The apex socio-political youth group in South-East of Nigeria, Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, has called on those protesting and demanding an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to demand the reform of the police operative.
In a statement signed by Hon. Goodluck Ibem and Comrade Kanice Igwe, President General and secretary respectively, the group said it is convinced that indeed there are grey areas that need improvement regarding conducts of SARS operatives.
According to it, the fact that there are some good and upright operatives within the rank of SARS cannot be wished away.
“This is however without prejudice to any person or group that may have been affected by the activities of the bad elements in the unit.
“Aware that there have been reported cases of rights abuses by international organizations like Amnesty International against SARS, the coalition is of the convinction that SARS for some years within the South-East geopolitical zone has been able to combat criminality ranging from kidnapping, robbery and heist. The truth (though bitter) is that SARS presence curbed in the region and states therein crimes related with the above listed”, the statement read.
It however condemned such activities by the operatives like wrong profiling of citizens for wearing dreadlock, tattoos, beard or any form of dressing, saying it is against Chapter 4 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
The statement continued, “The best for SARS in a time like this is total reform. The campaign to end or scrap SARS has followed certain reported deaths and brutalities as seen perpetrated by men and officials of SARS, it could be wrong, the coalition believes, entirely to throw the child away with the bath water.
“The coalition calls for reform that allows for training and retraining of men of SARS along the lines of respect for rights of citizens of South-East and Nigeria. Here, massive Civic and citizenship education is needed. This will help the operatives of the unit see themselves as those working for the security and peace of the citizens rather than those who have unquestionable powers to abuse citizens. There is the growing need to therefore surbordinate SARS to the citizens beginning from recruitment and promotion. Competence should be the basis of reward and promotion than who-knows-who”.
The coalition expressed strong belief that men of good conduct still exist within the rank of SARS, recalling for example that S.P. Johnbull Obioguru, the SARS commander for Abia State had several times disciplined most of the erring officials on account of unprofessionalism or unprofessional conduct.
“His achievements is boldly written on the wall and its pronounced. Though more still needs to be done, the level of crime and criminality in Abia has been reduced to a commendable rate enhancing thus peace relatively within the state.
“The coalition wishes to throw its weight and support behind the National Assembly for prosecutorial trial of any erring officials of the special unit or branch of the police force. Again, it is apt to state that SARS officials attached to any regular police facilities must conduct themselves as part and parcel of the police force not as some unquestionable formation”.