Crime increase in Nigeria: As a result of disbanded SARS or mere coincidence?
Without mincing words, the current rate in the increase in crime in Nigeria cannot be likened to a child’s play. I must state emphatically here that the disbanded SARS has lead to the increase in crime rate. Imagine series of criminal activities going on in the country presently. The disbanded SARS crime fighting lead to some abatement in criminal activities.
Also, the squad initially had a better reputation than the conventional police, which was associated with bribery and corruption.
In addition, the introduction of Special Anti-Robbery Squad brought some legitimacy to the police as citizens had more trust in their ability to stem the tide of crime.
Despite the bad eggs among them, the operatives from the squad were involved in several successful joint missions involving personnel from other police tactical units.
Why the special units?
Globally, special tactical units are often established to carry out certain mandates in law enforcement. These can involve highly violent crimes such as terrorism, banditry, religious insurrections, armed robbery and kidnapping.
In Nigeria, the establishment of special units within the police force followed rising incidents of violent crimes. The situation was considered to be beyond the capability of the conventional police. Tactical units have included the Intelligence Response Team, Special Tactical Squad, Counter Terrorism Unit, Force Intelligence Unit, and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Members of the special units were often specially trained and given specific mandates.
Given that police are underfunded in Nigeria, most policemen were often eager to serve in the tactical units.
It is important to note that most of the breakthrough operations by the Nigeria Police Force have been facilitated by some of these tactical units. The Intelligence Response Unit is reputed to have apprehended some high-profile criminals. These have included the arrests of notorious kidnap ringleaders like Chukwudi Onwuamadike (aka Evans) and Bala Hamisu (aka Wadume).
What about governance? Can structures be strengthened?
As an institution, the Nigeria Police Force is subjected to both internal and external monitoring mechanisms. The Ministry of Police Affairs, Police Service Commission and the Nigerian Police Council serve as external monitors.
Internally, police activities are monitored by the human rights desks and the X-Squad which is an internal anti-graft unit of the police. Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and other tactical units, are integral parts of the Nigeria Police Force and are under the command of the Inspector General of Police.
The same governance structures surrounding the Nigeria Police Force are therefore applicable to the squad.
But both the internal and external oversight mechanisms have proven to be grossly inadequate given the incessant violations of human rights and overbearing nature of the Nigeria Police Force.
The dissolution of the squad have only send a warning signal to other tactical squads. But the Special Anti-Robbery Squad is just a microcosm of the bigger problem – bad policing in Nigeria. Its dissolution barely scratch the surface because of the crime increase in Nigeria.
The dissolution is only part of the solution as operatives from the squad were and will always be members of the National Police Force.