The story of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) dates back to the 80s, when robbers of diverrse orientation were terrorizing innocent Nigerians in their homes, the highways and bank premises. In the event, many were gunned down and millions of naira were forcefully removed from victims. The public outcry forced the police to set up a special squad of policemen who had gone through the Mobile training camp in Gwoza. The squad became the police answer to the menace of robbers in the country. At the time, Lagos was the first state where SARS was established, with Ben Ohazuluike pioneering the squad (he died last month). Sequel to its success then, every state police command was directed to replicate the squad to handle such vicious crime in their state. Their beginning was laudable, as members of the public cheered and commended their dexterity and discipline. There were the likes of Simeon Midenda, Sam Okaula, Chris Ezike, Taiwo Lakanu, Sunday Mitchibi, Amusa Bello, Ben Ostia, etc. These men fought armed robbers to their grave. A grateful country would have celebrated them with national honours. However, as the years passed, the inspectors-general of police started seeing the squad as a veritable tool for selfish interest. The men became uncontrollable, as they intimidated the populace and infringed on the rights of citizens on the mere suspicion of being thieves. They dabbled into routine criminal cases like the lords of the manor. It got to a point where politicians started using men of SARS to haunt their opponents. The situation became bizarre. It became impossible to differentiate an American-style robber from SARS officials due to their dress mode while on duty. The recent public outcry is a testimony of the rottenness of what SARS has turned to. The public outcry against SARS is also a pointer that the leadership of the police has some questions in the administrative modus operandi. The worst is the Federal SARS that has become the king of the jungle. They traverse the country like a rudderless ship. They storm police commands and take over cases without any qualms. It is the Federal SARS that should be scrapped. After all, there is nothing that the Federal SARS is doing that the state and zonal SARS cannot handle or investigate. It all is tantamount to duplication of efforts.
What is wrong with allowing the police command to handle and effectively supervise the SARS under the state police command? All this unnecessary duplication of duty can only be traced to someone’s personal interest. The recent statement by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. lbrahim ldris, directing that the SARS should be reorganised means that the men were like an uncaged hyena left to roam the streets with no supervisory modus. How can you assign firearms to trained men without monitoring what they are doing with the firearms? So, the IGP was waiting for public outcry before doing the needful? I was at the Abuja Computer Village early this year when three men in T-shirts pounced on a young man whom they alledged stole a phone. Incidentally, the SARS operatives claimed they tracked the phone to the phone market. There was nothing wrong with the tracking, what was wrong was the beating the young man received from two of the armed SARS men who had nothing to identify them as such. There are cases that have no link with armed robbery that have been entertained by SARS. That the IGP danced to public outcry means that there are more issues than meet the eye that made the public to speak out. I think SARS has outlived its usefulness in Nigeria. It is either the squad is completely reorganised or the anticipated police reform would help to panel-beat and straighten the entire police structure.
In the Civil Defender’s enclave (2)
Today, men and women recruited into the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) find solace in the organisation because a rare opportunity has been made available to them to help in national security, specifically, protecting sensitive government structures and many others. This is an organisation that, if well funded, can later be the envy of other security organisations in the country and beyond. One major fact that is noticeable is the training of the members of the corps. The Nigerian military opened its training facilities to them. No wonder they have some traits of the military when it comes to discipline. This is usually noticeable when they are posted on any national assignment. The discipline they exhibit, with ruggedness, highlights the stuff they are made of. However, if the corps must attain glorious heights, it must cut down on the percentage of female staff in subsequent recruitment drives. It has been observed that not all females can cope with the rigorous military training and discipline, as many only want a berthing place to while away their time. On one of my visits to the enclave, a lady was informed of her being proposed for posting to Rivers State. She complained bitterly that she was not only married but did not see how she could abandon her family for the posting. The security environment is not where emotions and issues of family can influence administrative and operational regulations. For any security organisation to live up to its mandate, government must not shy away from adequately funding the agency. When a security organisation is starved of funds, the performance dwindles and it grossly affects the morale of the men. All over the world, civil defence corps are good tools during national exercises like elections and other activities. The country needs to provide tools that should better enhance their operational goals. In other countries, more of civl defence corps are visible on the road complementing the police during national assignments.
According to the Commandant-General of the NSCDC, Mr. Gana Mohammed, the corps would very soon attain the height of more relevance in the country.
“This is the legacy I want to achieve before the end of my tenure,” he said.
As I departed from the Civil Defence enclave, I remembered the former leader, Mr. Olu Abolurin, whose tenacity of purpose helped to raise Nigerians’ belief in the NSCDC.