, 16 October, 2020 / 9:04 PM
The decision to disband the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria is “a mere first aid” intervention and does not address the challenges, which citizens of Africa’s most populous nation are experiencing, a Bishop has said in a report shared with ACI Africa Friday, October 16.
The report makes reference to the October 11 announcement by Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police dissolving SARS across the country “with immediate effect” following days of online outcry under #EndSARSprotest and nationwide demonstrations over claims of atrocities by members of the police unit.
“The scrapping of SARS is at best a scraping of the problem. It is not ‘the solution,’” Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese says, and adds, “You may take it as ‘first aid’ to buy time to sincerely address a much larger problem.”
According to Bishop Badejo, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government should go beyond the dissolution of SARS and look into the institutions, system of governance or federal structures that “gave birth to such a monster.”
Failure to address the root cause of the issue will generate “other such Frankenstein monsters,” the Nigerian Prelate adds making reference to the decision to disband SARS and the nationwide protests that have continued despite the Police force’s dissolution.
While announcing the disbandment of SARS, Nigeria’s Police spokesman, Frank Mba said that members of the controversial unit would be redeployed to other units within the police force, a matter that has been contested, with protesters calling for investigations and action against officers implicated in atrocities.
Demonstrators in the West African nation have also protested against the new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) whose members are expected to carry out duties previously done by SARS.
In the report shared with ACI Africa, Bishop Badejo acknowledges the importance of the ongoing protests saying it is “good especially as we seemed to have an unresponsive government, which now seems to have been forced (to) awake.”
The 59-year-old Nigerian Prelate however expresses his concerns about the hijacking of the demonstrations “by devious people who have no clear idea what a protest should be and who really don’t care.”
The infiltration of the protests, the Bishops thinks, is because Nigerians have “so much pent up anger against so many occurrences in the country that many people are not ready to reason with anybody.”
“All they want is an opportunity to lash out in vengeful action. This is not good for our nation,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese who doubles as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) says.
He calls on the protesters to reassess their and urges the government to deploy all legitimate means to secure dialogue.
Referencing the redeployment of SARS officers to other police units, Bishop Badejo suggests “a program of discernment and rehabilitation” to help their reforming.
“We must find out those who can still be helped and rehabilitated,” he says and adds in reference to the rehabilitation of former insurgents, “Officers of SARS are Nigerian citizens too and, in a certain sense, products of the bigger monster that is our condition.”
He continues, “Those who have run foul of the law and deserve to be dismissed must be seen to face the music. For some, it might even be as serious as not being allowed to hold public office ever again. Then, yes, they can be helped to take up other private activities.”
The Bishop also calls on individuals and members of various civic groups to support public outcry on issues that do not concern remunerations and benefit.
“We all have no other country but Nigeria. Let the authorities remember that we are all their brothers and sisters, citizens of the same country and remember that the power of the people will always be greater than the people in power,” Bishop Badejo says in the report shared with ACI Africa October 16.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa