrime is electronic crime. There is no way that you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi. I think it is very obvious that this is a major concern. The few bag eggs within the police force are causing a lot of these.
People don’t know the difference between policemen and armed robbers – Osinbajo
Osinbajo urged Nigerians to continue to bring the issue regularly to the attention of government and the police.
He added, “On the part of the government and the police: to ensure that every one of those allegations is properly investigated and those found responsible are prosecuted and publicised so that people know that prosecution has taken place and this is the consequence. I am very confident that we will have a reformed police force and that process has already begun.”
However, the IG, in stopping F-SARS from patrols and operating at checkpoints, added that the directive also affected the Special Tactical Squad, Intelligence Response Team, Anti-Cultism Squad and other tactical squads operating at the federal, zonal and command levels.
A statement in Abuja on Sunday by the Force spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, indicated that the directive followed incidents of unprofessional conduct, extortion, and abuse of power by the police operatives across the country.
The statement added that no personnel of the force was authorised to embark on patrols or tactical assignments in mufti, stressing that they must always appear in their police uniforms or approved tactical gear.
The statement titled, ‘IGP bans F-SARS, other police tactical squads from routine patrols,’ read, “Specifically, the IGP has warned the tactical squads against the invasion of the privacy of citizens, particularly through an indiscriminate and unauthorised search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices.
“They are to concentrate and respond only to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes, when the need arises.”
But Sunday was not the first time the police would ban SARS. In September 2018, following an outcry over SARS brutality, Ibrahim Idris, the then IGP, issued a similar directive.