Last Monday was indeed an intriguing day for ordinary citizens in Anambra State. It was a day two prominent groups trooped out at different venues in response to the on-going debate in the country over the retention or otherwise of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the police.
While one group backed the retention of the outfit, but with the carrying out of reforms, another group which called itself #Ourmumudondu, called for an outright scrapping of the outfit which it accused of extra-judicial killings and other acts of impunity.
We believe the two groups are right in some aspects of their demand. There is hardly any Nigerian who does not know, or who has not heard, about the atrocious activities of SARS personnel across the country. Very often, Nigerians have been regaled with stories by victims of their ordeal in the hands of these people. To say that the SARS unit of the Nigeria Police has become an instrument of sheer terror to hapless Nigerians is to make the greatest understatement. They have not only been extorting huge sums of money from victims after random arrests, they have also been known to kill those who have no money to give. Thus any argument against the continued retention of this outfit is very much justified.
But then, what the personnel of SARS have been doing is what happens in the police itself, as well as in many other security agencies. Thus, to ban SARS on account of their brutality will also lead to the banning or scrapping of other forces.
This is where we align with those who call for the carrying out of reforms in the operation of SARS. SARS was established to carry out special operations against armed robbers, probably due to the need to have an outfit specially dedicated to that.
Initially, many people had lauded the initiative, especially with early results. But as is the case in this country, no good thing lasts. Very soon SARS became as bad as its parent body, the police; even worse. Today, the calls for its disbandment have not come as a surprise.
However, having noted that the problem with SARS is the problem with other such outfits, scrapping it will amount to throwing out the baby with the bath water. If it is scrapped because of its activities, does it mean that the police, the mobile police, the customs and others like them will equally go? It is improbable, as that will leave the country bare of security.
What therefore needs to be done is to overhaul the operations of not only SARS, but all other security agencies which have become instruments of intimidation, oppression, and all that is bad. They have turned on those they are supposed to protect. Without such an overhaul, which will include meting out adequate punishment to offenders, future outfits will still end up in the same way those they replaced ended up and the cycle will continue.
We therefore posit that rather than scrap SARS, the outfit should be remoulded in order to give Nigerians the kind of service they expect.