Yesterday's dissolution of the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad by Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu triggered mixed reactions. While youths and socio-cultural organisations in the South welcomed the announcement, which followed weeklong protests in major cities of the country, some northern interests insisted that SARS was useful for their region.
IGP Adamu who succumbed to pressure after an emergency meeting with a worried President Muhammadu Buhari disbanded SARS across all formations, the 36 State Police Commands, and the Federal Capital Territory.
The IGP, while noting that the dissolution was in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people, hinted that all officers and men of the now-defunct anti-robbery squad were being redeployed with immediate effect.
The IGP who made the announcement at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja noted that the Force was not oblivious of the ever-present need to combat armed robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crimes in the country which was before now the core mandate of the erstwhile squad.
He also assured Nigerians that a new policing arrangement to address anticipated policing gaps would evolve and should be announced in due course.
He disclosed that the police force would constitute an investigation team to include civil society organisations and human rights bodies in investigating alleged cases of human rights violations.
Adamu commended all citizens, particularly those who genuinely expressed their concerns for a better policing orientation in an organised, patriotic, and civil manner.
PAN Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) welcomed the dissolution of SARS and described the action as a positive detour from established “unheeding” tendency of the Buhari administration. PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said government, for once, heeded the uproar of citizens against SARS and acted promptly in disbanding the special squad, whose personnel went off their duty lines and core mandate of combating armed robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crimes in the country. He said SARS operatives became a terror, “with disturbing reports of their wanton misdeeds, particularly against young people, across the country.”
PANDEF further commended the courage and resilience of young Nigerians who peacefully expressed their anger in protests across major cities over the harassment, extortion, and brutality of SARS, leading to the dissolution of the Special Squad.
The ruling political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) also said it was in “full support of the disbandment.” The party, in a statement by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yekini Nabena, interpreted President Buhari’s intervention as an indication of his resolve to “achieve better policing and reform in the police force.”
IN London, Nigerian music megastar, Wiz Kid, led about 300 jubilant protesters of main youths in welcoming the dissolution of the special anti-robbery squad during Sunday’s #EndSARS Protest at the Northumberland Avenue office of the Nigerian High Commission.
There was a heavy metropolitan police presence in front and around the Commission, and an officer told The Guardian that the over 30 of them in attendance were picked from the special response team for events of this nature. Led by the Yemi Soile-led Nigerian Youths in Diaspora Organisation, the demonstrators carried various placards condemning the agency and chanted solidarity songs for over two hours, from noon when the protest officially began. Though, at around 1.40 pm, one of the cheerleaders was urging the crowd to go as “the protest is officially over,” which seemed to fall on deaf ears. Rather, chants of “solidarity forever, solidarity forever, solidarity forever....” and “oh my home, oh my home, when shall I see my home,...” filled the air as the enthusiastic crowd stayed put and disrupted the flow of traffic from and towards Trafalgar Square.
Though the news that SARS had been dissolved started filtering through the carnival-like demonstration towards the end, it wasn’t until Wiz Kid mounted a makeshift podium to confirm the news that the crowd started jubilation. Before being driven off in a black jeep, the afrobeat star told the enthusiastic demonstrators:” we have achieved our goal,” but “this is just the beginning.”
Echoing his view that such a massive demonstration should be expected to correct structural injustice in Nigeria, Soile told The Guardian that his organisation decided to call the protest to show solidarity to the hapless Nigerians being harassed and tortured in the country by the now-dissolved SARS operatives.
Kate Tayo, who came to the demonstration, alongside her friends, spoke with The Guardian, saying “l came out just to support and show solidarity for the cause.”
LAGOS State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the disbandment of the Special Anti-robbery Squad was a victory for youths of Nigeria, saying they voiced out and it was heard clearly by the government.
Speaking on arrival to Lagos from Ondo, where he had gone to participate in the just concluded governorship election, as APC campaign committee chairman, Sanwo-Olu said the protests held at different locations within Lagos showed the beauty of democracy and that people had the right to express their views.
Sanwo-Olu said he was full with the youths on their demand as he would not sit back and allow any resident to be maltreated.
MEANWHILE, there was confusion in Bauchi, as some northern youths, in a counter-protest, dissociated themselves from #EndSARS agitations.
The group, under the aegis of the Northern Youth Assembly of Nigeria (NYAN), was seen with placards of different inscriptions at the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). They said the Police formation only required reform.
Speaker of the group, Ukkasha Hamza Rahuma, who led almost 100 youths, said: “We have the belief that the decision of the Force to establish special anti-robbery squad was done in good faith to checkmate the illegal activities of kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery in the society following the rampant cases of the harassment and loss of valuable items to men of the underworld.”
The situation was not different in Gombe, where, hours after the announced disbandment, Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) in the state faulted the move, stating that the squad had helped to reduce crime.
Speaking on behalf of the group at a peaceful protest in Patanmi Stadium, chairman of PCRC, Kabiru Muhammad said SARS had helped in the recovery of Gombe children kidnapped and taken to other parts of the country.
Justifying their position, Kabiru recalled that the state once suffered from a militia group known as Kalari boys but was checked by SARS officials.
WHILE the altercation persisted, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) yesterday said the disbandment was cosmetic and grossly insufficient. The group demanded that President Buhari should immediately constitute several judicial commissions of investigations on activities of SARS and make recommendations on those to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. The rights group also said the statement confirming that members of the disbanded SARS would be redeployed to other units of the police and then a team set up to investigate allegations of human rights violations by the operatives of the disbanded SARS should be taken as deception since nothing good would come from an adjudication process instituted by the same institution of the Nigerian Police Force accused of gross human rights violations.
vigilant in case the Police hierarchy will simply RE-BAPTIZE THE NOW DISBANDED SARS.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the national coordinator and Miss Zainab Yusuf, national media affairs director, who jointly endorsed the media statement, said it would be cosmetic and simplistic to just announce that SARS had been disbanded and that the members would be redeployed to other policing units across the country. The group said the step was not far-reaching enough since it would amount to mixing up rotten eggs with semi-rotten and fairly good eggs in the larger Nigerian Police Force.
Presiding Pastor of the Latter Rain Church, Tunde Bakare advocated the need to re-evaluate, restructure, rebrand and rebuild the confidence of Nigerian masses in the course of the nation’s journey to national rebirth.
Bakare, who made the statement during a church service yesterday a few hours before the announced disbandment of SARS, said he had followed the #EndSARS protests with a heavy heart. He noted that “young and older Nigerians from various walks of life, across the length and breadth of the nation and the diaspora, are united in rejecting harassment, humiliation and the coldblooded murder of their fellow citizens.”