The ‘End SARS Cam­paign’ is a shot in the air. The cam­paign is a com­bus­tion of cit­i­zens’ frus­tra­tion with­out gal­vanised ac­tion. It is a right cause with a hol­low pur­pose. Po­lice bru­tal­ity and crim­i­nal­ity pre­date SARS. I re­mem­ber, in the days of ‘Op­er­a­tion Sweep’ in La­gos, there were sur­plus re­ports of po­lice crim­i­nal­ity – ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings, ha­rass­ment and ex­tor­tion.

Re­ally, the prob­lem is the in­di­vid­u­als peo­pling the po­lice, and not the “unit”. The Nige­ria po­lice is still trapped in the Stal­in­ist era of dark­ness. It is an en­tity of state ter­ror. And an um­bil­i­cal cord of in­hu­man­ity con­nects the top hi­er­ar­chy of the po­lice to the lees of the agency.

As a mat­ter of fact, the po­lice force, as it is to­day, is primed to be anti-peo­ple, but pro-gov­ern­ment be­cause of a lack of in­sti­tu­tional and le­gal re­form. This is why the po­lice only ex­cel in regime pro­tec­tion.

End­ing SARS while the same ver­min re­main in the sys­tem will only re­cy­cle evil. If the unit is shut down now, in a few months, we will be back to where we are. By the way, have you seen an hon­est po­lice­man?

I did a lit­tle re­search on why the SARS unit of the po­lice is brazen in crim­i­nal­ity, and I found out that it stemmed from its man­date. SARS has been given “ex­tra-ter­res­trial” pow­ers; chief of which is to use all means to check vi­o­lent crime – but in check­ing armed crim­i­nal­ity in­no­cent cit­i­zens are of­ten the vic­tims.

I think, it is per­haps, the most pow­er­ful unit in the po­lice. A po­lice ac­quain­tance told me that most of his col­leagues lobby vig­or­ously to have them­selves de­ployed in the unit. Why? Be­cause it is a gen­eral and potent be­lief in the po­lice that once you are de­ployed there, “you are made”. This ac­cents the com­mon­place per­cep­tion of the Nige­ria po­lice as the Sodom of cor­rup­tion.

I plead with fel­low cit­i­zens, who have faced the ter­ror of SARS, while they are on EndSARS, should cam­paign for an im­me­di­ate and sweep­ing re­form of the po­lice. Noth­ing will change if the Nige­ria po­lice is not re­formed rad­i­cally. And this re­form must in­clude a hi­er­ar­chal purge of the agency. If 13 deputy in­spec­tors-gen­eral of po­lice could be com­pul­so­rily re­tired for Ibrahim Idris to be­come inspector-gen­eral of po­lice, I see no rea­son why the purge of both the top hi­er­ar­chy and the rank and file of the po­lice will not be pos­si­ble.

We must seize this mo­ment to cause a rev­o­lu­tion in the po­lice. We have, for too long, “stood aside and looked” while they ha­rassed, hu­mil­i­ated, in­tim­i­dated, vi­o­lated and ex­torted us. Fredrick Nwabufo, fredrick­n­wabufo@ya­hoo.com

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