v Says:Police creation of SWAT’ is putting old wine in new skin

The Association of South East Town Union (ASETU) has observed or rather contended that the recent purported ban on the controversial terror striking police unit code named “Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS)”, and creation of a new unit by the force headquarters now code named “Special Weapons and Tactical Team (SWAT), does not mean the end of the activities in the squad but an indicative of putting an old wine in a new skin as there are no assurances that police brutality, harassment, illegal arrest and detention extortion and extra judicial killings would stop, soon or ever stop in this country.

Reacting to the nationwide protests embarked on by youths in various state capitals, against the unholy, unjust and inhuman activities of the I.Gs Special Squad “SARS”, culminating in several reported man handling and extrajudicial killings in parts of the federation which have resulted in the disbandment of the unit by the Inspector General of Police, following an order from the presidency, and the formation of a new unit also with arms, the association contended that the nagging issue of police harassment and killings has not been resolved, nor is it ever going to abate with time.

In a public statement issued in Owerri, the Imo State capital on Wednesday October 14, 2020 and made available to the media, signed by National President, Chief Emeka Diwe, the union stated that government by its reaction has only shielded men of the nefarious “SARS” from judicial prosecution from their many nefarious crimes against law abiding and peace loving Nigerian.

The statement reads, “we have observed with great shock, the manner in which the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the purported dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force, and hurriedly replaced same with the Special Weapons And Tactical Team (SWAT). To say the very least, it is bizarre, suspicious, ill thought out and grossly an incentive to the escalation of violent crimes in Nigeria.

In the first place, the agitations across Nigeria have not been about the dissolution and reintegration of men of SARS into other units and formations of the Nigeria Police. The agitations arose in condemnation of the reprehensible acts, flagrant human rights violations and indefensible atrocities of these men. What Nigerians despise is not the name “SARS”.  What Nigerians want in essence is an end to police brutality and sundry other human rights abuses; such extortions, extra judicial killings they want law enforcement agents who have been involved in these nefarious acts to be brought to book. By dissolving SARS and reintegrating them into the various other units of the police, the IGP has only created a whitewashed tomb. This is putting old wine in a new wineskin.

He has forever hidden the criminal elements within the defunct SARS from the public, absolved the rogue policemen of culpability and has sought to clothe unrepentant sinners with apparels of saints. What the IGP has done is similar to changing the dress of a thief just to shield him from public outcry for his arrest. This is unacceptable 

It is deeply worrisome that instead of first putting in motion an arrangement to investigate the allegations of abuses perpetrated by men of SARS, the IGP hurriedly announced that he had disbanded them. By this singular move, the IGP has concealed many years of atrocities by these men, and set them completely free.

Again, the manner that the so-called disbandment of SARS has been done appears more like a political action instead of a comprehensive security measure. Nobody is in doubt that there is need for a unit of the police which should specialize in combating high-risk crimes like armed robbery. This is the tradition the world over. However, the action of the IGP in dissolving SARS without first raising and training a new dedicated unit to combat violent crimes has created a security lacuna of extremely dangerous proportions. What will be the fate of Nigerians between now and when the IGP will eventually come up with a new policing arrangement to address the issue of armed robbery?

Our contention is that the scrapping of SARS, which has been done without first addressing the fundamental questions of abuse and brutality, seems engineered from above to give a soft landing to a notorious gang of untrained policemen who have serially killed, robbed and maimed Nigerians. It has not in any way spoken to the issue of better policing, and it has further compounded the trouble with the police in Nigeria”.