Sunday, October 4, 2020 4:15 pm
…says, operatives no longer allowed to do routine patrols
…as Police Arrest 2 FSARS Operatives, 1 Civilian Accomplice in Lagos State
Many of them always behaved like cats in charge of pieces of tasty meat. As they were paraded, they looked woebegone the way cows that have seen knives would. They were supposed to fight crimes in the society, but they too engaged in them, using the instrumentality of their office. However, nemesis is always stalking evil doers.
That was the case when two operatives of the FSARS and their civilian accomplice operating in Lagos State, Inspectors Sale James, Monday Uchiola and Okechukwu Ogbonna, were arrested by the Lagos State Police Command, for acts of professional misconduct including extortion and intimidation of innocent citizens.
The operational vehicle of the men has, according to a press statement from IGP’s office, also been impounded and disciplinary procedure has already commenced against the defaulters.
It was for this reason and more that the Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu banned the personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other Tactical Squads of the Force including the Special Tactical Squad (STS), Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Anti-Cultism Squad and other Tactical Squads operating at the Federal, Zonal and Command levels, from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties – stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc – 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 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 indiscriminate and unauthorized 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.
The IGP has equally 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, will be held liable for any misconduct within their Area of Responsibility (AOR). He therefore charged them to ensure effective supervision and mentoring of the personnel of the Tactical Squads under their jurisdiction.
The IGP reaffirms his commitment to bequeathing to Nigerians, a reformed Police Force that is accountable, responsible and ever ready to defend and uphold the rights of the citizens while discharging its duties of keeping the people safe and secure. He enjoins the citizens not to allow the misconduct by a few personnel of the Force to negatively impact on their belief, confidence and trust in the Police.
Excesses of TSARS Operatives, according to Amnesty International
In a new report, Time to End Impunity, Amnesty International in June 2020, documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. The victims of the police unit, set up to fight violent crimes, are predominantly male between the ages of 18 and 35, from low-income backgrounds and vulnerable groups.
“The complete failure of Nigerian authorities to bring an end to the gross human rights violations perpetuated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad or to bring any SARS officer to justice is shocking and unacceptable. Nigerians are outraged by the systemic human rights violations perpetrated by the SARS with impunity,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“The systemic use of torture and other ill treatment by SARS officers for police investigations and the continued existence of torture chambers within the Nigerian Police Force points to an absolute disregard for international human rights laws and standards.”
Amnesty International’s investigation “reveals a disturbing pattern of abuse of detainees in SARS custody despite the 2017 Anti-Torture Act. In many cases, Amnesty International bore witness to the scars, bruises, and dried blood on victims’ bodies. Many of them were subjected to beatings with sticks and machetes and denied medical care.”
Amnesty International wrote further:
“In March 2017, 23-year-old Miracle was arrested and detained by SARS officers in Neni, Anambra State, southeast Nigeria, accused of the theft of a laptop. He was tortured and given hardly any food during the 40 days he was in detention before he was charged and brought before a court.
In October 2018, 24-year-old Sunday Bang, an amateur boxer was arrested in his home in Abuja, by SARS officers and accused of robbery. He was held in detention for 5 weeks without access to family, lawyers or medical care – and was not charged in court. While in SARS detention, he suffered bone fractures and other injuries due to torture and other ill treatment.
From extortion to stealing money and property
Across Nigeria, SARS officers have turned their duty to protect Nigerians into an opportunity for extortion and stealing money, property and other valuables belonging to suspects and their families. Since 2016, Amnesty International has documented 15 cases where SARS officers arbitrarily confiscated suspects’ property.
Young people between the ages of 17 and 30 are most at risk of arrest, torture or extortion by SARS. They are often accused of being internet fraudsters and/or armed robbers. Young men with dreadlocks, ripped jeans, tattoos, flashy cars or expensive gadgets are frequently targeted by SARS.”