DISSOLUTION OF SARS: WHAT’S NEXT?
Following global protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS – the vicious Nigerian police unit tasked with protecting citizens against robbery and violent attacks, the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police Force finally bowed to collective pressures from #EndSars and dissolved SARS.
However, the road to proper dissolution may still be far as Nigerians are skeptical and rightly so, especially with the plethora of unanswered questions.
In the past three years, the IG of police has either disbanded or reformed SARS five (5) different times, but their brazen onslaught of innocent Nigerians grew after each supposed reform.
What are the guarantees that this time will be different? What happens to SARS officers found culpable? Why are there still killings in some parts of the country even after the resolution by the IG? And why hasn’t the President come out to address the people? While events of the past week present a critical juncture in citizens’ quest for national reform and good governance, some policy changes will have to take place in addition to the proffered resolutions of the Police Force to ensure sustainable outcomes in civilian security.
- Prior to redeploying officers of the defunct unit, an inquiry has to be set up to study the critical lapses that laid the foundation for this massive failure of trust. In addition to probing crimes committed against citizens, this investigative team should embark on an internal study of psychological and remunerable factors that may have played significant roles in these unfortunate outcomes and ensure collective redress.
- There should be training and re-training of staff of the Police Force especially those of the disbanded SARS before talks of possible redeployment.
- A legislative style public hearing and civic engagement process through the proposed Citizens and Strategic Stakeholders Forum. Given the central nature of citizens in a democratic-led government and the magnitude of allegations against SARS, instituting a new policing arrangement for tackling the offences of armed-robbery and violent crimes should be a collective function of input from the citizens, strategic stakeholders and the police.
- The Police Force should be realistic about the magnitude of work involved in policing over 200 million people from a centralized structure. Now more than ever, the need for a reform of the national police structure is paramount as the increased response time, bureaucracy, and inefficiency synonymous with this system continue to cost innocent lives. Ratifying a regional police system which many believe will be congruent with a federal administrator might just address these security lapses. Issues of funding, training, accountability, recruitment, remuneration and efficacy should have a better chance of expression in a devolved structure.
Finally, while Nigerians and stakeholders all over the world acknowledge the pivotal step of dismantling this ineffectual unit, they will undoubtedly be watching for what comes next. More than anything, the realization by Nigerian youths of their strength in numbers and the potential change that awaits a collective resolve is an awakening to watch.
Chinazo Muoneke (@ChinazoMuoneke)
Johns Hopkins University