Amid the unrest over Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) alleged extra-judicial killing in Delta State, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, says officers attached to the outfit will be compelled to sign an undertaking to be of good behavior.
Odumosu said arrangements were on ground to ensure compliance with immediate effect just as a former Police Commissioner in Lagos State, Fatai Owoseni, claimed that the police leadership encourages extra-judicial activities in SARS.
According to Owoseni, such officers using extra-judicial means to carry out their duties are called “super cops”.
There have been calls for the disbandment of SARS at state and federal levels since the Delta incident and protests in some states.
The anti-SARS protest in Delta turned violent late last week, leading to the death of one police officer.
Also last week, the fury that attended SARS alleged extra-judicial killings forced the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to roll out measures to curb the squad’s alleged excesses while suspending road blocks and stop and search.
“In the course of repositioning SARS in Lagos, I had a marathon meeting with my officers, Area Commanders, Tactical Commanders and Heads of various departments to move into action and enforce compliance immediately”, the Lagos CP said during a television programme.
“Besides the directive, there will be a monitoring team for enforcement’.
Speaking with assurance that it will not turn out to be like similar orders that were not complied with, he noted that there will be more supervision now than what it used to be.
“Additional directive given by me is that they must not go for operation without booking their arrival at the Area Commander’s Office within the place, so that the officer would know when and how they operate. “Secondly, they must not detain anybody in their cell any longer. They can only detain a suspect at the Area Commander’s Office or at my office at the State Headquarters.
“All the SARS officers in my command will also sign an undertaking in writing which will be used against them in case they go against the operational code of ethics.”
On the issue of policemen operating on the roads without uniform, Odumosu disclosed that some units’ members ordinarily should not wear uniform while on duty.
But he also noted that all members of SARS and Anti-kidnapping Units must put on uniform during operation for identification.
“We have two units of SARS, federal and state, but in terms of going against the ethics of the profession, any superior officer like me can deal with them”, the CP said.
“We also give both units directives, and I always implore the public that once there seems to be any infraction, they should let the authorities know.
“Operatives must always go out in uniform and it must be relatively in pursuant of criminals in the community they are to operate.
“They no longer have the authority to stop any vehicle on the road for search.
“They can only move out now when there is information or distress call”.
On his part, Owoseni stated that ending SARS, as demanded by aggrieved people over alleged extra-judicial killings, will not solve crime problem, urging critical auditing and restructuring of SARS to give it facelift instead of outright ban.
“Outright ban is not the best way to go. I think what the police should do is probably audit the oversight of the internal mechanism that is in place”, the former Lagos CP said on the same programme where Odumosu spoke.
Explaining what has gone wrong with SARS, he said: “What is happening is that the police have refused to discharge their duties in accordance with the extant rules and regulations.
“The so-called FSARS has rules and regulations that guide them. They are consistently trained to abide with this rule.
“And when issues like this happens, nobody goes back to check the measures to see the level of compliance.
“Everybody now in the Tactical Unit whose job is not necessary has decided to wear T-shirts; either they put ‘Gallant’ or ‘Mopol’ on it which is wrong.
“You will find out that Commanders at the state level don’t bother to even check what these guys are doing, to the extent that once you see some bad looking policeman on road, everybody says it is SARS.
“FSARS or SARS in itself is not bad as portrayed, but you find out that at the divisional levels, DPOs and their men are fond of wearing T-shirts and, once you see them on the road, everybody calls them SARS.
“The last time this uncomely behavior became viral, the Office of the Vice President set up a committee and I am aware that the Office of the National Security Adviser did the same thing.
“Measures were rolled out but the compliance units did not bother to comply.
“Some of us fought this issue in the commission for the leadership not to create unnecessary problems.
“You see people working with SARS moving from one station to another circulating violence. We also have a society that is now militarized.
“The Special Anti-Robbery Squad is supposing to work based on intelligence, not just to go on the road.
“This is not done anywhere in the world, where a police man would stand on the road and be checking people’s telephones.
“This challenge continues as long as the police leadership favours officers that use extra-judicial means to carry out duty and count them as super cops.
“With these, they encourage all sorts of things that happen in the command.
“To be drafted to the Federal SARS, the condition is that you must have served for a period of three years in the force.
