The regime of SARS

This SARS is not to be confused with Covid 19 or any type of disease. The SARS was a subunit of the Nigerian Police Force, which was created in the latter half of 1992 by ex-police commissioner Simeon Danladi Midenda to deal with offences associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling. This unit was a part of the 14 units of the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) and was headed by Deputy Inspector General of Police, Anthony Ogbizi.

The major reason SARS was formed was when cops at a checkpoint in Lagos killed Col. Rindam of the Nigerian Army in September 1992, later resulting in the arrest of three officers. When this knowledge reached the military, soldiers were dispatched into the streets of Lagos in search of any officer. The Nigerian police withdrew from checkpoints, security areas, and other points of interest for criminals, some cops were said to have resigned while others fled their lives. Because of the absence of police for 2 weeks, the rate of crime increased and SARS was formed with only 15 officers operating within the shadows without knowledge of the military while monitoring police radio chatters. Because of the existence of three already established anti-robbery squads that were operational at that point, Midenda needed to differentiate his squad from the already existing teams. Minda named his team Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). After months of dialogue, the Nigerian Army and therefore the Nigeria law came to an understanding and official police duties began again in Lagos. The SARS unit was officially commissioned in Lagos following a ceasefire by the military after settlement.

However, SARS much like a disease showed no regard for human rights and even to a limit for human life. Few instances of their outright human rights are:_

In mid-1996, the Lagos branch arrested two security guards at their place of work under suspicion of assisting a robbery. the 2 guards weren’t charged with a criminal offence while arrested. In January 1997, the bodies of the guards were placed at a morgue without any evidence for his or her deaths.

In October 2005, a SARS operative killed a busman in Obiaruku, Delta State for failing to pay the operative a bribe. The operative was discharged their SARS position and arrested on charges of murder.

In 2009, after several years of operations, the squad grew in number and strength. thanks to the surge of internet fraudsters and cultism in universities, SARS operatives infiltrated Nigerian universities and made several successful arrests, but whilst this process harassed innocent youths 

On 10 August 2019, while SARS operatives were on a raid in Ijegun to arrest kidnappers within the area, several shots were fired during a bid to subdue the kidnappers; one amongst these shots hit a pregnant woman who was reportedly killed instantly. An angry mob was said to have lynched two of the officers on the spot.

On 21 August 2019, four SARS operatives were arrested and charged with murder after being caught on film manhandling then shooting to death two suspected phone thieves in broad daylight. The suspected thieves were shot dead after they’d already been arrested.

On 5 September 2019, operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Lekki, Lagos allegedly kidnapped, tortured, and robbed Nigerian rapper Ikechukwu Onunaku. In keeping with publications by Punch Nigeria, the rapper was forced to pay several ATM withdrawals to pay SARS operatives for doing nothing.

Also this group was more of a spy group then a police agency. SARS operatives were not allowed to wear a police uniform, carry guns publicly or even have walkie-talkies. They were presented with cars with no or private plate numbers.

 Amnesty International disclosed that it would be suing the Nigerian Police over human rights abuses, stating that SARS operatives in Borokiri, Port Harcourt had arrested three bike riders and detained them for over one week while they were “beaten every night with the butt of a gun and iron belt.” The SARS has been highly criticized and the End SARS is a movement going on since 2017. In recent times however this movement has gained such momentum due to the killing of a young Nigerian man in public sight by a SARS police officer and wide spread protests are taking place all over Nigeria. Most protestors are from 18 to 24 years, comfortably off, but have had to suffer many hardships such as no steady electricity, no free education and have their university life plagued with strikes due to no wage payments. Peaceful EndSARS protestors in Abuja, the nation’s capital, were attacked, beaten, and chased away by Federal police officers, but protestors returned as they took the protests to the Police Force Headquarters. On October 9 in Ogbomosho in Oyo State, a peaceful protestor named Jimoh Isiaq was shot dead by police officers while engaging in the EndSARS protests. His death at the hands of police officers further increased the anger nationwide as he became a sort of a motivation and a saint for protesters over the country as thousands organized protests in their cities and carried on undaunted.

Stars like Ozil, Jack Dorsey, Wiz Kid, Marcus Rashford and Davido have publicly called out their support for this movement on social media.

SARS has been reformed following public anger in 2018 after the End SARS campaign in 2017. The unit was subjected to reforms and independent investigations after reports of human rights violations surfaced. The unit was renamed Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad and a new unit head was appointed. On 21 January 2019, IGP Mohammed Adamu ordered the immediate decentralization of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. The SARS unit was centralized from the force headquarters in Abuja since its inception; the IGP also stated that the DIG of Force Criminal Investigations Department and Commissioners of Police in each state would be held accountable for actions of the SARS. Finallyon October 16th  Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told Nigerians that he chaired a meeting of 36 state governors and the Minister of the FCT was to set up judicial panels of inquiry,  His latest statements come as protestors still occupy streets and remain defiant until their demands are implemented. Finally the unit was disbanded on 11 October 2020 and a wew unit the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) replaced SARS.

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