Mohammed Adamu, the inspector-general of police (IGP), has banned personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), from carying out routine patrols as well as stop and search duties.
Other Tactical Squads of the Force such as the Special Tactical Squad (STS) and Intelligence Response Team (IRT) are also barred from such activities.
Frank Mba, police spokesman, made the directive known in a statement on Sunday.
It is coming amid wide-spread backlash over alleged criminal and extra-judicial actions of FSARS officers against citizens in various parts of the country.
In the statement, Mba said the IGP also directed that no officer should embark on a patrol in mufti.
How SARS Officials ‘Killed Man, Fled With His Car’ In Delta State.
“The inspector-general of police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has banned the personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other Tactical Squads of the Force including the Special Tactical Squad (STS), Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Anti-Cultism Squad and other Tactical Squads operating at the Federal, Zonal and Command levels, from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties – stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc – with immediate effect,” he said.
“The IGP has warned the Tactical Squads against the invasion of the privacy of citizens particularly through indiscriminate and unauthorized search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices.
“They are to concentrate and respond only to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes when the need arises.”
Mba quoted Adamu as saying FSARS and other police tactical squads remain “a critical component of the Force in confronting prevailing and emerging violent crimes in the country”.
“He however condemns every act of unprofessionalism, abuse of human rights and high-handedness by some personnel of the Squads,” the force public relations officer said.
“He has therefore ordered the X-Squad and the Monitoring Unit to embark on immediate and massive nationwide monitoring of activities of Tactical Squads and other police officers on the road.
“They are to ensure prompt arrest, investigation and prosecution of all erring police officers who violate these directives and other extant regulations of the Force.
“The IGP has equally warned that henceforth, the Commissioner of Police in charge of FSARS, Commissioners of Police in charge of State Commands and the FCT as well as their supervisory Zonal Assistant Inspectors General of Police, will be held liable for any misconduct within their Area of Responsibility (AOR).”
The police spokesman said two FSARS officers and one civilian accomplice have been arrested in Lagos for professional misconduct.
“Two operatives of the FSARS and their civilian accomplice operating in Lagos State, INSPR Sale James, INSPR Monday Uchiola and Okechukwu Ogbonna, have been arrested by the Lagos State Police Command, for acts of professional misconduct including extortion and intimidation of innocent citizens,” he said.
“The operational vehicle of the men has also been impounded and disciplinary procedure has already commenced against the defaulters.”
SCOOPER had reported how scores of Nigerians including former vice president Atiku Abubakar and former Senate president Bukola Saraki said on Saturday that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad has become an oppressor of the people it should protect.
“The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigerian Police was set up to confront violent crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping and other related crimes. However, the unit has today morphed into an oppressor of the Nigerian masses who strive every day for a better life,” Atiku tweeted on Saturday.
“Reports of intimidation, harassment and outright extortion by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad have continued unabated.”
Amnesty International said in a 2016 report that victims of SARS brutality “are subjected to various methods of torture and ill-treatment in order to extract information and ‘confessions’.”
Although the Nigeria police say such acts contradict its responsibility to protect citizens and always issue sanctions to officers these cases of police brutality persist.
While the promised ‘stiffer punishment’ for culpable policemen is yet to be evident, a section of Nigerian leaders and youths continue to seek an end to police brutality.
“I strongly condemn their cruel actions against our people,” Atiku, Nigeria’s vice president from 1999 to 2007 said “I urge the government to rise to the occasion and nip this monstrosity in the bud with the seriousness it deserves.
“It’s expedient that the activities of SARS are reviewed to ensure that the rogue elements are excised from the unit and sanity returned to its operations.”
Saraki described the reports of the “continued harassment, illegal arrest, detention and high handedness by rogue cells of the SARS Unit of Police against innocent Nigerians – most of them young people – in spite of efforts to reform the Police & raise standards of policing” as disheartening.
Contrary to police responsibility, Saraki said the SARS unit officers have “become a threat to the lives and property of the very citizens they swore to protect is condemnable and unacceptable.
“I call on the Federal Government to immediately put a stop to these reprehensible activities and restructure the unit to better perform its lawful duties of safeguarding the lives and property of the Nigerian people.”
Nigeria’s youth and sports minister Sunday Dare however, said the government had been monitoring reports of the attacks by SARS, and promised that relevant government agencies will investigate the incidents.
“The ministry of youth and sports is worried about the menace, increasing harassments and attacks by SARS, especially targeted at youths and other innocent members of the public, and brought it to the attention of the relevant security agencies in Abuja,” Dare said in a statement by his spokesperson John Joshua-Akanj.
“The minister of youth and sports development, who has also been monitoring the reports of alleged SARS harassment and attacks, has called for immediate investigations that will unravel the truth.
“The ministry wishes to assure that this government, through relevant security agencies, will step into the matter to protect our youth and the fundament human rights of every Nigerian.”
Nigerian youths, mostly affected by the brutality via Twitter have declared #WarOnSARS with many sharing their experiences.