Following public outrage, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had on Sunday banned officials of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other police tactical squads from carrying out routine patrols and other low-risk duties, but Nigerians say nothing has changed.
Various road users shared their observations and experiences on Twitter between Sunday and Monday, suggesting that the FSARS operatives have yet to comply with the police chief’s instructions.
Some of the conventional low-risk activities prohibited by the police had included stop and search duties, mounting of roadblocks and security checkpoints, as well as traffic checks.
“They are to concentrate and respond only to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crimes when the need arises,” the IGP emphasised.
He added that their activities would be monitored and defaulting officers would be promptly arrested, investigated, and prosecuted.
It, however, appears compliance levels are not absolute as many people have reported seeing operatives of the controversial police unit on the roads since the press statement’s release. Richie Emmanuel (@richieeemmanue2) tweeted on Sunday evening that he was extorted by FSARS personnel in Lagos a few hours after the announcement.
“I left the house [a] few minutes ago for my shoot … SARS stopped me at Kpako bus stop. I told them who I am and showed them my videos and all; they searched my phone and saw I was clean,” he narrated.
“The next thing, they asked me how I got money to buy my phone, which I told them. They went to my message and opened by bank SMS … and said if I don’t send them the money, they will shoot my leg and I can’t dance anymore. I had to send them all the money in my account.”
Reports, some with attached pictures and videos, indicate that officials have since been sighted at various places in Lagos, including Ojota, Alausa, Shomolu, and Isolo.
Other states where they were seen were Udi Local Government Area in Enugu, Benin City in Edo State, and Girei in Adamawa State.
“SARS operatives mounting roadblock at Girei, Adamawa at the moment. Despite the orders of the IGP yesterday as applauded by the Vice President,” Segun Awosanya, convener of the End SARS campaign, tweeted at past 12 pm on Monday.
“The IGP’s order is yet to make any impact on [the] ground. #EndImpunity,” he added.
It is not the first time the police headquarters would read the riot act to FSARS operatives to little effect. Echoing an earlier announcement, former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, said in September 2018 that the officials were banned from indiscriminately searching citizens.
“You are barred from searching handsets and laptops of innocent citizens, unless the search is directly linked to a case or directed by IGP or any person or persons he so delegated,” he warned.
He added that any officer who detained someone beyond two days risked getting dismissed from service.
The following year, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the IGP, Ministry of Justice, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to work on implementing a report submitted by the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) within three months.
It is not clear how much progress has been made by the stakeholders in that regard.