I am the voice of pro-nationalism, and I write to you with a heavy but hopeful heart. I write to you with urgency and resolve, so that you may understand the gravity of the issue at hand.
There have been multiple allegations and demonstrations that question the basis of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). It is disturbing that SARS, an official national security unit, is publicly viewed by the Nigerian citizenry as an object of terror. Thus, the persons who were supposed to be beneficiaries are now victims of their internal security, or better still, in-security.
Furthermore, there have been several claims and reports of Nigerians who have been assaulted, harassed, brutalized, or extra-judicially killed by SARS. Nigerian youths, journalists, human rights groups, and lawyers, among others, have publicly condemned these unconstitutional acts. From the several news reports and public SARS demonstrations, there is sufficient evidence to allude to their brutality and extrajudicial killings. The fact speaks for itself. The proof lies in the pool of blood on the streets, the grief, and the agony in the air. Ultimately, the Nigerian people are agitated and call for the outright abolition of the special police force unit, while only a few support a reformation. Which is better?
This is the question we must answer. However, we must understand where we are coming from to know where we are going. SARS is a security unit that appeared on the Nigerian scene in the military era of 1992.[i] The team was created to detain, investigate, and prosecute armed robbery perpetrators. Thus, SARS became a security parastatal empowered to eradicate cases of robbery and other related crimes in the country. Today, there is nationwide unrest, as members of the SARS unit incessantly torture and arbitrarily wreak brutality on the masses.
Accordingly, this is why I have over 200 million reasons to support the reformation of SARS – one for each Nigerian. However, I do not support abolition. Hear my express thoughts on the issue at hand.
If SARS is abolished, we should ask ourselves; who will fill the vacuum created in the combat against assault and robbery operations? SARS is the only anti-robbery dedicated to combatting robbery operations in a country with a high rate of violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery at 71.65%.[ii] Thus, if we are to go by the mischief rule of interpretation, the primary objective for which SARS was created still exists. So, why abolish a system that is combatting the menace it was designed to tackle due to operational defects? In such a situation, the ideal thing will be to focus energy on resolving such defects.
It is vital to state that SARS has boycotted several robbery operations due to its search and seizure powers. Therefore, the issue is when innocent citizens are harassed and brutalized based on suspicion. This means that the problem is not with the idea behind SARS, but their modus operandi and the individuals at the wheel of implementation. It is true that 2015[iii] and 2019[iv] SARS reformations merely announced SARS’ departmentalization into operational and investigation units, and decentralization, respectively. However, a change of name does not correspond to a change of methods or results – action is needed.
What is required is a sustainable framework that will restructure the operations of SARS to specifically address violent crimes. Thus, these are the reasons for my position, and why I propose the following three steps to an actionable reformation of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit known as SARS:
- Reformation of the powers of SARS and the NPF unit regarding their use of force or firearms: this implies that the use of brute force or firearms by SARS officers should be restricted to specific situations of imminent threat or danger – danger to their lives or those of others, and their properties. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution[v] indeed allows for the broad use of lethal force, and the Force Order 237 significantly permits the use of force.[vi] However, none of these provisions empower SARS operatives to harm innocent citizens, or shoot to kill persons who do not attempt to resist arrest or pose an imminent threat. Thus, this brings me to the next point below.
- Prosecution of felonious acts and extrajudicial killings of defaulting SARS officers: one other primary reason for the nationwide agitation is the non-condemnation and non-prosecution of SARS officers perpetuating these preposterous acts under the disguise of official duty. It will serve as a check on arbitrary use of force and abuse of powers if defaulting SARS officers are made an example of in the courtrooms or detention facilities.
- Medical evaluation: this means that all officers should be subjected to weekly medical check-ups to test for the use of drugs and narcotics and to assess their psychological state. This medical report system will help put SARS operatives in check and ascertain the competence and sanity of these security officials to appropriately exercise their duties.
I urge you to listen to the grieving mother’s crying tears and the widowed wife’s young orphan. I ask that you reason with my plea for security and foster law and order in the country. I encourage you to adopt my honest recommendations for the SARS reformation.
I look forward to a better Nigeria.
Signed: the voice of pro-nationalism.
[i] Nnadozie, E. (2017, December 23). How I founded SARS in the Police – RTD CP Midenda. Retrieved from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/12/founded-sars-police-rtd-cp-midenda/ .
[ii] Crime in Nigeria. (2020, October). Numbeo. Retrieved from https://www.numbeo.com/crime/country_result.jsp?country=Nigeria.
[iii] Police IG splits anti-robbery squad, SARS, to check abuses. (2015, August 7). Premium Times Nigeria. Retrieved from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/187989-police-ig-splits-anti-robbery-squad-sars-to-check-abuses.html.
[iv] Pulse Nigeria. (2019, January 21). IGP Adamu orders immediate disbandment of SARS. Retrieved from https://www.pulse.ng/news/local/sars-igp-adamu-orders-immediate-disbandment-of-police-unit/yenlxxw.
[v] The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN).
[vi] Law on police use of force in Nigeria. (2020, July 2). The Law on Police Use of Force. Retrieved from https://www.policinglaw.info/country/nigeria.
Femi Alonge is a goal-driven law student aspiring to become a top-tier legal practitioner with global recognition in the corporate and commercial law practice. He wrote in via email@example.com