The acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has decentralised the operation of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad which was centralised by his predecessor, Ibrahim Idris.
He explained that the squad would henceforth operate under the state Commissioners of Police while the force headquarters’ unit would be under the DIG, Federal Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department.
The former IG had placed the unit under the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Operations, as part of the reforms of the squad.
But Adamu, who met with command Commissioners of Police and other senior officers in Abuja on Monday, said a comprehensive reform in terms of ethics, mode of operation, orientation, function delineation, command and control and accountability mechanism of SARS would be undertaken.
He also disbanded all quasi-investigation and operation outfits including the Special Investigation Panel, Special Tactical Squad, IG Monitoring and Intelligence Team and others.
The acting IG further announced the setting up of a Special Election Investigation Team saddled with the exclusive function of investigating and prosecuting electoral offenders.
He said, “Since no police force ever succeeds by alienating its citizens, we are firmly resolved that under my watch that policing will be citizen-centered, rule-driven and accountability-guided.”
Adamu stated that a protocol that would document the outcome of the reform would be developed and this, he added, would become the standard operating procedure of SARS which would be engaged for performance evaluation in aid of accountability process and disciplinary concerns.
Few hours after taking office last Wednesday, the acting IG had reversed the last-minute postings and redeployments carried out by Idris.
Reacting to the move by the IG, Amnesty International in a statement by its Director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said it had vindicated years of outcry by Nigerians against the human rights abuses by FSARS operatives.
AI, however, said the IG’s action should be followed with concrete reforms that would end violations by the police altogether.
It said, “More needs to be done to end unnecessary and excessive use of force, extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention and extortion.
“Wide ranging reforms must be carried out so that Nigerians can trust the police to provide law enforcement according to Nigerian laws and international standards.
“Previous attempts to end the use of torture by the police have proven ineffective. These atrocities must be investigated, and the perpetrators brought to justice.
“Compelling evidence of crimes and human rights violations committed by FSARS is widely available, including in reports by Amnesty International and can aid effective investigation of crimes committed by the squad.”
Also, a pro-democracy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, dismissed the IG’s move, saying it was cosmetic.
The National Coordinator of the group, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a telephone interview on Monday, said the group would have preferred that the IG led a crusade for the comprehensive reforms of the Nigeria Police Force.
He said, “The Police force stinks of institutional decay and professional incompetence which requires far reaching science-based surgical response mechanisms to bring the operational modes of the Nigeria Police Force to conform to global best practices.
“HURIWA condemns the widespread practice whereby crime victims are extorted and exploited by the Nigeria Police Force before operatives can embark on their routine law enforcement duties.”
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Onwubiko said it was the opinion of the group that the challenges facing the new head of the police was such that did not require a quick fix but rather a deliberate, decisive, rationally fine-tuned actionable measures.
Onwubiko also noted that it was unhealthy for Nigerians to allow their military to be saddled with the responsibility of performing the functions of the police.