After years of complaints by Nigerians from all walks of life, the Federal Government has finally succumbed to pressures to erase the notorious Soecial Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Police.
Following presidential orders by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo SAN,, it is to be completely overhauled to give it a new face and function to restrict it to intelligence-driven battle against armed robbery and kidnapping matters.
Swiftly, the Police high command rolled out structural measures to re-organise the outfit, including a change in nomenclature.
Osinbajo, according to a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to, immediately overhaul the management and activities of SARS.
“The Acting President has also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging Unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Human Rights Law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects.
“The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.
“In the meantime, the Acting President has directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a Special Panel that will conduct an investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS in order to afford members of the general public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.”
Spontaneous applause came the way of the presidency over the long-awaited move, while others expressed cautious optimism, hoping the Police will truly follow through with the presidential directives
In compliance with the Presidential directives Police boss, IGP Ibrahim Idris, ordered the immediate overhauling of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to address complaints and allegations of human rights violations against some of the personnel of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
In the new arrangement, according to Force spokesman Ag. Deputy Commissioner of Police Jimoh Moshood, in a statement, a new Commissioner of Police has been appointed as the overall head of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) nationwide.
He adds: “The Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad previously under the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (FCIID) is henceforth to operate under the Department of Operations, Force Headquarters Abuja. The Commissioner of Police (FSARS) is answerable to the Inspector General of Police through the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Department of Operations.
“In observance of full compliance with the Presidential directives, the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad will be intelligence driven and will be restricted to the prevention and detection of Armed Robbery, kidnapping and the apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences only.
“New FSARS Commanders are being appointed for the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) across the country that will now exist and operate in the State and Zonal Commands under the Commissioner of Police (F-SARS) at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. A Federal SARS Commander of a Rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) but not below Superintendent of Police (SP) will be in charge of FSARS in State and Zonal Commands across the Country.
“All Commissioners of Police have been directed by the Inspector General of Police to comply with this directive with immediate effect and warn their personnel not to pose as SARS operatives. The IGP X-Squad and Monitoring Unit have been mandated to go round the Commands and Police Formations nationwide to ensure strict compliance with the Presidential directives and apprehend any erring police officer.
“A new Standard Operational Guidelines and Procedures, and code of conduct for all FSARS personnel to ensure that the operations of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad is in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regards to international human rights law and constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects will be enforced in totality by the Commissioner of Police, FSARS. Other measures to be implemented by the Force in observance of full compliance with the presidential directives are as follows:
▪Human Rights Desk Officers for FSARS in every State to take complaints from the public and forward same to Force Headquarters, the officer will be answerable to the Commissioner of Police, FSARS at the Force Headquarters and not Commander FSARS in the States.
▪Medical/Psychological evaluation of all FSARS personnel will be carried out immediately.
▪Redesigning of new uniform with identity name tag for all FSARS personnel throughout the Country will be done immediately.
▪Henceforth, FSARS personnel will not perform Stop and Search duties except on distress call to respond to armed robbery and kidnapping offences only.
The statement promised that the Force will be transparent, and work with the National Human Right Commission on the special panel that will investigate cases of alleged unlawful activities of FSARS .
A new training program is to be organized for the new unit by the Force in collaboration with some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Local and International NGOs, and other Human Rights Organizations on core Police duties, and adherence to human rights.
The statement added that a committee of Senior Police officers, Technical Consultants, Human Rights/Civil Society organizations (CSOs) has been setup to review the activities of FSARS under the new arrangement. “They are to pay unscheduled visits to FSARS formations across the country with particular attention to States with high complaints index, to assess facilities and situations in these States and submit report to the Inspector General of Police on regular basis,” the Police added.
Members of the public with complaints of violation of their rights by any Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) personnel were advised to report through designated channels.