At long last, it seems action is being taken to curtail the dastardly activities of some police outfits which have constituted, not just a great nuisance to members of the public and the country, but accounted for loss of innocent lives.
Many people in Nigeria do not need to be told about the notoriety of such police special outfits like Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and such other tactical squads of the Force, including the Special Tactical Squad (STS); Intelligence Response Team (IRT); Anti-Cultism Squad
among a few others. These special squads have been giving nightmares to the people they are supposed to be protecting and despite persistent protestations by groups and individuals, nothing seemed to have been done.
But recently the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu, finally hearkened to the voice of reason and came up with stringent measures to curtail their activities.
The FSARS and other tactical squads of the Force operating at the federal, zonal and command levels have been banned from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties like stop and search, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, among others, with immediate effect.
In addition, no personnel of the Force is authorized to embark on patrols or tactical assignments in mufti. They must always appear in their police uniforms or approved tactical gear.
The IGP’s directives came 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, Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement establishing the squads.
Specifically, the IGP 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.
According to him, they are to concentrate and respond only to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes when the need arises, even as he condemned every act of unprofessionalism, abuse of human rights and high-handedness by some personnel of the squads.
Consequently, he has 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 and ensure prompt arrest, investigation and prosecution of all such erring police officers who violate the aforementioned directives and other extant regulations of the Force.
The IGP also 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, would be held liable for any misconduct within their Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Like many Nigerians, we welcome the decision of the IGP and note that this was something many Nigerians had been praying and hoping for. The activities of many of these operatives leave much to be desired and it is only just that the police hierarchy should lead the charge for a halt to the nefarious activities of the men in uniform. It is clear that they do not understand the responsibility that goes with their uniform and since such has largely been the case, it is good that action is being taken to remind them, albeit the hard way.
We only hope that the monitoring team set up for that task will live true to their duty and not sweep anything under the carpet. We are concerned because many such directives have always been flouted.
We recall the ban on the use of sirens by unauthorized persons which is being flouted on a daily basis with virtually nothing being done.
The nation’s security agencies need to be schooled in the art of tolerance, civility and respect for the rights of individuals. We are happy that we seem to be on the way to doing that.