SARS Overhaul: Experts call for total police reform

Some security experts in Lagos have called for a total reform of Nigeria Police as an institution to enhance the security of lives and property in the country.

The experts, who spoke following Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s August 14 directive for the immediate overhaul of SARS, said the anti-robbery squad was a reflection of the rot in the police.

NAN reports that the directive was sequel to complaints by Nigerians on the alleged human rights abuse by men of the SARS.

NAN also reports that as part of the overhaul of the unit, SARS has been ordered not to attend to civil or commercial matters again, but attend strictly to armed robbery and kidnapping cases.

Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator of Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), commended Mr Osinbajo for the directive on SARS, stressing, however, that such reform was belated.

According to Mr Nwanguma, SARS reflects the culture of violence, lawlessness and leadership ineptitude in the Nigeria Police.

“I think the reformation has to start with police as an institution. When we address the issue of leadership in the force by appointing only competent officers, other issues will be alright.

“To address the problem of SARS, we need to first of all address the leadership appointment procedure, how a person becomes the I-G; the process must ensure that only the best brains are made I-G.

“The person so appointed should have the security of tenure, have operational autonomy and his loyalty should not just be to the president or ruling party, but to the constitution and the people of Nigeria,” he advised.

Mr Nwanguma also urged the National Human Rights commission (NHRC) to investigate human rights abuses by SARS through documented cases.

Jude Igbanoi, a lawyer and security expert, described SARS as a child of necessity in Nigeria, stressing that it came into existence at a time that violent crimes became very challenging to the conventional police.

Mr Igbanoi noted that the problem with SARS was a reflection of the society, calling also for the overall reformation of the force with a view to have better police operatives at all units of the force.

“I am sure, the acting president didn’t just wake up and say proscribe SARS, it is because citizens had kept complaining and police leadership did nothing about it.

“Rights of people were violated, some of the men go about without uniform which makes it difficult sometimes to differentiate between robbers and police operatives.

Folorunso Attah, another security expert said: “Osinbajo meant well even as it is coming rather too late. Though a lot of havoc had been done by SARS operatives over the years.

“The intent of the VP could give a better public perception of that unit of the force even those saddled with the implementation of the order can put spanner in the works.

“The type of SARS reform Osinbajo is talking about is training, retraining and redeployment/sacking of unfit elements from that unit.”

Mr Attah expressed the hope that the reformation would not be a new wine in an old bottle.

Dipo Kehinde, also a security expert, noted that the reforms were good for the force and nation as well as essential in the face of public outcry.

“We must continue to carry out these reforms until we have the professional police organisation we so much desire,” Mr Kedinde said.

For Qasim Akinreti, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, the police reform was apt and timely.

Mr Akinreti said that the reform would underscore the philosophy of policing that was based on trust, respect and safety of communities in Nigeria as was done in other civilised countries.

He said that the Nigeria Police as it were, were struggling to understand the core philosophy espoused

NAN reports that following the presidential directive on SARS, Inspector General Ibrahim Idris began the overhaul of the unit to address complaints and allegations on human rights violations against some personnel of the squad.(NAN)


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