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Nigeria’s police unit labelled for “brutality” set for reorganization

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Moses Motoni is a Project Tracking Officer with BudgIT Nigeria, a private organization that keeps track of government’s performance mostly in rural communities.

According to reports, Mr. Motoni was arrested in Kaduna State by some unidentified Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) personnel who disguised as delivery men.

It was learnt that Mr. Motoni had been put under SARS’ radar under the instruction of one Senator Mohamed Sani, representing Niger South Senatorial District of Niger State. Mr. Motoni was closely tracked after participating in a sensitization program in Bida, Niger State, where obviously the senator had tried to hoodwink the people of a project that never was.

Investigations have confirmed Mr Motoni is in SARS’ detention facility in Abuja and have been denied bail.

So much negativity has already been attached to the anti-robbery unit of Nigeria’s elite police force, with most people calling for its total scrap and proscription. Just a week ago, Nigerians took to social media in a never seen before viral media campaign against the unit. In the series of tweets, Facebook posts as well as Instagram posts, many Nigerians recounted how they had been physically and psychologically abused by men of the SARS.

Less than 48 hours after the campaign for a shutdown of SARS started trending with the hashtag #EndSARS, many Nigerians took to their social media handles to support the campaign.

The demand for an end to SARS dominated Twitter activities by Nigerians over the weekend, during which citizens used #EndSARS to list allegations of extra-judicial killings, wanton arrests and dispossession of properties through physical assault and other intimidation tactics against SARS.

Popular Nigerian songstress Simi, recounted her ordeal thus; “People are not supposed to be afraid of the people that are supposed to be looking after us. A couple of weeks ago, at almost midnight, my friends and I had a gun pointed at us for laughing. For laughing. Their boss had to talk him down.”

One Twitter user, Uche Mcdonald said, “How can you report faceless people, no ID tags, no names, with ghost vehicles, just guys with guns and on mufti outfit terrorizing everybody on sight,”

A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, in several tweets on Twitter and a post on Facebook wrote: “The arbitrary harassment of young Nigerians by police (who should be protecting them) has no place in a democratic society. The #EndSARS protest shows Nigerian youth are upset and the matter needs urgent attention.”

Two Nigerian Super Eagles football stars also narrated their ordeal at the hands the Special Anti-Robbery Squad who harassed them in the past while they (the players) were in the country for national assignments. One of them narrates his story thus;

“I arrived in Nigeria around 11:50pm from my base in Italy to honour a national team invitation in 2013. But when we got to Apple Junction just off the Oshodi-Mile 2 Expressway on the way to my house some minutes past midnight, we were stopped by (SARS) for a routine search.

“I wasn’t worried initially until one of the (SARS) members asked me where I got the money to buy the expensive necklace I had on and I replied that I was a footballer and that I bought it from my base in Europe.

“I was asked to step out of the car before I could identify myself to the officer that I was a Nigerian footballer in town for a national assignment. I was hit with a gun and he threatened to lock me up yelling ‘You be Ronaldo? We don’t know you.’

“I was allowed to go after two hours of delay and confirmation from Google that indeed I was a Nigerian international. Due to the pains I suffered, I told the coach in charge then what happened and he granted me a day extra to recover from the trauma.”

According to one Twitter user  @olaeloquence, while she and her friend were travelling to Ilorin from Ife on a fateful day, she was stopped by the operatives, who literally showed her and her friend hell that day. She shared her story as thus:

“Sars stopped us on our way to Ilorin. Pulled out my bras and pants and asked why I had G-string if I wasn’t an ashewo. Hit my friend in the head 6 times with their guns. They took us to the ATM with my friend’s bloody head to collect 40k and never returned our phones.
#endsars”

Another lady Kachi Anifela shares a very heart rendering story;

“Good evening everyone, I’m at the height of my disappointment with the Nigerian police force, this evening, I was going to get dinner only for them to stop me and push me into their truck, and then they started asking me why I have yahoo apps on my phone that I’m a yahoo girl after searching

“And not finding any evidence, they immediately accused me of prostitution, I said no, we argued for a while, then the man (one of the federal SARS officials) came to me and started shouting that I’m carrying hard drugs that he wants to search my body for narcotics. Then this bastard put his hands INSIDE my bra, while I was shouting and trying to get out, he said he was going to beat me up if he heard another sound.

 Amidst all my crying and struggles this bastard rough Handled me, dipped his hands in my pant, saying (no be today I start to dey see drugs for girl bra or yansh) I begged to call my mother and they refused, seized my phone, One man even came down from his car to beg for me and they chased him away saying he should mind his business.

 I cried bitterly, this is one experience that’ has demoralized me the most. They were federal SARS, their patrol was at pipeline at about 9pm. I hate the police!!! #stopharrasmentSARS

Police Force HQ orders for reorganization

But in a reaction many would call belated, Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris ordered an immediate re-organisation of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) following the public outcry over conducts of the operatives.

The Force Public Relations Officer (PRO) Jimoh Moshood disclosed this in a statement in Abuja yesterday.

He said, “The IGP has directed the immediate re-organization of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) nationwide and instant investigation into all the allegations, complaints and infractions leveled against the personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad across the country by the IGP X-Squad of the Force.”

Moshood said, in the new arrangement, a Commissioner of Police is now the overall head of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide under the Department of Operations, Force Headquarters Abuja.

“The Police Zonal Commands, State Commands and Divisions will continue to operate anti-crime units/sections, crime prevention and control squads and teams imperative to prevent and detect crimes and criminalities in their Area of Responsibilities, and other crack squads necessary to sustain law and order and protection of life and properties in their Area of responsibilities (AOR).

“Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) will now exist and operate in the State and Zonal Commands under the Commissioner of Police (F-SARS) at the Force Headquarters.

“A Federal SARS Commander of a Rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) and not below Superintendent of Police (SP) will be in charge of FSARS in State and Zonal Commands across the Country.

“All Commissioners of Police have been directed by the Inspector General of Police to comply with this directive with immediate effect and warn their personnel not to pose as SARS operatives. The IGP X-Squad has been mandated to go round the Commands and Police Formations nationwide to ensure strict compliance and apprehend any erring police officer.”

He also said a new training program to be organized by the Force in collaboration with some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Local and International NGOs, and other Human Rights Organizations on core Police Duties, Observant of Human Rights and Handling, Care and Custody of Suspects have been directed by the IGP for all Federal SARS personnel nationwide with immediate effect.

 The Police spokesman urged aggrieved members of the public, who have complaints of violation of their rights by any SARS personnel anywhere in the country to report to the Force for investigation and further actions.

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