- By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
A partial victory was recently achieved over the prolonged brutalcity in the country. The notorious interventionist unit of the Nigeria Police known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad(SARS) was disbanded.
The disbandment of this police unit was trailed by a wide spread protests across some parts of the country with the hashtag #ENDSARS. Nigerians were highly fed up with the operations of this unit which left in its trail extra judicial killings, rape, harassment, intimidation of innocent Nigerians. Intact, operatives of the unit constituted themselves into demigods, straying into areas of operations that do not define their jurisdictions.
On the other hand, 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 fees as bail out before they let you out of their hook.
But like any thing that has 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 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 deployed 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 situations complex by leaving in their trail woes. As such, they are disbanded.
Another important issue Nigerians must not forget in a hurry is that police brutality which culminates in extra judicial killings is not restricted to these interventionist units 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 caught short on Sunday March 10,2001 by the police in Nsukka, Enugu State.
Izuchukwu 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 directions.
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 of Nsukka then, Gambo Sarki, a divisional police officer, 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 forced the boys into his car boot and drove them to the police station with express instruction that nobody should see them.
Repeated attempts by the boys parents to have access to their children met brick wall. The police at a point denied being in custody of the boys.
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 a step to address 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 adequate 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. This is outside 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 are: reorganisation of police divisions and units; rationalisation of ranks to reduce the hierarchical structure in the force; raising the entry qualification of junior officers; decentralization of administration and devolution of powers to commanders at the zonal, state, area and divisional command levels; upgrading the police academy to a degree awarding institution; providing adequate funding and equipment.
Others are improving training through better facilities, trainers and curricula; reorganising the Mobile Police Force; enhancing enumeration; adapting and adopting a community policing framework relevant to the country; improving relations between the police and the public; prioritising capacity development in the areas of intelligence, investigation, forensics, prosecution, and information management; improving performance and discipline; establishment of police associations and collective bargaining system; and 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 victory by the recent disbandment of SARS 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 some of the recommendations offered by the police reform committees. Until then, we will continue to toy with multiple experiments.
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