On Saturday, a video appeared on social media showing a team of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police allegedly shooting and killing a young man.
The incident was said to have occurred in front of Wetland Hotel, Ughelli in Delta State. The trending footage shows them speeding off in the victim’s vehicle – a white Lexus SUV.
Eyewitnesses said the police operatives stole the victim’s car after they killed him.
This incident has again sparked wide outraged nationwide with residents recounting ugly encounters with SARS and calling on outright disbandment of the unit on social media.
Amplifying the voices of ordinary Nigerians who are often victims of the bloodthirsty and money-seeking SARS, Nigerian celebrities joined the social media campaign to call for an end to SARS.
Multiple award ward-winning musician, Wizkid asked president Muhammadu Buhari to ‘do something’ urgently over the excesses of SARS.
“Donald Trump is not your business! Old man! Police/SARS still killing Nigerian youth on a daily! Do something!
“….Face your country,”Wizkid tweeted in response to Buhari’s well wishes to America’s President Donald Trump, who contracted coronavirus.
Also joining the campaign, comedian, Frank Donga queried when the Nigerian Police Force would end the menace of SARS despite visual “evidence of SARS men abducting citizens, harassing, threatening and shooting people, especially in unmarked vehicles with no identification.”
“Is the Nigerian Senate looking away?” Donga quips.
While ace actress, Kate Henshaw believes that until SARS kills one of their own, only then will they care; another Nigerian artiste, known as Mr. Eazi emphasized the need for a reform.
“Dear Nigerian leaders, we need police reform laws urgently. It’s been 15 years since the killing of the #ApoSix and our young men and women are still being harassed by those who should protect us. #EndSARS,” Eazi said.
The presidency’s reaction
Responding to the mounting pressure to dissolve the anti-robbery unit, the police inspector-general, Muhammed Adamu, banned the dreaded special anti-robbery squad and other police tactical squads from carrying out routine patrols following widespread campaign demanding the shutdown of SARS in Nigeria.
In a statement released by the presidency on its social media page, the IG said all tactical squads must also desist from the invasion of the privacy of citizens particularly through indiscriminate and unauthorized search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices.
He said SARS operatives must always appear in their police uniforms or approved tactical gear.
“The IGP’s directives come against the backdrop of findings by the leadership of the Force that a few personnel of the Tactical Squads hide under these guise to perpetrate all forms of illegality, contrary to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement establishing the squads,”the statement reads.
While one might expect the ban, accompanied by the IG’s condemnation of “every act of unprofessionalism, abuse of human rights and high-handedness by some personnel of the Squads” to appease citizens, Nigerians received the announcement as another hoax to keep them quiet.
The reason is because the same IG had made a similar announcement two years ago when the SARS’s unbridled killings spiked across the nation.
In 2017, the IGP directed the immediate re-organization of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) nationwide and instant investigation into all the allegations, complaints and infractions levelled against the personnel of the Special Anti Robbery Squad across the country by the IGP X-Squad of the Force.
Again, in August 2018, Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President, as the Acting President, ordered the IGP, Idris, to overhaul SARS management and activities.
Osinbajo said that the unit that will emerge from the process, 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.
Laolu Akande, his spokesman, in a statement, said the order was as a result of persistent complaints and reports of human rights violations by SARS.
Osinbajo further directed the Police to “ensure that all operatives in the emerging unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Human Rights Law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects. The operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.”
However, these moves had done nothing to stop the rampage of SARS. If they did anything, they (maybe) only empowered them to go on with business as usual and Nigerians are clearly not ready to accept another ineffective declaration.
Omoyele Sowore, an activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters described the announcement as a scam, and recalled a similar action in 2017.
He said they rebranded SARS to FSARS in 2017 and since then SARS has killed more youths, adding that only a disbandment and dismantling of SARS is acceptable.
“MBuhari should say it on National TV and it should be signed and passed through the appropriate legislative body. We are not falling for this online press release and gimmicks any more #Endsars,” said an aggrieved Nigerian.
SARS is a dreaded Police unit that has repeatedly harassed and killed Nigerians, and with the current state of things, the protest will likely continue as some individuals are already putting plans into place.