The much-criticised Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) cannot be scrapped because it is needed to combat armed robberies and other violence crimes, the Nigerian Police Force has stated.
Several Nigerians, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, have condemned the excesses and brutalities of the unit on social media.
Many had called for its scrapping, saying it has caused more harm than good with #EndSARS and #WarAgainstSARS trending for days.
But Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, Nigeria Police, Abuja, Frank Mba, in a live Instagram chat with popular musician, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, however, assured more will be done to police the policemen to prevent violations of human rights.
Marley, who was supposed to be part of a protest to call for the scrapping of the unit in Lagos on Tuesday, called off the action.
He said the cancelled protest was to get relevant authorities to listen to Nigerians and do something about SARS.
Mba said the police under the leadership of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, have been proactive and would not wait for a protest before taking the proper actions.
Mba said the fundamental job of the police is to protect lives and property and they must respect the choice of people to appear how they like.
“There is no law that says dreadlocks, tattoos and other personal choices of appearance are offences. It is nonsense,” Mba said.
He assured there will be proper policing of policemen going forward, stressing they must operate within the dictates of the law and established code of conduct.
Mba said if a policeman is doing anything wrong, citizens should take pictures and videos of the situation and send it to them for appropriate action.
He, however, urged that such photos or videos be taken in a manner that does not compromise the taker’s safety.
He said it was not a crime to record a policeman but certain infrastructure and situations should not be recorded for security purposes.
“But if a policeman is doing something wrong, you can take pictures and record videos and send them to us. But make sure you do so safely.
“If you feel in your interactions with the police that they are beginning to cross the line, you can take pictures and videos as long as it is safe for you to do so. When you send them to us, we will definitely follow up the matter and see it to a logical conclusion,” he said.
He also advised against going into arguments with armed security agents.
Mba called on government agencies, well-meaning Nigerians, as well as companies among others to support the Nigerian Police.
He described the ongoing conversation on the activities of SARS as work in progress.
Naira Marley, who said he was not threatened by anyone to cancel the planned protests, called for reform of the police unit.
The musician said: “We want this nonsense to end and we would do all we can to end it. We need to reform SARS.
“We need to get them off the roads. All we really want is for SARS to be like SWAT in the United States. You only see them when the occasion demands it.
“They should be off the roads. In Nigeria, we see SARS everywhere. They should only come out when there is a robbery or other violent crime that need their attention.”
The live Instagram chat attracted over 30,000 participants, including well- known Nigerians.