Estimated reading time: 18 minute(s)
There was outrage on Sunday over the alleged shooting of a young man in front of a hotel in Ughelli, Delta State, by men suspected to be of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS).
The #ENDSARS campaign has been strident in the last two years.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) and several prominent Nigerians condemned the activities of the dreaded police arm, some of whose members they said had become notorious for extortions at gunpoint.
The Vice President, who spoke to State House reporters at his Abuja residence, backed the decision of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to ban routine patrol of the FSARS and other tactical squads.
He deplored the “bad eggs of the Force” and urged the police to stick to their mandates.
The Vice President said: “I am very concerned, in fact, very angry about what I see happening to young men and women who are arrested, in some cases maimed or killed by men of the police force.”
Osinbajo, who had earlier met with the Inspector General of Police, said President Muhammadu Buhari was also displeased about such reports and is committed to reforms.
According to him, such violations are “completely unacceptable because these are individuals who are meant to protect Nigerians”.
He added: “The arrest, maiming or killing of young people or anyone at all, is completely wrong. It is unlawful and illegal, and anyone involved in this act ought to be investigated and prosecuted.
“It is very obvious that this is a major concern, a few bad eggs in the police force are causing all of these problems because it is all over the place, in different states. There is a need to take serious action.”
He urged civil society and activists to continue to bring such issues to the government’s attention.
In the video clips, a young man, held by a sympathiser, appeared unconscious with blood dripping from the sides of his head.
A lady was seen lying on the floor close to a shattered windscreen of a silver saloon car, while youths were seen chasing the Safe Delta Police vehicle and a white SUV, allegedly being driven by the one of the officers.
Nigerians on social media reignited the hashtag #EndSARS, with celebrities, actors, social media influencers, among others, all calling for the scrapping of SARS.
Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Minister of Youths and Sport Development, Sunday Dare, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a global rights group, Amnesty International, were among those who condemned the recurring SARS brutality.
Omo-Agege is saddened by the incessant cases of extrajudicial killings, harassment, illegal arrest and extortion of defenceless citizens by some officials attached to SARS in different parts of Nigeria.
He called on the police authorities to fish out the culprits for prosecution, stressing that this will serve as a deterrent to others.
Senator Saraki, in series of tweets, noted that the continuous reports of harassments and illegal arrest by the unit are disheartening.
He, however, urged the FG to restructure the unit.
Governor Sanwo-Olu said: “The safety of our residents is my number one duty as the Chief Security Officer of Lagos.
“So, reading reports of seemingly unlawful exploitation by the people charged to protect is very worrying and needs to be addressed immediately.”
Other celebrities who joined #ENDSARS call include Femi Kuti, Ayodeji Balogun alias Wizkid, David Adeleke (Davido), Michael Ajereh (Don Jazzy), Korede Bello, Douglas Agu (Runtown), Olamide Adedeji and Azeez Fashola aka Naira Marley, among others.
The IGP banned the personnel of the FSARS and other tactical squads of the Force, including the Special Tactical Squad (STS), Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Anti-Cultism Squad from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties.
Such duties, which include stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, among others, are to stop with immediate effect, according to a statement yesterday by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba.
Besides, no personnel of the Force are authorised to embark on patrols or tactical assignments in mufti, the statement indicated.
It reads: “They must always appear in their police uniforms or approved tactical gear. The IGP’s directives come against the backdrop of findings by the leadership of the Force that a few personnel of the tactical squads hide under these guises to perpetrate all forms of illegality, contrary to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement establishing the squads.
“Specifically, the IGP has warned the tactical squads against the invasion of the privacy of citizens particularly through the indiscriminate and unauthorised 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.
“The IGP notes that the 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.
“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.”
Mbah said two operatives of the FSARS and their civilian accomplice operating in Lagos State, Inspectors Sale James, 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.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), said the victim of Saturday’s viral shooting video, was alive.
In a series of tweets via his official twitter handle, he said the victim is currently receiving treatment at a hospital, having sustained injuries from falling off the Police van.
He said: “Whilst I totally condemn the extra-judicial killings by SARS and other Police outfits against defenceless citizens and call for comprehensive reforms and overhaul of the system, some facts of this case are as follows:
“The outfit involved in this case is called Operation Delta Safe and not SARS; the victim was not shot as confirmed by his brother, but fell out of the Police vehicle when being taken to the station after the arrest. The brother said he was pushed; the Police said he jumped.”