FSARS disbandment not panacea to inefficient policing, extra-legal killings, By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Posted by News Express | 16 October 2020 | 477 times

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•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu


A partial victory was recently achieved over the prolonged brutality of the Nigerian Police with the disbanding of the notorious interventionist unit known as the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS).

The disbandment of this Police unit followed wide-spread protests across of the country, with the hash-tag #ENDSARS. Nigerians were fed up with the operations of this unit, which left in its trail extra-judicial killings, rape, harassment, intimidation of innocent Nigerians, etc. In fact, operatives of the unit constituted themselves into demigods, straying into areas of operations completely outside their jurisdiction.

As a result, for anyone that values his life, the fear of SARS was the beginning of wisdom. It was better to dine with the devil than having an encounter with SARS as you would have to part with outrageous sums as bail-out before they let you out of their hook.

But as anything that has a beginning must have an end, the notorious unit was recently disbanded.

Like so many analysts have questioned: “Does the disbandment of this notorious unit bring to an end the negative operation styles of the Nigeria police? Or has it achieved an end to police brutality in Nigeria?” The answer is NO.

In the past, efforts have been made to address peculiar security challenges in the country. And these efforts manifested in carving out interventionist units within the police.  Unfortunately, instead of these units addressing the special assignments which they were created to address, they make the whole situation complex by leaving in their trail, woes. That, in addition to their reckless disregard for life, had been a cause for public concern, culminating in the current protest leading to the disbandment of the unit.

Another important issue Nigerians must not forget in a hurry is that police brutality, which culminates in extra-judicial killings, is not restricted to this interventionist unit alone. Even the mainstream police are culpable.

A typical example is the unfortunate incident of Izuchukwu Ayogu and Nnaemeka Ugwuoke. The promising futures of the young lads were cut short on Sunday March 10, 2001 by the police in Nsukka, Enugu State. Izuchukwu who was on his way to deliver a letter given by his sister stopped to pick up his friend, Nnaemeka. On their way, they were stopped by three men in a Volkswagen car who asked them for direction.

The boys could not help them and made to leave. But the men grabbed them and attempted to force them into the car. When the boys attempted to escape, the men raised a cry of “thief” and the boys were rounded up.

Amid the commotion, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Nsukka, Gambo Sarki, emerged from the nearby Milipat Hotel. The boys’ hope that the police officer was coming to save them was dashed. He did not come to help them; rather, he forced the boys into his car boot and drove them to the Police Station with a definite instruction that nobody should see them.

Repeated attempts by the boys’ parents to have access to their children met brick-wall. Characteristically, after some time, the police denied being in custody of the boys.

A few days after, news filtered in that mutilated bodies of the boys, with their vital organs removed, have been found in a shallow grave in a bush in the nearby towns.

When DPO Sarki got wind of the unfolding event, he quickly despatched a team of police to go and exhume the bodies to cover up what was fast emerging as police killing. In his other efforts to cover the killings, he released other inmates of the cell to stall any of them volunteering information about the killing of the boys. But the inmates revealed that the boys were brought to the cell and removed the following day.

On this note, the disbandment is only one step forward towards addressing the challenges associated with policing in Nigeria.

It is widely believed that only a genuine police reform would address this quagmire. The recent events have reinforced debates why previous attempts on police reform in Nigeria have not produced the desired results.

It will be recalled that between 2006 and 2012 three committees were constituted to recommend measures for the reform of the Nigeria Police Force. That is beside another reform initiative to develop a public security strategy established during the tenure of Caleb Olubolade as Minister of Police Affairs (2011-2014).

The key recommendations offered by these three presidential committees were: 1.Reorganisation of police divisions and units

  1. Rationalisation of ranks to reduce the hierarchical structure in the force
  2. Raising the entry qualification of junior officers
  3. Decentralisation of administration and devolution of powers to commanders at the zonal, state, area and divisional command levels;
  4. Upgrading the police academy to a degree-awarding institution, and
  5. Providing adequate funding and equipment.
  6. Improving training through better facilities, trainers and curricula;
  7. Reorganising the Mobile Police Force
  8. Enhancing enumeration;
  9. Adapting and adopting a community policing framework relevant to the country;
  10. Improving relations between the police and the public
  11. Prioritising capacity development in the areas of intelligence, investigation, forensics, prosecution and information management
  12. Improving performance and discipline
  13. Establishment of police associations and collective bargaining system
  14. Improving the effectiveness of the Police Council through regular meetings and renewed commitment to the responsibility conferred on it by the Constitution.

Nigerians may have gained a temporary victory by the recent disbandment of FSARS, but there are still miles to cover in our quest to achieve an improved policing in the country. Some of the solutions lie in the adequate implementation of the recommendations offered by the Police Reform Committees.

Until then, we will continue to toy with multiple experiments.

•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a public policy analyst, writes from Aba, viakeshiafrica@gmail.com

Source: News Express

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