By Malachy Uzendu
Last week on this column, I painted graphic picture of how Soldiers and Policemen posted to provide security across the country, abuse their uniforms, their offices and heap insult on the Service Chief and the Inspector-General of Police, transforming their official beats to points for extortion of Nigerians.
When I was doing the piece, I am fully convinced that I am not the first to bring up an expose on the disgusting attitude and show of shame our uniform personnel across the length and breadth of our country. Several top-notch columnists, rights activists have done so in the past. Several still photographs and video evidence of the disgusting act of our security personnel, whose primary assignment is to provide law and order, but who unfortunately are the greatest law breakers, have been made public.
In several instances, both the military and police high command have reacted and brought their men to order, but not with their initial denial of such acts of misdemeanor by their spokespersons. And this is what emboldens those guys who know too well that they are engaged in acts of criminality.
Otherwise, how could someone become too ashamed of performing an official assignment that he removes his name tag or covers such up with a sweater or pull-over cloth. Thos who mount road blocks and turn such place to toll collection point are fully aware of the negative implications of their nefarious act, but they do so ostensibly, and I need to be proved otherwise, that their supervisors are hand and glove in the crime with them. This is perhaps why the initial reaction is to protect their personnel, and even when proven, majority are merely transferred out of the beat, rather than shown the way out of the service. But, one whose father sent on a robbery spree usually uses his legs to break the doors. And so, the more the society complained, the more impunity they get as feedback.
But all these “gra-gra’ have maybe, come to an end. Yesterday, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, announced the disbandment of the notorious Special Anti-Crime Squad (SARS). Until Sunday afternoon, police operatives in SARS operate like the Robin Hood; Jack the Ripper, Oyenusi or Otondo. They are so shabbily dressed, looking more like hardened criminals themselves. They lace the tip of their riffle with red ribbon, akin to native doctors. They operate like James Bond. Several Nigerians have describes them as “kill and go” and it is so because they have so brutally terminated the lives of several citizens. Their nefarious activities will take several hundreds of pages to situate. They were purely the dreaded of the nation; complete misfit, not worthy to have existed at all.
Question is, why should a well-established agency of government set up special-purpose vehicle before they could accomplish their assignments? People they draft into such special purpose vehicle, were they trained in a different academy? Did they possess any special trait or intellect or endurance, which marked them out as special breed?
If the answers to the above questions are in the affirmative, it then means that ab initio, they were not to have been in that organization or agency. There is no gain saying that certain individuals are specially gifted. But, if they were selected to work in any establishment, is it not for those individuals to put their energies to task to accomplish the primary purpose for setting up such establishments in the first place? Are agencies primarily supposed to be populated by the dregs of the society, or are they not supposed to have been manned by competent and highly skilled professionals?
And so, why should we have all manner of special vehicle in the police or army? Common sense should have dictated that since we have the Criminal Investigation Department with various units, the CID should have just individuals who meet the criteria or who have the knack to work in the various units, instead of creating a band that on the first impression gives them out as outright criminals. SARS was evil incarnated from the onset. The mode of their operation was a Gestapo style. They lacked patience. They lacked decorum. They exude only fear and trepidation. And because they were ill-thought out, they had remained a nightmare. They only language they understand is lobby, kill, shoot, bribe, bring; nothing else.
And it took the police hierarchy all these long while to discover the tick on their bed? Where then is the intelligence which is the hallmark of policing? Haba! Killer quad existing for so long, killing hapless citizens and we claim that our intelligence systems are up and doing? We need to ask more questions in order to get appropriate answers, please.
As is the case with the police, so it is in the military. What do we find on our roads, brazen abuse of official uniforms by our soldiers. And unfortunately, several top-ranking military personnel move along these roads, see their subordinate personnel misbehaving, but look the other way. They know that those guys are in breach of the constitution. They know that they have converted points for apprehending criminals to mini commercial enterprises. Yet, they let all these happen, while criminals hold the country by the jugular, yet, we claim we don’t know the source of our problems?
While disbanding SARS, the IGP said: “the Nigeria Police leadership has, since the commencement of the protests, been engaging the leadership of some Civil Society Organisations with a view to initiating meaningful and wide-ranging discussions on the subjects of their concern”.
He added: “Following a review of the current developments, and in due cognizance of the wide and legitimately held concerns of well-meaning citizens on the existence and operations of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, as a responsive and citizens-oriented Police Force, it is hereby directed as follows: The Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police, otherwise known as SARS, is hereby dissolved across all Formations, the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where they currently exist.
“New policing arrangements to address the offences of armed robbery, and other violent crimes that fall within the mandate of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad shall be presented in due course”.
It remains to be seen how to stem the rot along our highways and streets, where routine police patrol team turn their pin-down point to extortion point. That is the crux of the matter. That SARS was misbehaving was because those who should discipline them failed to do so. If the IGP decides to discipline the erring SARS operatives, their supervisors should be held vicariously liable. Anything short of that will amount to a wild goose chase; we shall achieve nothing but come back to square one (square zero).