The SARS imbroglio

To use the brush to tar all state anti-robbery squad members of the Nigeria Police as a bunch of yobboes is unfair.

Considering the high level of brazen wickedness in a country full of man eaters, kidnappers, armed robbers, ritual head hunters, militants and criminality of kinds, a crack unit of the police is needed to nip the activities of felons in the bud, so as to allow us to sleep on snail’s tails. I wonder why we should hammer on scrapping SARS without addressing the systemic challenges hindering the effective policing of state. Some of which, are that, some thugs in politician garbs whilst giving us politicians smile are either involved in gun running or are arming youths for political purposes and these youths have out gunned SARS officials who can’t compete with them without the RAMBO style assault weapons that these bums have. Many a SARS officer no thanks has died in cross fires. As usual, the families they left behind groan for years to get bereavement funds.

I don’t fancy the scrappy dress of some officials of SARS. It is a shame to a country like Nigeria. Some staffers tie banana on their heads like clowns, but could it be said, that they do so, to blend with the malevolent crowd that they seek to annihilate without fore warning?

You only need to have lived in Port Harcourt like I have, to know how difficult it is to devise effective policing strategy especially in the hinterlands where the love of tenderloins is Heaven’s Fare. Places abound where tykes are chiefs and they adjudicate over matters where there are chiefs, because they have RAMBO style gun-on-the-hip assault weapons. They have disrobed real chiefs.

This piece is never intended to discount the brutality of some sociopaths and psychopaths in SARS, with their pathologies written everywhere for all to see but to x-ray some of the obvious problems bedeviling the Police.

People say that members of SARS – have abbreviated intelligence and go about killing and maiming people. Does this include all ranked officials? And as a matter of course? What I think is that the police does not have in place an effective mechanism to weed out pathological narcissists, manic depressives and Alexithymics from the unit due to flawed recruitment strategy without background checks.

The various protestations against SARS is a wake-up call to the Inspector General of Police to use the bully pulpit to dish out orders to show that he is in charge and mean well to bring sanity to the police. He needs to restructure not disband SARS.

One of the way is to sack SARS commanders in states with high numbers of mistreatments and deaths of civilians arising from the high handedness of these officers to civilians. I gather that in Nigeria, security officers don’t account for bullets. In America and in peace time, assault weapons are kept in the trunk of vehicles and pistols on holsters. Permission is given via radio calls to use assault weapons when in danger. They work with procedure but ours are as a result of fits and starts. Kill them all.

Secondly, recruitment shouldn’t end with training people on the use of arms but also on background checks. Most SARS officers lack knowledge about democratic ideology to appreciate citizens rights and are always in a hurry to slap people.

This is where the problem lie. The misalignment of SARS officers to the core mandate of the unit owing largely to the absence of a cultural fit between members of SARS and the police. With no proper mechanism to run a fitness test, mental and background checks to include 360 feedback exercise, how can we expect a competent SARS?

What is the possibility that the rank hasn’t been infiltrated by cultists, and criminals of all kinds at entry point? What chance is there that these debauched ones aren’t the set giving SARS a bad name? Coupled with commanders who don’t know what it takes to be coaches. How can these few who have probably repented, not converted neither paid social dues to society save our lives.

As important as it is to wake up the members of that unit – so as to protect the territorial integrity of state, words must be harmonised with ‘wills.’

The budget of policing the country is horrible. It might be argued that this overweight abandonment  is responsible for why the unit behaves independently, fights crime without a co-joined ideology with the central government, states and the people.

‬What is the alternative to SARS?
I remember vividly in Port Harcourt, I asked after the whereabouts of someone I suddenly stopped seeing in my community. “Oh! He is no more alive. On his way to Warri (he was a driver) with a police officer, to bring back a ‘white man’ to Port Harcourt, they ran into armed robbers on operation on the high way and they were slain.” That sad news hurt me deeply, it still does. He was an extraordinary fellow, patently genial. But for that journey to pick a ‘white man’ with our police that must be in uniform, with guns exposed, a natural target of good-for-nothings,  he might have been alive. Who knows?

Now you know why it is hard for them to be subordinated to a government that cares less? We expect effective policing even with a state that is beneath individuals and is a day late and a naira short at giving out justice. The state shields the bourgeoisie, and so it is that during electioneering, guns are imported by the rich for youths to intimidate political enemies, many procure semiautomatic, Rambo styled assault weapons, after which they use same to unleash unbridled terror on hapless people.

When criminality reaches the pinnacles, the state ask the police to check mate malevolence, but the state has never arrested any bourgeoisie for gun running and regrettably many officers are machine-gunned down in the process while the benefactors of the tykes are in the wind.
‬The job of SARS would be made easier if monthly security votes allocated to governors are channeled rightly: it could be used to pay informers in all local governments in Nigeria who will report ill will  to SARS before it festers. And for the state to put in place a witness protection programme for whistle blowers. The job of SARS would be made easier if the political classes rise up against jungle justice.

The Nigerian state is responsible for spoiling the police sport and it would be difficult for the Police to be Simon-pure unless the government recognizes the all important task of providing security for our lives, to mandate all federal agencies to contribute to a pool of fund to help the police.

• Abah wrote from Abuja.

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