Is it not quite ironical that despite the popular claim by the Nigerian Police to being the friends of the citizens, the citizens in turn are not feeling this friendship from the Police? Many have been forced to ask if they are truly protectors or they are just roaring predators looking for harmless citizens to devour.
In the past few days, a handful of Nigerians have shared their bitter-tale experiences on social media platforms with pictures and videos of violence, harassment, and brutality meted out to them by men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police.
While many Nigerians have advocated for the total scrapping of SARS, the unanswered question is, has the purpose for the creation of SARS been served? Primarily created to tackle the menace of armed robbers across the country, it has morphed to become predators to harmless Nigerians.
The allegations of extra-judicial killings, wanton arrests and dispossession of property through physical assault and other intimidation tactics are some of the sins of SARS. This is not the first #EndSARS campaign; in the time past, youths lent their voices to the campaign but for a while, it seemed like nothing changed, not even the headlines, still the same old narrative; countless of press releases, yet no substantial action.
Recall that in August 2018, the then acting president, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, called for an immediate overhaul of SARS and Nigerians rejoiced because their voices had finally been heard and finally something was going to be done, but alas today, the story has not changed.
Weeks back, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State asked the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to urgently reform or dissolve the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, of the Nigeria Police, following another alleged extra judicial murder of Daniel Ikeaguchi, aka Sleek, by policemen in Rivers State.
The frequent cases of police brutality especially from SARS have fearfully become daily experiences for many Nigerians. With the sad tales ranging from police officers stopping youths simply because they drive ‘big or exotic’ cars to accusing innocent persons of cybercrime, to extortions, threats, and bullying, is it not safe to say that the men of SARS have become the terror they were tasked to eradicate?
Going forward, it is pertinent to remind the Nigerian Police that its primary responsibility, is to protect human lives and uphold their dignity, rather than deny them such. The police must focus more on internal discipline of their operatives and emphasise due diligence in dispensing their duties.
The real questions we need answers to are — If SARS is really a special squad, why are they always roaming the streets harassing innocent citizens? If SARS was created to tackle robberies, why have they not earned more accolades for foiling robbery attacks rather than going after harmless citizens especially the youths? Why are they always poorly dressed? Why they always in unofficial vehicles such as danfos?
The government must understand that until there are critical checks and balances, killing and maiming citizens as they go about their business will continue to happen; it also means that public safety is not in the presidency’s bucket list.
Emotional intelligence and discipline should become guiding principles of law enforcement agents. Nigerian Police at all times should be mentally ready to handle the dynamics of the Nigerian populace.
Alao Abiodun, Journalist, Alaojoshua200@gmail.com.