The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a branch of the Nigerian Police force under the Force Criminal investigation and intelligence department (FCIID). The SARS was created as a faceless police unit that performs undercover operations against crimes associated with armed robbery, car snatching, kidnapping, cattle rustling and crimes associated with firearms.
SARS has been alleged to have perpetrated human rights abuses, illegal stop and search, illegal arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, sexual harassment of women and brutalizing many young Nigerians. Consequently. The #ENDSARS was started by Jack Robinson.
In 2017, Segun Awosanya actively took up the campaign on social media alongside other activists which later culminated into several advocates and protests against police brutality and scrap of this unit.
According to Amnesty international’s 2016 report, SARS is indicated as responsible for human right abuse, cruelty, degrading treatment of Nigerians in their custody and other widespread torture. Between January 2017 and May 2020, 82 cases of abuses and extra judicial killings were meted out by SARS (Amnesty international, 2020 publication).
Now the big question is; ‘Is there not a quasi-SARS in almost every country in Africa and the world?’
If we are really passionate in ending illegal police brutalities, abuses and killings; why don’t we adopt the #ENDSARS protest as a continental and global fight and duly replicate the fight in almost every country, to put an end to these illegalities to save the lives of our very people?
In Ghana, many people including journalists especially, have been victims of various forms of police brutalities. Furthermore, there are various suspects in cases, who have been physically abused, victimized and tortured illegally in various forms by police personnel.
Are these not tantamount to being under a SARS regime?
Latif Iddrisu, a Ghanaian broadcast journalist for the privately owned JOYFM radio station was beaten by a group of police officers at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters in Accra on March 27, 2018.
Also the case of Lance corporal Frederick Amanor, who assaulted a woman at the Shiashi branch of the Midlands Savings cannot be forgotten.
Furthermore, the Ghana police fired warning shots to break up a rally against police brutality in West Africa and arrested Mr.Ernesto Yeboah, the leader of the Economic fighters league (EEF).
In all, about 20 people died in Ghana from Police brutality in 2018.This excludes those who sustained various degrees of injuries from such brutalities.
I believe you will understand now that the #ENDSARS protest is not a Nigerian fight. This should equally be a fight of Ghanaians and several other nationals.
In South Africa, the Guardian reports that incidents of police brutality skyrocketed by 312℅ from 2011 to 2012 compared to 2001 to 2002. There was also 720 deaths in police custody due to police action from 2011 to 2012.
In Bangladesh, a man named Shamim Reja was killed by police in Sonargaon police station.
During the Bersih protests in Malaysia, the Malaysian police attacked protesters and killed one. Malaysian police also cane prisoners for a number of offences, including theft, drug dealing and molestation.
The situation is not different in Turkey as they have a history of police brutality including the use of torture particularly between 1977 and 2002. In 2012, several officials received prison sentences for their role in the death in custody of the political activist Engin Ceber.
Furthermore in Austria, Nicola Jevremovic, a Serbian Romani man, tried to pay a friend’s parking fine and was harassed by police on 24th April, 1996.
The United States of America has developed a notorious reputation for cases of police brutality, having reported far more incidents of killings by police officers than the rest of the western world. US police killed 1,093 people in 2016 and 1,146 in 2015. One of such cases that cannot be left off the hook is the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who was killed in broad daylight by police in the US city of Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
The above analysis do not in any way seek to necessarily clear the victims of the abuses of wrongdoings. Furthermore, I do not seek to unduly blame police officers or downplay their lives or rights to self- protection, relative to the particular incidents.
However, I maintain that, the standard of policing in most countries in the world have somehow not been too professional or up to standard in most of the above-highlighted instances.
This therefore strengthens the fact that the #ENDSARS protest is not necessarily a Nigerian fight but a global fight. So citizens globally must arise to demand a proper restructuring and reformation relative to policing in our various countries. Thus putting an end to the pockets of brutalities and violence meted out to innocent citizens by the police forces.
The fact that your country does not necessarily have a unit called SARS does not mean you are free from the atrocities and illegalities meted out by the police forces. World leaders must help to put a lasting end to these oppressive policing.
To start with, we ought to attach extra importance to the training of our police forces. There must be a very stringent recruitment and training for them in order for them to be abreast with modern problems and issues they are likely to face in their duty line. This will better prepare them to handle and effectively deal with violent culminating protests and situations.
Also, Police corps should be trained in the laws of their various countries. They must practice and walk in the laws. This will enable them to better differentiate legal and illegal operations by citizens. There by knowing how to effectively deal with such backwardness in law.
The Police Corps must see the citizens as partners and friends but not enemies. I know that most of them know this. The problem is that, it has remained on their lips. They do not put this saying into real practice. If they see the citizens, whom they are supposed to protect; as friends, there will be cooperation and criminality will easily be crushed.
Finally, Countries should begin to clamp down and effectively deal with police officials who illegally brutalize innocent citizens. All the several brutalities above notwithstanding, most of such police officers are walking in their countries freely. It is very sad!
This situation will only make police brutalities persist. We must begin to crack the whip on violent police brutalities because the issues are becoming far too many.
NANA OSEI BOATENG
(POLITICAL SCIENTIST, BROADCAST JOURNALIST/COMMUNICATOR, EDUCATOR)
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