Home Opinion When Victims Become Beasts: Solving The FSARS Conundrum | Amuda Mosigbodi 

When Victims Become Beasts: Solving The FSARS Conundrum | Amuda Mosigbodi 

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The new directive by the Inspector General of Police that the Tactical squads of the Police such as the FSARS, SACS, SAKS, IRT, among others should steer off undertaking routine patrols as well as stop and search duties while they are also expected to appear in their police uniform alongside their tactical unit’s vests. The notoriety of these elite teams, otherwise referred to as Tactical squads, of the Nigerian Police is a household tale. Interestingly, the most notorious of them is the FSARS. Little wonder that since the start of the of #EndSARS campaign in December 2016, there have been efforts by the Police leadership to overhaul the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. In 2018 alone, and following the directive of the Vice President acting in capacity as President, Mr Yemi Osinbajo, the then IGP, Ibrahim Idris, ordered the renaming of the unit from SARS to FSARS. Not only that, he also ordered a change in the command structure of the unit as well as gave a directive that every officer in the unit must wear vests with identification tag. This, in no time, turned out to achieve little or nothing as anticipated by many. The emergence of the new IGP, Mohammed Adamu, also came with a further reform, of the elite team. He ordered a decentralization of the unit such that they were no longer responsible to Abuja alone but were now jointly responsible to the DIG Force CID and the different Commissioners of Police where they are operation is carried out. What this meant was that these two senior officers are to be held accountable for whatever these officers perpetrate.
However, this order from the IG has been met with much skepticism. This skepticism is understood given the failure of earlier directives and efforts at overhauling the unity to yield reasonable results. The question that then readily comes to mind is: What exactly is the problem? Is it that the efforts are a scratch of the surface or they are half-hearted? Is it the case that this elite team, or even other elite teams, are not within the control of the police hierarchy? There seem not to be a proper understanding of what the problems are. We need to look at the foundation of this problem. This is where this piece borrows from Mahmoud Mamdani’s treatise, When Victims Become Killers, which captures how the system can eventually turn the victims of it top marauding beasts as epitomized in the Rwandan genocide. In my opinion, the operatives of this unit themselves are victims of the system which has now successfully bred them into beasts who eventually become oppressors of others. The dangers however is that the victims that the victims-turned-beasts are creating would eventually graduate to become beasts too. A good example is what played out in Rivers State where some alleged gunmen invaded a FSARS office and razed the place down. It is a gradual beastification of victims.
But where did we get it all wrong? The philosophy behind the founding of the Nigerian Police is in itself faulty. It was set up to protect, not the interest of the state but, the interest of the colonialist, nay the ruling class. At this time as well, members of the Police Force saw themselves as a higher oppressornto the people and not as the defenders of the people. Hence, they, like every other security outfit that came with colonialism, they browbeat the citizenry at every opportunity. The citizens become bloody civilians , thereby establishing a we-they dichotomy. Even within the rank and file of the Nigerian Police, the FSARS unit is regarded as an elite unit as it enjoys much freedom compared to other units or regular police officers. Many of those drafted into the Unit pay their way through and are not deployed on the basis of their competence. For these people, it is all about how much they can milk off the people and this must be achieved either by hook or crook. The unit enjoys so much liberty that its officers hardly account for the bullets in their possessions even report evidence they gather in the course of investigating a crime. Were they attached to a police station, they would always indent what guns and bullets they collect and must account for how such is used when indenting their report for each day. This explains why these officers can threaten to waste any bullet without proper accountability or even use exhibits gotten from prior investigations to implicate new catches.
In an article I had written in 2018, I had posited the need for a decentralization of the FSARS unit. I had advocated that the different teams in the Unit should be made to report to the Area Commander of the jurisdiction they are assigned to. It will also be the duty of the Commander to monitor their activities and deal with any form of abuse. The whole idea of having a detached FSARS station needs to be abolished and all FSARS activities to be conducted within the Area command. The only reason why the men of FSARS are without caution is the distance of the chain of control on them. Although this IGP did something in this regard, the idea of having such elite teams under a CP still lengthens the chain of command. Another challenge in this regard is the failures of the CPs to properly ensure a monitoring of this unit. They simply expect the OC FSARS to report to them and that is all. None of the Commissioners of Police has a special complaint box or monitoring process of the activities of this team. This may not be unconnected to the claim in some circles that some of these superior officers also often get returns from the proceeds of the illegal activities of the operatives. After all, there is nothing stopping the tracking of the bank accounts of these operatives or even an unannounced visit to their bases to see what is happening there. Beyond sitting at the Force Headquarters in their respective states, these Commissioners of Police can delegate any of the at least Deputy Commissioners of Police and at least six Assistant Commissioners of Police under his command to do this weekly and on a rotational basis. With constant monitoring, some of the excesses of the officers will be nipped in the bud.
In all efforts, little or nothing is said about the emotional intelligence and psychological state of the operatives. You do not give arms to a man that is emotionally or psychologically unstable – that is suicidal. Although Mr Idris, during his term, asked for psychological evaluation for the operatives in the unit, nothing else was done. If we are sincere with our efforts at revamping this unit, and indeed the Police in general, there is a need for psychological evaluation of our officers. This will help to identify those who are not fit and proper for the profession. While it is undeniable that this will be taxing, it is a necessary step towards sanitizing the Force. Having a man who thinks that bearing arms makes him superior to others as a FSARS officer is just the beginning of doom. Having a man who is worse than a criminal chase a criminal will not sanitize the system.
Need I also mention the need for enforcement of the directives from the Police hierarchy? Either weekly or bi-monthly, the different CPs hold a briefing and they give directives to the DPOs and Area Commanders in their jurisdiction but it often ends at that. Very few of them make efforts aimed at ensuring that these orders are carried out to the letter. Often times, being a Commissioner of Police involves just sitting at the Headquarters. We must do more if we want to achieve more. There is nothing wrong with the CP having a monitoring team that are drawn from the best officers with impeccable records of proven integrity. These officers are very scarce in the Nigerian Police and so the Commissioners of Police must go all out to find the best to populate his monitoring team. Their duty will be to go out incognito around the state to observe how Police officers are conducting themselves with the public. It will not be too much to involve and partner with Civil Societies to get volunteers for this effort. Traditional rulers as well as Community Development Associations must be brought on board as well. A better police is the desire of all and so should be the duty of all to ensure.
Like the title of this article rightly indicated and given some instances that is brewing across the country, the continued oppression of innocent citizens by the FSARS is a subtle building block for a resistance that will surely come. If the government is afraid of the call for revolution by different strata of the Nigerian society, particularly the #RevolutionNow Movement, it must realize that it needs to ensure certain sectoral revolution such as this. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine. There is no doubting the fact that some victims have become beasts but it will be an anarchy when these other sets of victims become beast. Did you say God forbid?

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Amuda, Mosigbodi Plato writes in from Ibadan and can be reached on platothelaw2000@gmailcom.

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