Last Tuesday, Nigerians were informed about the presidential directive on the immediate overhaul of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
Consequently, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, ordered the immediate overhauling of SARS across the country.
It was further learnt that from henceforth the outfit will be known as Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS). Thus, all SARS teams, according to reports, were collapsed under FSARS, with a new Commissioner of Police being appointed as the overall head of the renamed unit.
The FSARS, previously under the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), will now operate under the Department of Operations, Force Headquarters, Abuja. Under this arrangement, the Commissioner of Police, FSARS, will be answerable to the IGP through the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Department of Operations.
The IGP said the FSARS would be intelligence driven and would be restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery, kidnapping and the apprehension of offenders linked to offences ascribed to the above crimes.
The FSARS will operate in all the states and zonal commands under the Commissioner of Police, FSARS, at Force Headquarters, Abuja. A federal SARS Commander of the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police, but not below Superintendent of Police, will be in charge of FSARS in state and zonal commands across the country.
The overhauling of SARS came on the heels of widespread reports of human rights abuse and violation by the unit across the country. To say that SARS had long gone beyond their brief is to state the very obvious. Indeed, the unit had become an instrument of terror to hapless citizens of the country with their penchant for intimidating, brutalising and even killing people at the slightest excuse. This had led to the widespread clamour for their scrapping which, thankfully, the presidency had done.
However, to believe that all the alleged atrocious acts by officers in police uniform are perpetrated by SARS will not be fair to SARS. Members of SARS are also part of the country's Police Force. The difference is just in nomenclature.
The members of the mainstream police are equally as bad as their SARS counterparts. They have been known to commit the same despicable acts attributed to SARS operatives. Just recently in Agulu, Anamabra State, a police patrol team shot a man to death for allegedly refusing to give them gratification. Same had earlier happened in Okija, leading to a mob action on the erring police officer. It also happened in Ukpor, Nnewi South LGA, where a police man shot a man in his shop in both legs for staying ''late'' in his shop as if there was a curfew.
The police are known to extort money daily from commercial transport operators, just as they arbitrarily arrest people, especially at night, and force them to pay or be detained. They are also involved in brutalising people with whose taxes they are sustained.
Thus, what is needed is a change of attitude by the men in uniform. If their attitude remains unchanged, then no amount of baptism in the form of new names will do, just as the frequent change of uniforms by the police has not helped to redeem their image.
We believe therefore, that the recent clamp down on SARS will only achieve the needed result when the entire Police Force is overhauled. This is because the difference between the activities of SARS and that of the mainstream police is hardly noticeable.