THE dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) drew wide acclaim on Sunday.
The excesses of some members of the unit, set up to tackle armed robbery and kidnapping, sparked nationwide protests and global outrage on social media with the #ENDSARS trending for several days.
The Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu announced the dissolution of the controversial outfit during a briefing at the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
“The Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force otherwise known as SARS is hereby dissolved in all the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory,” he said.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a former Lagos Commissioner of Police Fatai Owoseni, a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Second Vice President Monday Ubani were among those who hailed the decision.
The IG said the decision follows “a review of the current developments, and in due cognisance of the wide and legitimately held concerns of well-meaning citizens on the existence and operations of SARS as a responsive and citizens-oriented police force”.
Adamu said the police stands dissolved across all formations, the 36 state commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Officers and men currently serving in the unit are to be redeployed with immediate effect.
According to him, new policing arrangements to address armed robbery and other violent crimes will be announced in due course.
“As part of measures to prevent a re-occurrence of events that gave rise to the dissolution of SARS, a Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum is being formed to regularly interface with Police leadership at all levels and advise on police activities as they affect the general public.
“The Force is constituting an Investigation Team which shall include Civil Society Organisations and human rights bodies to work with the Police in investigating alleged cases of human rights violations.
“The current development in which cross-sections of Nigerians are calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad as a unit in the Nigeria Police Force has remained under constant monitoring and due assessment by the government.
“The government acknowledges the inalienable rights of citizens to freedom of association and expression.
“The current agitation, in this context, is seen as a manifestation of the natural desire of citizens to participate in matters concerning policing and internal security in the nation.
“This is indeed one of the fundamental principles of community policing, which we are currently implementing.
“The Nigeria Police leadership has, since the commencement of the protests, been engaging the leadership of some Civil Society Organisations to initiate meaningful and wide-ranging discussions on the subjects of their concern.
“Our valued covenant with the citizens of this nation is to serve and protect them and integrate their concerns and views into our practices, especially within the dictates of community policing principles, which constitute a critical component of the National Policing and Internal Security Strategy of the Federal Government.
“I commend the vast majority of men and women of the Nigeria Police who are diligently going about their duties, guided by the dictates of the rule of law, honour and professionalism.
“I encourage them to sustain their sense of national service, sacrifice, patriotism and commitment to crime-fighting.
“Their gallant efforts to ensure the safety of the lives and property of all Nigerians are very much appreciated.
“I also commend all citizens that have voiced their genuine concerns for a better policing orientation in an organised, patriotic, and civil manner.”
Shortly after the announcement, protesters at the Force Headquarters were dispersed with hot water and tear gas.
The protesters, who were not allowed to get close to the gate of the police headquarters as previous days, remained despite the announcement, insisting that everyone arrested for their participation in the protest nationwide must be released.
It was a chaotic atmosphere as gunshots rent the air.
Dozens of armed policemen approached the protesters, shooting at them with hot water from a cannon and tear gas as the protesters scampered for safety.
Some of them were arrested; a number of them sustained injuries in the pandemonium.
Lawan praised President Buhari for listening to the voice of the Nigerians in ordering the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
In a statement by his Ola Awoniyi Special Adviser (Media), Lawan said with the courageous decision to dissolve the police unit, the President has shown that his administration is responsive to the feelings of the people.
“I am applauding the President because it is a demonstration of good leadership to yield to the demand of the populace in difficult situations like this,” Lawan said.
He also commended the Inspector-General of Police for the decision and challenged him to come up with measures to transform the Police into an effective but friendly law enforcement and crime-fighting agency.
The Senate President said the measures should fully address all the issues that earned the dissolved SARS the odium of the Nigerian people, and in particular of the articulate Nigerian youths.
“The expectation is that this situation offers us another opportunity to reform the operations of the entire force.
“I also reiterate my call for the prosecution of all security personnel whose extrajudicial killings and other acts of misconduct brought us to this sorry pass.
“I hope that the steps taken by the Inspector-General will be followed with a comprehensive reform of the police,” Lawan said.
Gbajabiamila said SARS’ dissolution was a necessary response to the agitations.
In a statement signed by his spokesman, Lanre Lasisi, the Speaker commended Nigerians, particularly the millions of young people at home and abroad, who saw injustice and acted to put an end to it.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) must also act to identify and punish those operatives of SARS involved in the most severe cases of abuse of rights, brutality and murder of Nigerian citizens,” he said.
