Since last year, numerous Nigerians have taken to social media to accuse officers of the unit of several misconducts ranging from harassment, extortion, assault to extra-judicial killings. This has led to relentless calls for the unit to be completely scrapped to ease the fears of Nigerians who live in dread of the unit.
In a statement issued by Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, the Acting President ordered the IGP to shut down the unit “with immediate effect”.
The statement read, “Following persistent complaints and reports on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that border on allegations of human rights violations, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, Acting-President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, has directed the Inspector General of Police to, with immediate effect, overhaul the management and activities of SARS and ensure that any unit that will emerge from the process, will be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more.
“The Acting President has also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Humanitarian Law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects. The operatives should also bear proper identification any time they are on duty.
“In the meantime, the Acting President has directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a Committee that will conduct nation-wide investigation of the alleged unlawful activities of SARS in order to afford members of the general public the opportunity to present their grievances with a view to ensuring redress.”
While speaking at a town hall meeting at the launch of National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, Clinics in Ibadan, Oyo State on June 26, 2018, Osinbajo had disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari was concerned with the operations of SARS and had already ordered a review of the unit.
The vice president further said the unit cannot be scrapped but be rehabilitated to curb the atrocities of the bad eggs.
End SARS campaign
When the earlier calls for the scrapping of the unit grew in December 2017, IGP Idris ordered the reorganisation of SARS’ operational roles and activities.
Under the reviewed arrangement, state Commissioners of Police were installed as overall heads of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide.
The IGP also ordered for all SARS personnel nationwide to undergo a new training program to be organized in collaboration with some civil society organisations, local and international NGOs, and other human rights organisations.
Despite the reorganisation, the calls to scrap the unit resurfaced again this year with the unit still operating with impunity that mostly targeted Nigerian youths.