What It Means When the Police Say They are Dissolving SARS
The protests of young Nigerians have yielded some results: the Nigerian Police has announced that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is being dissolved.
The Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu shared the news on Sunday, and the police released a statement too.
It’s stuff to rejoice to—except, wait, did you read the caveats?
The “5 Things to Know about the Dissolution”? states a couple of ways this “dissolution” will take place.
It says these officers will remain with the Nigerian Police Force, redeployed to other Police Commands and Formations and Units. It isn’t stated expressly what commands and units and formations these men who kidnap, assault and kill citizens will be assigned to, but it’s possible, since they will remain with the police force, that they will remain on our streets, able to continue to kidnap, assault and kill Nigerians.
There’s also the 3rd point, which states that a new policing arrangement to tackle armed robbery and other crimes will be unveiled soon. Which means there’s the possibility that these men who are to leave the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad will be absorbed by this new “policing arrangement,” essentially making this dissolution into a mere name change.
Back in 2018, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo directed that the squad be overhauled. It was then that their name was changed to F(ederal)-SARS.
Announcing this overhaul 2 years ago, the same points made in 4 and 5 on the “5 Things” list also appear on that police statement—Civil Society Organizations to constitute commissions where human right violations would be investigated. It was also promised that F-SARS officers would stop performing Stop and Search operations, except in cases of distress calls. And we know how that ended.
Reformed. Overhauled. Banned. Disbanded. Dissolved—it’s all the same language, with no real strategies put in place to ensure the safety of the populace.
There are people on social media saying that these men had to be redeployed, that if not, they’d turn into full blown armed robbers. It is difficult to see this as a comfort—to know that people who would otherwise invade our homes with assorted weapons are the ones pretending to protect us. (If you need any proof that this is not a sustainable notion, see the fact that we’re currently protesting these people kidnapping and killing us.) It’s not an either-or situation. Why should we be confined to these two options—armed robber or killer police?
Nothing also was said about the general reformation of the police force. At the #EndSARS protest in Ogbomoso on Sunday, it wasn’t a SARS officer who opened fire on and killed Jimoh Isiaq. Evidence to the fact that these people, the government and the police (can one be removed from the other?), do not hear what we’re saying. They only see that tag “#EndSARS,” they don’t know what it means.
If they want us to stop the protests, they have to be clear on what the dissolution means. What are they going to do to make sure there is not another Kolade Johnson. Tina Ezekwe. We need actionable points, a timeline of things, clear strategies that will prove to us that yes, I can step out today without fear of being killed by the police. It really is not as difficult as they are making it seem, and you start to wonder if these non-reforms are due to a poverty of ideas, or an indifference to the killings of the people—both of them terrifying traits for a force meant to protect us to have.
What changes now that “F-SARS” no longer exists? Will those men no longer walk our streets? Will their weapons be taken away from them? Will they be camped and retrained? Will their welfare packages be improved upon? Or will they simply be taken off our streets for a while, and then returned with new names and new uniforms? What’s that cliché about old wines and new wine skins? Except, in this case, it’s our heads that will be broken as they continue to shoot us.