Amara Christa – 13th October, 2020
There have been calls from different parts of the country calling for the end of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). Youths have taken to the streets to protest the incessant abuse of power, and brutality by men of the squad. Nigerian youths have once again come out in one voice to speak against what they feel affect them collectively.
I am not suprised at this. Although, robbery and kidnappings have been on the increase, and there is as a result the need to tackle them, fact remains that the rights of many youths have been violated by men of SARS in the process of discharging their duties. We have heard of cases where youths have been brutalized and labeled criminals for simply possessing properties worth millions of naira. Some have been arrested because they are dressed on rich regalia, and their skin designed with tattoos. Certainly, youths have been more of the victims of the misbehaviour of SARS officers, hence, the reason why more youths are so active on this call for the end of SARS.
However, despite the call for the end of SARS, some Nigerians have taken different approaches to the whole movement. For the purpose of this work, they shall be divided into the various schools of thought (SOT):
- The Reformers SOT:
This school is about those who feel that SARS is not the problem, but the way people are recruited into the Nigeria Police. To them, SARS is just a name and that even if SARS is banned members of the squad will still be recycled into the Police Force, and with their abusive tendencies, Nigerians will still be affected by their inhuman treatment. As a result, this set of people seek for rather a reform of SARS.
- End-The-Brutality SOT:
People of this school of thought believe that SARS is not the problem but the entire Police Force. Just like people of the first school of thought, they believe that there needs to be a reform but this reform is not specific, it should be a reform of the whole police force. This SOT is borne out of the need to eradicate brutality by the Nigeria Police.
- The Revolutionists SOT:
People of this school believe that it is not just the Police that need reform, but the whole system of governance. They feel that there is a decay in the whole democratic system, and except there is a revolution in the whole system of governance, police brutality will still remain as well as other vices.
- The Pro-Buharists SOT:
People of this school of thought believe the #EndSars protest is no good. They think that the protest has been hijacked by some political enemies to fight against Buhari. To them, #EndSARS is simply #EndBuhari.
- Pro SARS SOT:
This group just believe that SARS has helped to reduce the crime of arm robbery and kidnapping in the Nigerian society so the squad must continue its good work, else, crime will increase. People of this school are made up of those who perhaps were about to be victims of robbery, but saved by the intervention of SARS operatives. Others in this school justify the way SARS operatives search and interrogate young men with million-naira-worth properties and more. It has been argued that crime is not written on the faces of people — if someone is with a property which he ordinarily cannot possess, the person must be interrogated.
Almost all the approaches have presented points which are thought provoking; they touch on political and human rights related issues that cannot be ordinarily swept under the carpet. While I agree with the fact that #EndPoliceBrutality protest is timely, and reforming SARS is a positive call as well, I must note that the #EndSARS protest is not just a protest, it has some psychological implications.
It is true that banning SARS will not expressly remove the bad eggs from the system, it will however give the people some reliefs.
HOW IS IT PSYCHOLOGICAL?
Imagine a man who was brulalized by SARS operatives — or a man whose son was killed by a SARS officer. These men will be traumatized and considered victims. Anytime that victim sees a SARS officer, or a man on the SARS outfit, he will be psychologically affected because it will bring back ugly memories. This man may not feel the same way when he sees an ordinary police officer, but by mere sighting a SARS officer, the anger will be ignited.
Psychologically again, there is what I call the four T’s (Together-Tendency-To-Tout). What this means is that, SARS officers undergo a kind of training with some form of orientation. Over time, when certain group of persons with similar character of brutality and abuse work together with a kind of orientation, they tend to demonstrate a fierce touting tendencies. In the general Nigeria Police Force, you will likely see a combination of different officers in different units and squads, but in the SARS circle, there is a unique trait. It all boils down to orientation. They tend to behave the same way.
The police is generally tasked with the job of protecting lives and property. So, the average police man should be skilled in combating crimes.
When Nigerians say that there should be an End to SARS, it is not because they are not aware of police brutality as a whole, it is not also because they are not aware that the police as a whole needs reform, it is rather because there is SARS in particular which has done so much harm than other units in the same Nigerian Police force are not known for. This is partly because of the kind of people that made up the tactical squad.
For short, ending or banning SARS will satisfy the psychological demands of many Nigerians who have been victims of their misdeeds. It will only be wise to do it, even if the general police force needs reform. Ban the unit, while the work towards the reformation begins. This is a psychological demand reflecting the frustration of Nigerians over the Nigerian State.
By Ebi Robert