After months of social media pressure from Nigerians for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to be scrapped, the federal government has ordered an ‘overhaul’.
For months, Nigerians raised alarm over a string of misconducts carried out by officers of the unit ranging from harassment, extortion, assault to extra-judicial killings.
On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, directed the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to “overhaul the management and activities” of the notorious Police unit
While many Nigerians jubilated over what is perceived to be an end of the unit, many expressed confusion with what the ‘overhaul’ meant exactly.
Later on Tuesday, the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, released a statement where he detailed the steps the Force has taken to heed Osinbajo’s ‘overhaul’ directive.
Here’s a list of the new changes announced by the Police:
1. The unit will now be known as Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS). “All SARS teams nationwide have been collapsed under FSARS,” read the statement.
2. A new Commissioner of Police has been appointed as the overall head of FSARS nationwide. The Commissioner of Police (FSARS) is answerable to the Inspector General of Police through the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Department of Operations.
3. The FSARS, previously under the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (FCIID), is henceforth to operate under the Department of Operations, Force Headquarters Abuja.
4. As directed by Osinbajo, the FSARS will be intelligence-driven and will be restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery, kidnapping and the apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences only.
5. New FSARS Commanders will be appointed across the country and operate in the State and Zonal Commands under the Commissioner of Police (F-SARS) at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. A Federal SARS Commander of a Rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) but not below Superintendent of Police (SP) will be in charge of FSARS in State and Zonal Commands across the Country.
6. There will be Human Rights Desk Officers for FSARS in every State to take complaints from the public and forward same to Force Headquarters, the officer will be answerable to the Commissioner of Police (FSARS) at the Force Headquarters and not Commander FSARS in the States.
7. Medical/psychological evaluation of all FSARS personnel will be carried out immediately.
8. Redesigning of new uniform with identity name tags for all FSARS personnel throughout the country will be done immediately.
9. FSARS personnel will not perform Stop and Search duties except on distress call to respond to armed robbery and kidnapping offences only.
When the earlier calls for the scrapping of the unit peaked in December 2017, IGP Idris ordered the reorganisation of SARS’ operational roles and activities.
Under the reviewed arrangement, many of the measures that were announced last year were also announced again in Tuesday’s statement like they were new measures being put in place.
The only new directives that were not explicitly announced in December but on Tuesday are numbers 4, 7, 8 and 9 on this list.