Olalekan Adetayo, John Alechenu, Adelani Adepegba, Ade Adesomoju, Leke Baiyewu, Deji Lambo, Daud Olatunji and Wale Oyewale and Chima Azubuike
After days of public outcry and nationwide protests, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, on Sunday, bowed to pressure and disbanded the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
He said a new policing arrangement to address armed robbery and other violent crimes that fall within the mandate of the dissolved tactical unit would be presented in due course.
Announcing the decision at the Force headquarters, Abuja on Sunday, Adamu acknowledged the inalienable rights of citizens to freedom of association and expression.
But the #EndSARS campaigners said they would not back down, insisting that the street rallies would continue until the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), issued an Executive Order scrapping the police tactical unit.
A leader of the protesters, Raphael Adebayo, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said the IG was being “clever by half” with his announcement that the SARS had been dissolved, noting that the #EndSARS campaigners were not convinced by his statement.
The activist, who is a Co-convener of the Centre for Liberty, Abuja, advocated a total overhaul and reform of the Nigeria Police Force.
“We are not going to be fooled by the IG’s announcement. The President should either address Nigerians by announcing through an executive order, that he is disbanding the terrorist unit in the Nigeria Police Force or more protest would happen and it would continue to grow until the President takes responsibility.
“At the end of the day, this is deeper than ending SARS; this is about getting justice for all the people killed by SARS and the IG’s statement did not address that.”
Also, theConvener, #RevolutionNow Movement, Omoyele Sowore, said the protesters did not believe that the scrapping of SARS was real, noting that some policemen still harassed protesters in Abuja on Sunday, shortly after the IG’s statement.
“As I’m speaking with you, there is an ongoing protest in Abuja and it is massive. They are heading to the Force headquarters because they are not convinced that the dissolution of SARS is real. People are very sceptical, cynical about the announcement,” the former presidential candidate said.
Sowore stressed that the #EndSARS campaign was also a demand for compensation for victims of police brutality and rights violations, adding that they also wanted the errant operatives to be publicly prosecuted.
But the convener, #EndSARS Lagos, Olorunrinu Oduala, said her team would halt their protest, having decided to give the police and the government the benefit of the doubt on the announced SARS dissolution.
Oduala said, “All I know is that they have scrapped SARS; although we are skeptical because this same government has promised us several things in the past and failed on these promises but we will give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Earlier at a press briefing, the IG had described the #EndSARS agitation as a manifestation of the natural desire of the citizens to participate in matters concerning policing and internal security in the nation.
The police boss disclosed that the clamour for the scrapping of the SARS as a unit in the Nigeria Police Force had been under constant monitoring and due assessment by the government.
Adamu said, “Following a review of the current developments and in due cognizance of the wide and legitimately-held concerns of well-meaning citizens on the existence and operations of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, as a responsive and citizens-oriented Police Force, it is hereby directed as follows:
“The Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police, otherwise known as SARS, is hereby dissolved across all Formations, the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory, where they currently exist.
“All officers and men currently serving in the unit are to be redeployed with immediate effect.
“New policing arrangements to address the offences of armed robbery, and other violent crimes that fall within the mandate of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad shall be presented in due course.”
The IG noted that a Citizens and Strategic Stakeholders’ Forum would be formed to regularly interface with the leadership of the police at all levels and advise on police activities.
Protesters’ cars vandalised, cameraman injured
Meanwhile, a cameraman with Arise Television, identified as Francis, was injured during an attack by policemen on protesters in Abuja.
The cameraman was returning from covering the IG’s press briefing at the Force headquarters when a projectile allegedly fired by the police hit his head. A footage showing the cameraman’s bleeding head was shared on social media.
Many cars belonging to the protesters parked by the Ministry of Women Affairs building were allegedly vandalised by the police. Their tyres were said to have been slashed by the operatives.
AI demands accountability
Reacting to the dissolution of SARS, the Amnesty International said the move was not enough and fell short of the demand for accountability and justice for victims of police abuse and rights violations.
The Director, Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, stated, “For a sustainable and long-lasting change, the police authorities must take the following steps:
“Immediate investigation and prosecution of all police officers who have been accused of grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture, and other ill-treatment.
“A clear and concise timeline for the implementation of the reforms to end police atrocities is key to safeguarding trust between Nigerians and the authorities.”
NHRC hails SARS disbandment
The National Human Rights Commission, however, applauded the announced disbandment of SARS.
