Today marks another milestone in my drive to bequeath to Nigeria a reformed, responsive, operational potent and accountable police Force. It is a day that the Force is launching two critical components of policing – The rebranded, re-kitted, refocused and re-equipped Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS); and the newly established Nigeria Police Complaint response Unit (CRU).
Ladies and gentlemen, the motivation behind these initiatives are multiple. With regards to the rebranding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, due cognizance was taken of the historic concerns of members of the public on the less-than professional dress code of operatives of the Squad nationwide, their unorthodox mode of operations, and the consistent accusation of flagrant abuses of human rights and absence of ethical standards in their operations.
The fact is that these issues have also been of concern to successive leadership of the Nigeria Police Force. This is because aside being a major source of public disdain for the Force, these negatives also constitute sources of civil litigations and attendant huge Garnishee Orders hanging on the lean budgetary profile of the force. Most importantly, it raises questions as to why a Police Force constitutionally emplaced and armed to protect lives and property of the citizens would evolve to one that becomes uncivil to the same citizens by their actions or inactions or dress menacingly to build a wedge between them and the citizens.
From my interaction with members of the public and learned colleagues, the concern of Nigerians is not about doubts on the operational potency of SARS. In fact, the preponderance of public opinion is that the Squads across all the commands represent a pool of highly courageous, gallant, loyal and zealous officers who with little or no self-protective armoured assets are often willing to race to crime scene at any hour of the day, and engage armed robbers at the risks of their lives but in demonstration of their disposition to lay down their lives for others to live.
It is on record that SARS operatives have recorded daring achievements across the country. Some of these beat human imagination and have received commendations from wide spectrum of the citizens. The resonating concern of members of the public, therefore, had been their mode of operation. The Force leadership is convinced that the time has come to break from the past by rebranding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad nationwide through a phase programme that will retain operational zeal but subsume such under sound, civil and accountable professional practices. Today’s event marks the beginning of this worthy journey.

These set of SARS operatives who represent the first of SARS operatives to benefit from the rebranding initiative, have been trained to best international policing standards, a dress code has been set for them in such a manner that they will now present a friendlier and professional image befitting of the Force, and an Operational Protocol has also been developed to regulate their operations and define standard for their response to incidents.

In addition, in days to come, the weapon profile of SARS will be reviewed towards the engagement of less lethal technologies/weapon system such as electro-muscular disruption technology (Taser or Stun Guns) for components of their operations to reduce incidents of fatalities associated with application of lethal weapons. Our projection is that within the next one year, the entire SARS in all Police formations would have undergone the rebranding programme and their mode of operation, dress code, orientation, ethics, and quality of service would have been subsumed under the rule of law and aligned to the expectations of citizens.

Furthermore, ladies and gentlemen, another component of policing that has consistently been a subject of public discourse is the issue of police accountability. This is not a surprise, for even within the global policing space, it is acknowledged that an unaccountable police will remain an effectual institution. This is to the extent that such a Police Force will be populated by personnel whose discipline level and professional standards will be eroded and who will operate with impunity. An uncountable police institution will no doubt, lose public trust and confidence which are vital ingredients of policing.

In Nigeria, the general perception of the members of the public is that the Force lacks clear mechanism which members of the public can explore in reporting real or perceived professional misconducts of police personnel with a view to seeking administrative intervention and obtaining feedbacks in an expeditious manner. Contrary to this perception, there have always been administrative windows for addressing such complaints from members of the public and these mechanisms are equally potent.

Indeed, I make bold to state that there is no public institution in Nigeria that has exposed itself to public accountability and self-cleansing initiatives using its in-house control framework than the Nigeria Police Force. The missing link, it must be admitted, had been the inability of the Nigeria Police to take full advantage that information and communication Technology offers to strengthen its accountability mechanism. This is aside the fact that these mechanisms have with time become duplicated in a manner that has been impacting on their potency.

It is in acknowledgement of these policing realities that the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force resolved to establish the Complaint Response Unit (CRU) at both the Force Headquarters and Field Command levels.

The CRU will act as a central, ICT-driven public complaint Unit of the Force. It will take full advantage of ICT and social media platform to interface with the public towards receiving and processing complaints from members of the public and giving requisite feedback on actions taken on such complaints. It is designed to complement existing in-house public complaint monitoring and processing frameworks. The broad objective of the launch of the CRU is to entrench police accountability values into our policing system and to galvanize the citizens towards actively participating in the policing framework of the country.

I must specifically appreciate the support of the British Government which, through the Justice For All Programme (J4A), provided funding, hardware, software and training support for the Force towards the establishment of the NPF Complaint Response Unit. Also recognized is the support of CLEEN Foundation for leading the way in assisting the Nigeria Police to set up the ‘stop-the-bribes’ social networking site which will form and integral component of the NPF Complaint Response Unit. Same appreciation goes to the management of Techno Phones, Lagos (Nigeria) for their corporate support in providing 120 mobile GSM handsets for the operations of the Unit.

Ladies and gentlemen, the launch of the rebranded SARS and Complaint Response Team today is a further step towards fulfilling my promise to reform the Nigeria Police and situate our operations within best international practices. We are not there yet. But the path is clearly lit. We shall, with your trust and motivation, continue to follow through until the yearnings of Mr. President and indeed, the Nigerian citizens for a people-oriented police, a Police Force they can truly call friends is attained.

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