A lot has been said, recently, about the evils committed and the trail of victims of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – a Nigerian Police rogue unit. But not much has been revealed about the origins of SARS and how it has evolved into the monster it became.
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In the mid-1980s, notorious armed robbers such as Lawrence Anini terrorised a large part of the nation with famous robberies. Other armed robbers did the same and the security implications of it all were beginning to loom like there was no end in sight.
The military hierarchy, who were members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) at Dodan Barracks during the junta of Buhari/Idiagbon, were no longer happy with the way dreaded armed robbery gangs were fomenting trouble around the nation. They resolved something had to be done about it.
The SMC then tasked the Inspector General of Police in 1985, Etim Inyang, to either deploy a solution for curtailing the incessant armed robberies or he might be relieved of his job.
As a member of the SMC himself, Inyang quickly called his own high-ranking officials together for a brainstorming session. One of the ranking officials who once supervised Fulani Kwajafa then suggested at the meeting that a police officer who had spent 26 years with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Alagbon close is competent enough to assemble a crack squad that can deal with the robbery scourge. The name of the police officer tasked with the responsibility of facing armed robbers in 1985 was Fulani Kwajafa.
Having led a number of teams which ratted out a robbery gang with an operational base in southwestern and northern Nigeria, the police command resolved that Kwajafa had the requisite experience to handle the Anti-Robbery crack team. 7
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After Kwajafa had met with the Etim Inyang and operational modalities settled, Kwajafa chose 80 men across the nation and mobilised them for training that was gruelling and tasking enough to enable them to face armed robbers fire for fire.
In an interview in 2017, Kwajafa said that he named the crack squad Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in 1984; but also recently admitted in an interview on BBC Hausa that looking at what SARS has turned out to become, he now regrets ever founding the SARS unit.
According to Kwajafa who later headed the NDLEA in the early 90s, the SARS unit- just like other sections of the Nigerian society- is now riddled with corrupt and selfish practices which have eroded the integrity and reputation which the SARS unit once had.
The SARS unit which Kwajafa founded divided the personnel into four sections – Crack Squad Number One, Two and Three. Each works in three shifts of at least 8 hours each. And the fourth squad was solely for investigations and intelligence. A building in Adeniji Adele was dedicated as headquarters where the personnel also camped.
Due credit to the SARS police unit of old, it did help in drastically reducing the menace of violent crime in the nation and people began to sleep peacefully in their homes and travel without fear too.
As armed violent crime has become increasingly rampant these days and the men of the old SARS do not have any other important responsibilities than to harass/extort and kill innocent youth, the time to roll back the unit became imminent. And the ongoing #EndSARS protests to bring the erring officers to book while getting justice for the victims might just be the beginning of wider reforms in the national fabric.
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