The NHRC Executive Secretary, Mr Tony Ojukwu, said the disbandment had set the stage for the implementation of the report of the presidential investigative panel submitted to the President in June 2019.
Ojukwu recalled that the panel, which he headed, had recommended, among others, the dissolution of the police unit.
He said, “With the initial and right step to disband SARS by the IGP as part of the recommendations of the Presidential Panel, the stage is now set to implement the other recommendations of the panel and in this regard, the government had requested the commission to constitute a broad-based implementation committee, inclusive of relevant government agencies and civil society organizations to ensure the transparent, comprehensive and accountable implementation of the white paper on the presidential panel report.”
Buhari committed to better policing – APC
In a statement on Sunday titled, “#EndSARS: APC Welcomes Police Reform,” ruling All Progressives Congress commended the IG for the announced disbandment of SARS.
The APC Deputy Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, said the decision represented “President Muhammadu Buhari’s affirmed resolve to achieve better policing and necessary reforms.”
Nabena said, “From the recent #BlackLivesMatter social movement to other global clamours for review of police operations, particularly regarding citizens they are empowered to protect, the need for police reforms in Nigeria is urgent and continuous.”
Keyamo lauds IGP for scrapping SARS
Also, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), commended the IG.
“I thank the IGP for listening to voices from within the system that called for restraint against the protesters and rooted for dialogue instead of force. Going forward, the citizens’ engagement must be honest, open and, above all, truly representative of different segments of society,” Keyamo stated in a tweet on Sunday.
President’s aide denies opposing #EndSARS agitation
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, has denied a media report (not The PUNCH) that he prevailed on the President not to scrap the FSARS.
In a statement titled, ‘Evil people ascribing fake stories to me,’ Adesina said he refrained from commenting, either privately or publicly on the #EndSARs issue, because it did not fall under his purview.
He urged Nigerians to disregard the “lie from the pit of hell.”
Gombe group faults SARS disbandment
But the Police Community Relations Committee on Sunday, faulted the IG on SARS disbandment, insisting that the move would give rise to a surge in criminalities.
At a peaceful protest in Patanmi Stadium, the Chairman of PCRC in Gombe State, Kabiru Muhammad, said SARS had freed Gombe from the grip of a militia group known as Kalari Boys and helped in the rescue of many kidnapped children.
He said, “Disbanding of SARS will not augur well in Gombe State, because we have seen the advantages and the contribution of SARS in Gombe. SARS has, to a large extent, transformed our children, we are particular about Gombe State and we are not in support of other Nigerians to disband SARS.”
Reps insist on constitution amendment
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, also commended the disbandment of SARS just as he “assured all Nigerians that the dissolution of SARS will not preclude the ongoing efforts by the House of Representatives to effect reforms of the police through legislation.”
A statement on Sunday by his media aide, Lanre Lasisi, quoted Gbajabiamila to have said, “There is still a pressing need to have an independent system for monitoring police actions and holding police officers to proper account for failures to follow the law and the police code.
“The House will continue its work to legislate lasting solutions to the problems of policing in Nigeria.”
The House had last Wednesday disclosed its plan to partner the Nigerian Bar Association and civil society organisations towards creating a new law to guide the operations of the police.
Abiodun orders release of #EndSARS protesters
The Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun on Sunday, ordered the unconditional release of the protesters arrested by policemen during Saturday’s #EndSARS protest in the state.
The governor, in a statement on Sunday, however, warned youths in the state to conduct their protests in accordance with the rule of law.
The protesters had destroyed police property, injured some police officers, attacked the convoy of the deputy governor of the state, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, and vandalised her car.
Reacting to the violence, Abiodun said, “Both as an individual and as Governor, I understand and identify with the genuine concerns that the #EndSARS protesters have about the excesses of the now proscribed outfit.
“However, in attacking police formations and destroying government property, the protesters went beyond the bounds of civility.”
Atiku seeks probe of unit
Similarly, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar said he welcomed the disbandment of SARS, just as he has also called for judicial panel of inquiry into the activities of the defunct unit.
Atiku said this in a statement titled, ‘#EndSARS: Atiku welcomes disbandment of SARS, pays tribute to resilience of Nigerian youths,’ by his spokesperson, Mazi Paul Ibe, on Sunday.
Ibe quoted his principal as saying, “This was the right thing to do. A system that brutally eliminates our youths is not one to hold on to, and neither can we be proud of it.
“Now we can start on a clean sheet to envision an elite police unit similar to the SWAT and a comprehensive overhaul of the police and policing system that peoples-focused.”