Gbajabiamila noted with displeasure the manhandling of some protesters by policemen.
The Speaker added: “There is still a pressing need to have an independent system for monitoring police actions and holding police officers to proper account for failures to follow the law and the police code.
“The House will continue its work to legislate lasting solutions to the problems of policing in Nigeria.”
Senator Kalu commended the IG for respecting the wishes of Nigerians.
In a statement by Orji Kalu Media Office in Abuja, the former governor of Abia said he had in the past written privately to the IG for a total reform of the SARS.
“Police must ensure that their actions are in accordance with the fundamental principles for the development of a just society.
“When people live in fear, they will be sceptical of what is coming next in their lives and that is not right. Some of the SARS operatives acted with impunity.
“Many Nigerians have complained about how tensed they feel at checkpoints even when they have their required papers,” Kalu said.
NHRC hailed the courage displayed by the Federal Government in disbanding SARS.
Its Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, said in a statement: “With the initial and right step to disband SARS by the IGP as part of the recommendations of the Presidential Panel, the stage is now set to implement the other recommendations of the panel.
“In this regard, the government had requested the commission to constitute a broad-based implementation committee inclusive of relevant government agencies and civil society organisations to ensure the transparent, comprehensive and accountable implementation of the white paper on the presidential panel report.
“The commission assures Nigerians that the Federal Government is wholly committed to protecting the human rights of all Nigerians in accordance with the 1999 Constitution as amended, Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and respect for the rule of law.”
The APC said SARS’ dissolution was an affirmation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s resolve to achieve better policing.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, said in a statement that the party welcomed the decision.
“With the benefit of experience and public outcry over the operations of the now-disbanded SARS, the APC is confident that the new policing arrangement promised by the Inspector-General of Police will balance the need to effectively combat armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country and ensure humane, professional and accountable police operations.
“We call on Nigerians to take advantage of the Citizens’ and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum which is being formed to regularly interface with Police leadership at all levels and advise on police activities as they affect the general public,” the party said.
Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC), Pastor Tunde Bakare, praised those who have spoken out against police oppression.
He urged the government to ensure justice is served so Nigerians do not take laws into their hands.
Bakare said: “If we don’t want our citizens to take laws into their hands, then let justice roll like water.
“There is a threshold of decency below which no human being must fall, and I reject any status quo where citizens become disposable or the right to life becomes negotiable.
“I applaud the resilience of protesters in the face of yet more reckless cruelty, and I am increasingly confident that this generation will succeed where mine has failed.”
A former Lagos Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, welcomed the dissolution of SARS.
He hopes it will help restore “decorum in the society”.
Ubani is glad the government listened to the cries of the public.
He said the excesses of men of SARS in extorting young men at gunpoint were well documented, adding that such blatant infringement on the rights “is unacceptable”.
A labour leader and Vice President, Industrial Global Union, Comrade Issa Aremu, said the disbandment demonstrated “sensitivity to the mass protests” against the excesses of the outfit.
To him, it is an opportunity for reforms, adding that the “bad guys in the force must not be recycled”.
Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, called for an investigation into the killing of a youth during the “EndSARS” protest in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, on Saturday.
Dare described the death of Isiaka Jimoh, an Ogbomoso indigene, alongside a few injured youths during the protest as sad and regrettable.
There were unconfirmed killings of other protesters in Ogbomoso.
The minister, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser, Media, Mr John Joshua-Akanji, stressed the need to bring to justice, all those responsible for the death of the protesting youth.
Senators Teslim Folarin (APC-Oyo Central) and Abdulfatai Buhari (APC-Oyo North) also condemned the killing of Jimoh.
Fourteen suspects arrested in connection with #ENDSARS protest that led to the death of a policeman, as well as unidentified protester, have been arraigned at a Magistrate Court sitting in Ughelli, Delta State.
They were all charged with five counts of felony and, murder amongst others.
The magistrate, Ena Odjugo, granted the first six defendants N50, 000 bails with one surety in like sum, but remanded the others pending legal advice.
The Enugu Police Command described the story that six members of SARS were killed during an attack on SARS’ office in the state as “malicious falsehood”.
The Edo State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, described as false the allegation that policemen from the command killed two of the #ENDSARS protesters in Ekpoma.
There were protests over the dissolution of SARS in Gombe, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, among others.
The protesters fear that scrapping the outfit would worsen armed robbery and kidnapping.