The Nigeria Police Force has backed its notorious unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), against public outcry, claiming that most of the complaints painted on social media about misconduct of officers are "not correct".
While speaking during an interview on Channels Television on Monday, July 9, 2018, Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Jimoh Moshood, said the force has put appropriate measures in place to deal with erring officers who have been found guilty of misconduct.
Over the past eight months, numerous Nigerians have taken to social media to accuse officers of the unit of several misconducts ranging from harassment, extortion, assault to extra-judicial killings. This has led to relentless calls for the unit to be completely scrapped to ease the fears of Nigerians who live in dread of the unit.
When the earlier calls for the scrapping of the unit grew in December 2017, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, ordered the reorganisation of SARS' operational roles and activities.
According to Moshood, this reorganisation has involved the phasing out of incompetent officers who have been replaced by new people. He noted that human rights desk offices have also been created without being under the influence of SARS commanders.
He also disclosed that several non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations have been involved by the force to take charge of complaints against officers to promote accountability.
He said, "The IGP has taken the bull by the horns. When he came on board, the first thing he did was to organise a training which involved the national Human Rights Commission, the ICRC, and other NGOs on human rights training for SARS.
"Equally, when the outcry was coming up, the same kind of training was repeated and he broadened it to ensure that the reorganisation of SARS commenced immediately. He appointed a commissioner of police to be in charge of SARS. SARS are now under the control of the commissioner of police at the force headquarter. They were taken out of the command but they are still under the supervision of the commissioners of police in the state because the constitution is very clear that the commissioner of police in every state is in charge of all the police deployment/operatives in such a state.
"Now, human rights desk office have been opened in the command who are not under the control of the commander SARS of every state.
"As we speak, the commander SARS have been rotated. Some of them that are found not being fit, maybe because of age or some antecedent, have been taken off and new people have replaced them.
"Of recent, the Nigerian Policing Project has herded a team of police officers and equally NGOs and CSOs to take complaints from the public to ensure that anything that has to do with complaint from SARS are addressed.
"But largely, most of the complaints that people painted on Facebook or other social media are not correct. Those that have been correct have been investigated. Some people have been found culpable and they have been tried and dismissed."
Under the new arrangement ordered by the IGP in December 2017, state Commissioners of Police were installed as overall heads of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide.
The IGP also ordered for all SARS personnel nationwide to undergo a new training program to be organized in collaboration with some civil society organisations, local and international NGOs, and other human rights organisations.
Despite the reorganisation, the calls to scrap the unit has resurfaced in the past couple of months with the unit still operating with impunity that mostly targets Nigerian youths.
Buhari working on fixing SARS
While speaking at a town hall meeting at the launch of National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, Clinics in Ibadan, Oyo State on June 26, 2018, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari is concerned with the unit's conduct and has already ordered its review.
"The President has already ordered a review of the formation of SARS so that very soon we would be able to have SARS that will be responsible," he said.
The vice president further said the unit cannot be scrapped but be rehabilitated to curb the atrocities of the bad eggs.