“But you now, a new constable cadet is taken and posted to SARS and other squads.
“I may not want to blame the leaders for this because during posting, letters come from all quarters requesting one thing and another.
“The police authorities must stand their ground to say that they want to work within the extant rules and regulations”.
Asked about how SARS can achieve its purpose, Owoseni answered, “You have all sorts of laws that have not been enforced or implemented. So also with the institutions we have now.
“Directives are issued out and no one implements.
“Some Commissioners of Police don’t even know that they have responsibility for all the police contingents in their states.
“Some of us took the challenge when an IG said SARS should be reporting to headquarters and I resisted it in Lagos.
“You must know what you have as power within the Constitution.
“Some of the Commissioners of Police, sad to say, do not know that they have authority.
“You have Commissioners who are not ready to speak the truth to the leadership.
“And, of course, they will not allow their junior officers and DPOs under them to speak the truth.
“In Lagos, we didn’t have Anti-cultism Squad during my period.
“In Ogun State, they have all sorts of units that are not necessary.
“Police regulation is there as a guide. But they have deviated from the original thing.
“That is what the leadership should sit down on and audit; that is, the internal audit mechanism and know how they can implement it.
“We should not have gotten to this level in the first place. Of course while doing that, the society needs to be enlightened because the society is militarized.
“The country may go into violence now that there is a directive that no policeman should be on the road.
“A former IG, Mr. Arase, designed uniform for them to know who the real SARS is.
“Some Commissioners of Police in the states have refused for one reason or the other to abide.
“The leadership of the police should be held responsible for their lack of supervision. The leadership must also take those officers accountable for that.
“The Force leadership over compensates violence; officers that do extra-judicial killings, those are the ones that even the press and the public celebrate.
“Once you do that, the young officer would think the best way to grow in the institution is to kill people and get promotion. We must stop that.
“All those units created have extant rules that they work with. The regulations are there. You cannot serve in SARS or Criminal Investigation Department, CID, if you have not served up to three years. “But now, new boys are drafted into these units with violence intents, compensated and called super power cops. There must be procedures based on professional knowledge”.
The former CP added: “Basically, part of the problem is that routine police work is turned into specialized police work, and huge population of officers is moved there.
“Checkpoint operation is very unnecessary. Patrol duty is better than checkpoints.
“In civilized society, you don’t really have checkpoints except for a short time operation caused by an emergency.
“Patrol is a better option. Such duties are done without Tactical Units.
“If the police really want to address the issue, there must be a system of monitoring.
“The internal oversight must be strengthened. People should not be posted into the offices of the provost for punitive reasons.
“It is so bad now that all the police are interested in wearing all manners of jackets and T-shirts, carrying guns on the road. Nigerians are not animals.
“Zonal Offices are created for administrative purpose, but I see AIGs in Zonal Offices compete with Commissioners of Police in duties now. It is wrong.
“Duties must be discharged within the context of the extant rules and regulations and we must bring people into account for doing wrong things. “We must also stop the proliferation of uniforms. I notice with dismay that when a new unit is created, they assigned a uniform to it.
“It is also noticeable that many people who are not policemen wear T-shirts designed with ‘Gallant’ or ‘Mopol’ on them”.
Speaking on why CPs and DPOs can’t control FSARS and SARS, Owoseni explained, “It is because Commissioners don’t know their powers as enshrined in the Constitution.
“It is one of the things that make some of us run into trouble with the Force leadership.
“A Commissioner in a Command has great responsibility of oversight and mechanism of all the police units in a state and should take responsibility.
“It is a constitutional thing. All sorts of uniforms that police wear now are not made by Force order.
“We have a dress code. But it is disheartening that some officers wear all sorts of caps, shoes and anything as uniform. We must stop that. And we must re-educate our people.
“Nigerians must also help to reduce the violence in the society. When you get information that ‘area boys’ are fighting and, on getting there, you notice that they are throwing stones, using all kinds of weapon, the crowd will be agitating for a uniformed Mopol or SARS, and not the normal uniformed police.
“That’s wrong and it is not the way to go. There are laws to guide all these abuses. We should stop setting up panels and measures that we don’t enforce”.
You Can’t Reform The Police Without Reforming The People Too.