By Onome Amawhe

SARS, The Nigerian Police Force unit saddled with the responsibility of fighting crime in the society; specifically, armed robbery and kidnapping was founded in 1992 by Simeon Danladi Midenda, a retired Commissioner of Police who added the word ‘’Special’’ to the already existing Anti-Robbery Squad which turned out to be Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The dreaded anti-crime unit of the Nigerian Police Force is one of the 14 units under the Nigeria Police Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department which was created to arrest, investigate and prosecute people involved in violent crimes such as armed robberies, murders, kidnappings, hired assassinations and other forms of extreme criminality.

Anti-Robbery as a modus operandi of the Nigeria Police Force for combating armed robbery has been as old as the Police Force itself. As a unit, anti-robbery had always existed in all Criminal Investigation Departments at Force Headquarters, Zonal and State Command levels.

The creation of SARS followed the killing of Col. Rindam, a military officer from Plateau State, by police operatives at a checkpoint in Lagos. This led the army to take to the streets in search of policemen. As a result, policemen abandoned the streets of Lagos and withdrew to the barracks. The vacuum created by the absence of the police team enabled Robbers to have a field day in Lagos, operating with impunity.

It took two weeks of talks before the military and police authorities succeeded in convincing the army chaps to return to barracks and for the police to come back to the roads. By that time, armed robbers had gained significant control of Lagos with the likes of the notorious Shina Rambo, who many believed could not be challenged by any force.

Since its creation in 1992, the impact of SARS can be said to be both positive and negative. This is because while some have had a sour encounter with personnel of the unit, leading to the numerous calls for its scrapping, others have at one time or the other been rescued from either kidnappers or deadly armed robbers by the officers of the SARS unit.

The Commander, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos State, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Peter Gana, has often reiterated that “a reformed SARS is now operating in Lagos State”. The talked about SARS reform follows President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Inspector-General of Police, Federal Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to work out modalities for the implementation of the report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

As part of the moves by the force to ensure professionalism and accountability on the path of SARS Operatives, officers with good antecedents and capability are to man the affairs of SARS. This was what necessitated the posting of CSP GANA to take over Lagos Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Since his assumption into office, Pundits and observers of security issues have posited that Gana’s appointment is one of the right decisions made in recent times by the police high command based on his pedigree as a distinguished crime buster cum tactician.

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Under his leadership, GANA and his crack team have performed excellently well as it has assisted in arresting notorious criminals in different parts of the country.

Sometimes last year, two suspected notorious armed robbers terrorizing and robbing residents of Ire Akari street, Ejigbo and Isolo areas of Lagos, snatching and vandalizing vehicles in the area for long, were arrested by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. This, no doubt, brought a sigh of relief to the residence of the area.

Similarly, in 2018, Gana dispatched a crack team of SARS officers, led by Inspector Ebenezer Omirefa, to resolve the issue of the snatching at gunpoint of a Toyota Corolla, along the Lekki Ajah axis. This particular case had been previously handled by different police stations in Lagos before the gallant Omirefa was called upon to recover the vehicle within a record time.

The suspects involved in the robbery case were all arrested with the vehicle also recovered. Inspector Omirefa was once again deployed to resolve another gunpoint robbery incident concerning the stealing of another Toyota Corolla. This second incident occurred along the Lekki axis of Lagos. Given his prowess in apprehending robbers, Inspector Omirefa has often been deployed to resolve robbery issues with many successes recorded.

Similarly, due to the unabated activities of cultists and other violent crimes, including kidnappers and armed robbers in Edo State, the Inspector General of Police dispatched a special crack squad comprising SARS officers to the state to tackle the situation. The situation was brought under control.

As record may have it, SARS has been able to arrest more than three thousand suspected kidnappers across the country and in fact, the recent successes recorded in reducing the high rate of crime and criminality, especially kidnapping and other deadly vices in most parts of the country, is largely the handiwork of SARS operatives.

Another major success was the arrest of the notorious kidnappers popularly known as Henry Chibueze a.k.a Vampire and OnwumadikeChukwudumeme a.k.a Evans was achieved following the ingenuity and gallantry displayed by the SARS unit of the Force.

The abated incident of armed robbery, kidnapping, and cultism across the country is due to the immense contribution of SARS operatives. Therefore, it is important to know that not all the alleged wrongdoings attributed to the SARS personnel are actually committed by them.

Many bad elements have been arrested in recent times for impersonating or claiming to be SARS personnel. The need that led to the creation of  SARS should not be lost on Nigerians.  Rather, the issue should be addressed squarely. Scrapping SARS will be counter-productive.

Onome Amawhe, an international journalist and media consultant wrote from Lagos

VANGUARD

 

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