Anti-SARS campaigners have rejected the directive of the Inspector-General of Police for the reorganisation of the embattled anti-robbery department, saying it is a measure a little too late.
Ibrahim Idris issued the directive on Monday afternoon for all police commissioners to cease issuing orders to SARS operatives at state level across the country, three days after Nigerians flooded the social media with grievous allegations of criminal conducts by SARS personnel.
Under the new arrangement, SARS officers will now be controlled by officers between the rank of a superintendent of police to chief superintendent of police at state level, according to details of the directive distributed by police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, Monday afternoon.
A commissioner of police will have the overall supervision of the department from the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
The squad has also been moved from Force Criminal Investigation Department to Department of Operations. All changes are effective immediately, Mr. Moshood stated.
All complaints against SARS officers will be investigated and errant officers will face disciplinary action, the directive promised.
But Segun Awosanya, one of the lead campaigners against alleged infractions by SARS, welcomed the move, but said it fell short at satisfying their demand.
“We thank the IGP for at least showing that he has the ears of the masses,” Mr. Awosanya told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Monday afternoon. “But he should realise that the police cannot be the judge in its own case and this matter is beyond him.”
Mr. Awosanya said Nigerians have long suffered a myriad of brutal assaults by SARS personnel, and nothing but an absolute closure would make up for its alleged atrocities.
“Based on all the evidence we’ve gathered over the years, it’s very clear that SARS cannot be redeemed,” he said. “You can’t just reshuffle men whose only approach to policing is brutality and expect them to change overnight.”
“A new special squad that would tackle armed robbery should be formed and new personnel with modern training be put in charge,” he added.
Mr. Awosanya and his team met with Speaker Yakubu Dogara in September to submit a petition which contained alleged abuses by SARS operatives. A copy of the petition was also delivered to Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Both men have promised action, Mr. Awosanya said.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar weighed in on the campaign on Sunday, expressing his sympathies for Nigerians, especially the youth, who have fallen victims of SARS operatives’ alleged uncivilised conduct.
On Monday, Mr. Abubakar, a 2019 presidential hopeful, said he had looked into all complaints which citizens raised on social media and vowed to take drastic measures if elected president.
“I spent last night reading the stories on this #EndSARS hash tag. I am deeply saddened and will do everything I can to help,” Mr. Abubakar said.
Mr. Awosanya said the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari must address the matter before the #EndSARS campaign would be relaxed.
Mr. Awosanya and others are planning a nationwide protest as part of the citizen-led initiative to end widespread impunity in the police.
In their statement Monday, the police rejected some of the allegations as untrue, insisting that SARS cannot be scrapped as demanded by citizens.
A security analyst, Mike Ejiofor, warned on Sunday that scrapping SARS as demanded by the campaigners could complicate insecurity challenges in the country.
He, however, admitted that a sweeping reform is necessary to make SARS operatives more civil, effective and professional in their conducts.