Mike Okiro, chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), says although the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) has been bastardised, it cannot be scrapped.
According to Okiro, SARS started around 1991 when Shina Rambo, a notorious armed robber, held sway in the criminal underworld.
“There was no way to stop him. So, I and the then commissioner, Ademola, came up with the special anti-robbery squad,” he said in an interview with Daily Trust.
Okiro said at its inception, SARS was saddled with the responsibility of tackling robbery attacks and notorious criminals but along the line, its operatives deviated and took up investigative duties.
He said: “The initial idea of the operatives wearing mufti, like I said, is for the element of surprise. So I’d say the original idea of SARS has been bastardised. The squad was feared before, and I mean by criminals. When there was a robbery in a bank, SARS would move there because they were trained. They also knew themselves because there was nothing like cross-firing. Every command had SARS standing by.
“But by the time it spread to other states, it seemed like anyone would be carrying arms, dressed in mufti, with a T-shirt with SARS emblazoned on it. Anybody can wear such an outfit. They even go into cases of bounced cheques and shady business transactions. SARS business is not to investigate, but to hit. It’s a special anti-robbery squad, not an investigative one.”
Okiro said SARS needs to be restructured, saying that scrapping the unit is tantamount to the police “stopping their fight against robbers”.
He said: “We cannot throw away the bathwater with the baby. It cannot be scrapped, rather there is the need to get back to its original concept, to hit robbers and come back. Sometimes robbers take position, waiting for police patrol vehicles to come, not knowing that SARS are passing in a private vehicle. SARS needs to be restructured and not scrapped completely.”
Following an outcry from the public over alleged brutality and daredevilry of SARS operatives, Ibrahim Idris, the inspector-general of police, recently announced that the unit will be reorganised.