Nigerians must push further by insisting on a purge of the entire police, writes Fredrick Nwabufo

The affliction called “the special anti-robbery squad (SARS)’’ has become resistant to every divined antidote. It was set up to treat the pestilence of armed robbery and other violent crimes. But the police unit became the behemoth of organised criminality. It became the canker it was commissioned to extirpate.

There have been many accounts of criminality and extra-judicial exertion by this police unit. But there is only a trickle of detail on the prosecution of these dispatchers of death by the police authorities. I must say, the police leadership is complicit in the SARS menace. The force is aiding its criminal minds in taking flight from justice.

In one year, between March 2019 and February 2020, the police, particularly the ill-reputed SARS, have caused the untimely death of 92 Nigerians – according to the Council on Foreign Relations (a non-profit US think tank). Some of the prominent reasons for the killings are “refusal to give a bribe, argument and accidental discharge’’.

Sadly, no single police officer involved in these abominable executions has been handed to the whipping post. This is where I am concerned, and why I strongly believe the police leadership is in cahoots with its men on the terrorism against citizens.

An example is the case of Ogar Jumbo, an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), who was mauled to eternal exit by police officers at Nyanya, Abuja while taking his children to school in March 2019.

Months after the murder, Desmond Jumbo, brother of the deceased, told TheCable, an online newspaper, that the last time his family heard from the police regarding the case was only the day after his sibling was bludgeoned to death. According to him, “no contact (by the police), nothing; even when he was buried. It was only the day after it happened that the DPO (divisional police officer) visited but many people in the area were very angry with him,” Desmond said. He (the DPO) now went back to the Abuja command and lied that they wanted to kill him. And, of course, they were hiding under the excuse that the place was not secure, and they didn’t reach out. I am his elder brother and living directly behind the Garki police command, but they didn’t do anything.”

He also revealed that the case against the policemen involved in the murder had been sputtering for some contrived reasons. He said with note of hopelessness: “The police were not happy; they did not show up in the last hearing.’’

Another interesting instance of police hierarchy conspiracy is that of Kolade Johnson, the football enthusiast, who was felled by the guilty bullets of some SARS operatives at a viewing centre in Lagos on March 31, 2019. Boluwade, Jonhnson’s elder brother, had said (as of June) the last time the family heard from the police was only two months after his death — when they couriered a condolence letter.

He said with depressing finality: “Since then, no one has showed up. The police have never called the family since then. There was no compensation. It is only the governor that was showing up from time to time.’’ And on the killer police officer, the brother of the deceased wryly said: “They say he is in prison but whenever he comes to court, he is looking like he is in a hotel.’’

Really, it is unimpeachable to say that the Nigerian police is the worst in the world. International Police Science Association and the Institute for Economics and Peace corroborated this fact in their latest World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI). As a matter of fact, the police are diseased at all levels of their hierarchy.

Okechukwu Nwanguma, executive director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), a group advocating reforms in the force, puts a perspective to police leadership complicity in the criminality of its men in an interview with TheCable. He explained: “Police brutality is like an epidemic because of the unwillingness of the police to punish the officers involved and also because of lack of adequate legal framework. The moment these cases go to court, there is no way of monitoring and following up.

“There have been cases where police officers charged to court disappear because nobody is monitoring or following up. A DPO was involved in murder and ran away; a court issued an arrest warrant and the police said they did not know his whereabouts. Two years later, the man was located at zone nine in Umuahia where he was serving in the office of the provost, who is in charge of disciplinary measures.”

So, it is clear as we advocate the amputation of the gangrenous SARS, we must push our luck further by insisting on a purge of the entire police. Our police force is in dire need of vacuuming. The septic characters in the security agency are a bigger problem than the unit upon which they traffic in perfidy. So, if we eliminate SARS without expelling the rotten eggs, we are only deodorising a ghastly matter. They will only regroup under another police outfit.

So, while we apply: Strategic Antidoting and Removal of the Sore (SARS) to the SARS menace, we must look deeper and not soar away on righteous emotions.

Vacuum the police!

Nwabufo is a writer and journalist