The outcry that led to Sunday’s dissolution of the allegedly notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), has prompted Nigerian experts to advocate a total overhaul of the entire policing system and the need to activate the Nigerian Police Trust Fund to provide the needed funding for a new people-oriented, refined and law-abiding police.
On Sunday the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu on the orders of President Muhamadu Buhari, disbanded SARS, following nationwide protests over the killings and rights violations perpetrated by men of the outfit.
The IGP, who announced the disbandment of the outfit in a press conference on Sunday in Abuja, said it was in “the finest spirit of democratic, citizen-centred and Community policing, that SARS across the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was dissolved.”
The IGP, while noting that the dissolution of SARS is in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people, said that by this dissolution, “all officers and men of the now defunct Special Anti-robbery Squad are being redeployed with immediate effect.”
He assured that a new policing arrangement to address anticipated policing gaps the dissolution of SARS would cause has been evolved and shall be announced in due course.
The police chief said the force will set up an investigation team which shall include Civil Society Organizations and Human Rights Bodies to work with the Police in investigating alleged cases of human rights violations by SARS.
At the time of filing this report, BusinessDay made attempts on Monday to reach the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba (DCP) to throw more light on the nature of the new arrangements and the time frame. He however, did not pick his calls neither did he respond to text messages sent to him.
But Nigerian experts seem to have come up with new ways and measures that could be taken to make fundamental changes in the system irrespective of the glaring encumbrances within the police force.
Speaking BusinessDay on Monday, a legal practitioner, with deep knowledge of the police, Tosin Ojaomo, said dissolving the unit was not enough but the anti-robbery squad should be returned to the divisions because most police work starts from the divisions.
Ojaomo also tasked the Nigerian government and the public to focus on the funding, saying “There is a Nigerian Police Trust Fund which board is chaired by former Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, and everybody should now put their eyes on that money.”
On 24 June 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill (“Police Trust Fund Act” or “the Act”) into law. “The Act established the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Trust Fund) to provide funds for, inter alia, the training and welfare of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force.”
The Act also states that the “Trust Fund would consist of funds from a levy of 0.005% of the net profit of companies operating a business in Nigeria amongst other sources.”
This, Ojaomo believes, will go long way in solving the problems of the lack of funds if enforced and judiciously utilized.
“You can imagine what would be realized if we get these funds. We don’t need any funding from anywhere if we get these funds. That money can successfully fund the police if judiciously utilized for a certain number of years,” he said.
He noted that because of the sensitive nature of crime in Nigeria, the nation needs a squad like SARS, who are trained to respond to these incidents but they must be under the Divisional Police Officer (DPOs).
“You don’t need to use the command level to respond to robbery incidents. The DPOs are the ones that are closer to the communities let them have the anti- robbery squads so that it will be easy to hold them responsible instead of having some faceless SARS some of whom have been impersonated. It is because they distorted the structure that is why we are having these problems,” he said.
He added that if Nigerians want to solve these problems they should look at the welfare of the police. “A policeman that is serving in the EFCC, compare what he is earning as salary with what the average policeman is earning. The EFCC investigates only economic crimes while police investigates everything.
“In this country policemen are buying their cloths on the streets, the policeman has to buy his own uniform, he has to buy his boots, how does that help our system, how will the armed robber not go and buy police uniform and start impersonating police on the road?” He queried.
Contributing, former Director of the Department of State Services (DSS) Mike Ejiofor, however condemned the dissolution of SARS describing it as a “hasty decision not well thought out.”
He said: “much as we admit that SARS had a lot of excesses, you don’t just take such decision especially now that the prevailing crime situation is very high. What I would have thought was for the government to reform SARS, let them face their core mandate of fighting robbery and violent crimes instead of getting involved in debt recovery, settling of personal disputes and so on.
“This decision we have just taken now, I do hope and pray that we don’t regret it. I think the government is just trying to be populist, and it is quite unfortunate that the government can take this decision under this prevailing criminal situation in Nigeria. What we have just done now is to bite our nose to spite our face and I see the rise of crime. Definitely this decision will boomerang.”
Veteran security expert and columnist, Ben Okezie also believed that the dissolution will escalate the level of crime in the country. He accused cultists and internet fraudsters and other criminal elements of ganging up to stage the #EndSARS protests even as he blamed the government for succumbing to the antics and pressure of potential criminals, who might exploit the loophole to unleash unprecedented level of crime in the country.
He said: “the government did not put security into consideration but succumbed to the dictates of politics,” even as he warned that the level of violent crime may increase.
He noted that since SARS has been associated with right violations “the government can change the name of SARS since it is an anathema to many Nigerians, and then pick out all the people that have perpetrated crime and bring them to justice in a competent court of law.