The Special Anti-Robbery Squad is a specialised unit of the Force that deals with armed robbery, kidnapping, cattle rustling, car snatching and the like; any crime involving use of firearms. Like in Numan, Adamawa State where militia are attacking people, the SARS had been deployed along with other units of the Force. To be in SARS, first, you must be a policeman, a general duty officer, and you must have been in the job for not less than five years. You must also have prerequisite experience before you can be posted to the squad. The officer would also undergo operational training as well as training on handling of suspects. We are quite concerned with the complaints against SARS and that is why the Inspector-General of Police has directed its re-organisation. We know that most of the complaints and allegations against SARS are not always true, but the IG has ordered an investigation to ascertain them. He has also directed that human rights desk be set up in all the state commands to handle rights abuse by SARS operatives. So, the people who started the #EndSARS campaign can channel their grievances to the desk officers for investigation. SARS has been in existence for over 40 years and it is essential to the force, so we cannot dismantle it.
I won’t argue that it took some time for the re-organisation. Since the IG assumed office, he has been instituting internal reforms in the operation of the force. He also fashioned out some creed which is like our Bible or Quran guiding our work. This creed has been drummed into the operatives and everywhere he goes, he impresses it on the personnel to respect human rights, shun corruption and indiscipline and to be civil. To say it took us long to re-organise the squad would not be correct because when he assumed office, he directed the training of SARS operatives by some civil organisations and the Red Cross. What we are saying is that, some of the complaints in the social media are genuine, and some happened five, six years ago and some are bringing them up now. We know that any organisation that is subject to public opinion has to grapple with the responsibility of educating the public constantly. We can’t say because there are one or two infractions, we should end SARS because if you end SARS, robbers would take over. We appreciate the patriotism of those demanding an end to SARS, but other groups are equally saying, reform SARS. So if they have any complaint against the unit, let them tell us and it would be addressed.
Since you admitted that some complaints against SARS were genuine, why did you say those behind #EndSARS campaign are armed robbers?
We issued a press release and there was nowhere I mentioned that those calling for end to SARS are armed robbers. I never said that, but people can twist any issue. As a well-bred public relations officer, I would never call anybody armed robber. People should know where the calls are coming from, so anybody that has complaint against SARS should come forward. Like I said, some of them are genuine, but people should follow up on their complaints. We want those behind the campaign against SARS to have a rethink and join us in supporting SARS for the safety of all Nigerians.
What punishment awaits any SARS operative indicted for professional misconduct?
We don’t spare anyone found wanting. If anyone is found wanting, the appropriate measure would be taken. In this regard, if it is the rank and file, such officer would be defaulted, or dismissed from the Force if he was indicted for discreditable conduct. Most of the time, what we witnessed is the complainant pleading on behalf of an indicted officer or not showing up in court to give evidence.