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The SARS/SWAT Swap: Any Change?

Following the #EndSARS protests rocking the nation for days now the notorious (Federal) Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was summarily disbanded last Sunday, October 11th 2020. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had announced on the national TV that SARS had been dissolved and that the officers would be redeployed to other police units and formations in the Nigerian police force.

However, days later the IGP came up with another paramilitary outfit to replace SARS, the Special Weapons and Tactics team (SWAT). With tensions mounting on the streets across the federation President Muhammadu Buhari had declared unconvincingly that the disbandment of SARS was only the first step in his administration’s commitment to extensive police reforms.

Announcing the emergence of SWAT in the place of SARS the IGP had ordered all personnel of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad to report at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, for debriefing and psychological and medical examination. He equally said that officers were expected to undergo this process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties.

While very few Nigerians were jubilating over the SARS dissolution and the SARS-SWAT swap the general mood of protesters occupying many cities and towns in Nigeria had been that of skepticism and pessimism. No one trusts our political elite because they have all ‘sinned’ and come short of the national glory!

The popular argument on the streets was that the disbandment of SARS with the criminal elements constituting majority of the discredited squad to be re-assigned to other police departments represented little or no change in the corrupt dehumanizing system of law enforcement in the country in general.

So, if the reluctant dissolution happened to be just an exercise to calm down frayed nerves with little or nothing changing fundamentally and operationally then it was cheap and simple a decision. IGP Adamu would have been taken seriously if he had told us about the scrapping of SARS accompanied with a detailed probe of their extra-judicial crimes with the patriotic objective of serving justice in the end.

The disbanded SARS had committed innumerable atrocities against Nigerians. Their storied terrorism never started last Sunday when Adamu acted belatedly. Thousands of our compatriots had been killed extra-judicially by these uncontrollable armed mad men over the years. And thousands more are still languishing inside their secret cells and gulags. Many had been tortured, extorted or violated. SARS were brutal and ruthless in their activities.

Some of the deranged officers played god, acted as the accusers, prosecutors and the judges! In SARS you had glorified retired bandits that knew every banditry trick in the book. You had soulless torturers and judges who sentenced abducted or arrested ‘criminals’ to death by firing squad! Those lucky to have survived the SARS torture cells told stories of hell on earth!

Yet the major problem may not wholly be SARS but a system that allowed SARS to operate like a Gestapo police, lawlessly and disorderly disorganized. That is why a comprehensive reform of the police service in the nation ought to be an imposing task worth demonstrating for and dying for if need be! Let the protests, therefore, continue until the system crumbles.

Read also: Hustlers have taken over #EndSARS movement

In other climes, sane and democratic, the many brutal excesses of SARS could have since led to a revolution, violent or peaceful. But Nigeria operates a system that kills dreams, reduces life spans and encourages frustrations. The illusion of democracy or development has since been proven to be a propaganda by the misruling class hell-bent on perpetuating a fraudulent system in which they prosper.

While we recognise in all fairness that violent armed robbery, kidnapping and banditry in general could have been worse without SARS we hold that, most times, they went about their otherwise professional duty unprofessionally taking innocent lives and prisoners with criminal impunity. And it is that criminal impunity that is at the heart of the popular #EndSARS national crusade.

While Governors of states in the northern part of Nigeria have reportedly rejected the total disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja today the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, in a statement on Wednesday night had labelled the protesters as “subversive elements and trouble makers” pledging the army’s loyalty to the President! Loyalty to Buharism and not to Nigerians!

The ultimate question, given the prevailing circumstances, is: does SARS now metaphorically represent an old wine packaged or re-packaged in a new bottle and labelled with a new name, SWAT? Only time would tell but suffice to say that the disbanded squad had committed more crimes than the criminals they were meant to apprehend or subdue.

Whatever happens in the nearer future Nigerians deserve commendation for their determination and courage, despite those already manhandled or killed, in the campaign to end SARS. But now that SARS has ended what has changed? Nothing, in our reckoning! President Buhari and IG Adamu are taking Nigerians for a ride.

We are convinced, however, that if Nigerians could do it for those killed brutally and those tortured or still suffering detention in the hands of the defunct SARS then they can do it for better governance of our country. Is it not time, therefore, folks, for the hashtag #EndBuharism to trend globally online?

As SARS ‘dies’ let Buharism follow suit for Nigeria to be totally liberated from political vultures and executive parasites. Nigeria deserves to be ‘freed’ from the present leadership morass at the centre. And Nigerians deserve better going forward.

Between SARS and SWAT there could not be any change because Nigeria is not working and cannot work unless fundamental constitutional change (restructuring) is introduced into our chaotic body polity. Tomorrow may be too late for issues to be settled with reason rather than treason!

AUTHOR: SOC Okenwa…


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