Nigerians waged their collective outrage against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad this weekend, following a renewed onslaught on citizens by rogue officers within its ranks.
Many social media users were seething as they reignited the #EndSARS hashtag to demand outright scrapping of the unit after simultaneous police killings in Delta and Abuja on Saturday.
A video that circulated on the Internet this weekend captured SARS operatives fleeing the scene of a young man they fatally shot in Ughelli.
The Gazette also reported the killing of a civilian in a beer parlour in Apo-Dutse, Abuja, by an inebriated police inspector.
This followed the murder of an unarmed 20-year-old man last Saturday by police officers in the Elelenwo neighbourhood of Port Harcourt.
Among prominent voices who denounced the cruelty of SARS agents are former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, immediate past Senate President Bukola Saraki, Minister of Youth and Sports Sunday Dare, afrobeat singer Femi Kuti and human rights activist Segun Awosanya.
Describing the Special Anti-Robbery Squad as an oppressor of the Nigerian masses, Mr. Abubakar said: “I strongly condemn their cruel actions against our people, and I urge the government to rise to the occasion and nip this monstrosity in the bud with the seriousness it deserves.”
“It is expedient that the activities of SARS are reviewed to ensure that the rogue elements are excised from the unit and sanity returned to its operations.”
On his part, Mr. Saraki stated that the reports of continued harassment, illegal arrest, detention and high handedness by rogue officers of the SARS Unit against the Nigerian people — despite efforts to reform the Police are disheartening.
“I call on the Federal Government to immediately put a stop to these reprehensible activities and restructure the unit to better perform its lawful duties of safeguarding the lives and property of the Nigerian people”, he said.
Mr. Dare assured that the government, through relevant security agencies, will step into the matter to protect the youth and the fundamental human rights of every Nigerian.
Femi, the eldest son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela, queried how many Nigerian lives will be wasted before the eventual reformation of the police force.
“How many more innocent people must SARS/the police kill before urgent steps are taken to completely overhaul and reform the entire police force? Obviously the government and their families are safe because they are nonchalant and indifferent.” Femi said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Awosanya has called for the resignation of the police Inspector General.
“The call for the resignation of the IGP would be in order if no action is taken immediately on these murders with sanctions on the direct supervisors of these rogue officers”, the rights activist said.
SARS, a unit established to combat robbery, kidnapping and other armed attacks on citizens, has come under public condemnation for over two decades.
In 2010, a research by Human Rights Watch exposed a string of grievous human rights abuses linked to the dreaded police squad across Nigeria. The unit is blamed for perpetrating armed robbery, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail, racketeering and even murder — the same set of crises it was created to check.
Mr. Awosanya began the advocacy to clean the police of unscrupulous and deadly officers in 2017. But despite repeated attempts at restructuring, the crisis has worsened.
Since November 2017 when the #EndSARS campaign caught the attention of most Nigerians online, the unit has been blamed for most of the fatal attacks linked to the police, including the killing of Kolade Johnson in Lagos.
Inspector-General Muhammad Adamu said the police would soon find a sustainable way of addressing the crisis, but Nigerians want an end to SARS before it is too late.