Falana says it’s impossible to scrap SARS
Lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has revealed that it is impossible for the Federal Government to scrap the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in reaction to the ongoing campaign against the unit.
In a coordinated #EndSARS rally that took place in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Warri, Ibadan, Akwa, Makurdi, Jos, Kaduna and Owerri, on Monday, December 11, 2017, hundreds of Nigerians took to the streets to protest against the alleged brutality of the unit, and asked the government to scrap it.
While speaking on Channels Television on Tuesday, December 12, Falana said scrapping the unit is not as simple as many make it sound because the unit is very important to combating violent crimes in the country.
He said, “The Nigerian neo-colonial state cannot afford to scrap SARS, it is not possible. We have an increasing wave of armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, and other serious violent crimes which the regular police personnel have not been trained to curb or combat, therefore you are going to have SARS but it has to be totally overhauled.
“As it is constituted, it’s partly illegal under a democratic dispensation. Under the constitution, the duty of maintaining internal security, law and order in Nigeria is vested exclusively on the police. SARS is constituted by armed troops, soldiers and police personnel all over the country.
“Every state government maintains the SARS in the country and they have not bothered to find out what is this body doing in terms of law enforcement, combating armed robbery and other violent crimes, and performance in terms of respecting the rights of the Nigerian people.”
Before the protests on Monday, the wave of social media outrage against SARS resulted in the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, ordering for a reorganisation of the unit on Monday, December 4.
Echoing the concerns of many Nigerians about the effectiveness of the reform, Falana said there’s more to be done to see significant change in the conduct of officers.
He advised that reform must start from the training of recruits in the police college and that officers must be well-equipped to fight crime.
He said, “If you’re going to reform, you must remove the soldiers in SARS and retrain the police among them. You re-orientate them because they still behave as if we’re under a military dictatorship because SARS is a legacy of military dictatorship.
“You have to start from the police college. When you recruit a policeman/woman, you start by dehumanising him/her. The first thing if you recruit a young man, you shave the head to the skull in the police college. If it’s a woman, she cannot makeup and cannot marry until after three years.
“So you have such dehumanising practices in the police force, so you have to start from the police college, because no police college seriously teaches human rights.
“So when a police recruit graduates, he wants to have it back on the society that has dehumanised him/her, and that’s what happens in our country.
“It’s not a training that’ll be limited to operations, you have to start from the college; and when you graduate, you must equip the police personnel with the necessary tools to combat crime and that’s not going on yet.
“I must commend the IGP, Ibrahim Idris, because this is the first time that the Nigeria Police Force has admitted that SARS has to be reformed.
“But instead of promising a reform, all I’m asking for is full and religious compliance with the provisions of the administration of Criminal Justice Act.”
Under the new reform, state Commissioners of Police are now the overall heads of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide, meaning the unit now operates in the State and Zonal Commands with immediate effect.
The IGP also ordered for all SARS personnel nationwide to undergo a new training program to be organized in collaboration with some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Local and International NGOs, and other Human Rights Organizations.
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Counter-protesters support SARS
Counter-protesters were also out in full force on Monday in major cities such as Port Harcourt, Lagos, and Abuja, marching in support of reforming the unit and keeping them to continue to fight crimes.