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Published On: Mon, Aug 20th, 2018

The death of deadly SARS

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Our editorial of December 12, 2017 commented that anything short of the disbanding of the notorious SARS would not please the majority of Nigerians. It was our reaction to the decision of the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris to “reorganise” the SARS following public complaints of excessive use of force and extortion against the agency. Our comment said in part: “Indeed, if anything, what the police authorities have done is provide a smokescreen under which SARS will operate using the same methodology of brutality and killing in a different name. We doubt that the authotities want a new look SARS with a truly human face. In this light, we urge the campaigners to go to work on the Senate to hold public hearings on SARS. If the senators find a preponderance of views in support of scrapping SARS, it must go.”

We want to commend the federal government for seeing the point we made in that editorial and doing the right thing. Last week, precisely August 14, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo asked the IGP to “overhaul the management and functions” of SARS. He said the new agency that would result from the overhaul “must be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.”

Osinbajo also instructed that opetatives of the new unit “adhere strictly to the rule of law, International Human Rights Law and constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects.” They must bear proper identification whenever they are on duty.Besides, he asked the Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to “set up a special panel to conduct an investigation into 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.”

The government’s move against SARS came shortly after Osinbajo sacked the head of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura for overstepping his bounds. A week earlier, he had ordered the invasion of parliament – the National Ašsembly. That quick action of the acting president helped to put the heads of other security organisations on their toes.

For instance, IGP Ibrahim Idris, notorious for disobeying presidential orders, immediately went to work as the acting president had ordered. Now we have a new anti robbery apparatus, no longer manned by hooded, blood thirsty gunmen but trained Nigerians with an identifiable human face. Their job is much more focused this time, This is thanks to VP Osinbajo.

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