IN 1992, the violent crime rate of bank robberies and the rest became very overwhelming to the police anti-robbery squad, led to Commissioner of Police, Simeon Danladi Midenda, founding the tactical outfit that year.
Anti-robbery as a mantra in the Nigeria Police Force for combating violent crimes is as old as the police. Anti-robbery had always existed in all criminal investigation departments at force headquarters, zonal and state command levels.
In 1992, one Col Ringim a military officer from Plateau State was killed in error by policemen at a checkpoint in Lagos. The incident caused the army to take to the streets in search of any policeman to kill. As a result policemen abandoned the streets in Lagos and withdrew to the barracks.
With the vacuum created, robbers then had a field day in Lagos operating with impunity. It took about two weeks of talks for the police and to convince the army to return to barracks and for police to resume duties by that time it was too late.
Armed robbers took control of Lagos and the likes of Shina Rambo could not be challenged by any force. At this time, Midenda was in charge of anti-robbery unit of the State CID in Benin, Edo State. The state was notorious for armed robbery at that time but his unit brought the situation under control.
One month after this, the then Commissioner of Police in Edo State, the late James Danbaba was moved to Lagos. Barely one month after, Midenda was also transferred to Lagos but then, Osanaya, who took over from Mr. Danbaba in Benin refused to release him. A week later the IGP ordered Midenda to report to Lagos within three hours as a superintendent of Police.
He reported in Lagos as ordered. He met the late James Danbaba and the Commissioner of Police, Sir Mike Okiro, former IGP as Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations and the late A. Adeoye DCP Administration. They asked him to set up an anti-robbery team, strong enough to make sure robbers were dislodged from Lagos.
For him to start off his team, 15 fully armed men and two Peugeot station wagons were given to him. Mr. Taiwo Lakanu, DIG retired was appointed his second in command. It must be noted at this time that there were already three anti-robbery squads operating in Lagos.
The anti-robbery squads are only in Alagbon Force CID, based at Adeniji Adele, the others attached to Zone 2 Command, the third at State CID Panti, Lagos State. With the existence of these three separate anti-robbery units already operating in Lagos, therefore, he needed a name unique with which his own team was to be called and communicated with.
After much effort to coin a name, he simply added the word ‘Special’ to the already existing anti-robbery squad and it came up with ‘SARS’ and that was how the name came into the books of the Nigeria police.
The secret behind the original SARS was its facelessness and its mode of operation. They operate in plain cloths and use plain vehicles that could not be associated with security or any government agency. Members could not carry walkie-talkie let alone guns. With the spate of robberies in Lagos, they realised the danger in carrying weapons openly. They also realised that by carrying weapons openly, they have destroyed the element of surprise.
The recent conduct of members of present day inglorious SARS negates the principle and mandate of the outfit which grossly abused human rights of Nigerians they are meant to protect.
In 2017, a group of human rights activists and some other well meaning Nigerians launched the campaign of #EndSARS now to bring sanity into the police.
The extrajudicial killings, torture, operating outside their mandate and intimidation to fellow Nigerians with impunity and high level of insecurity in the land is responsible for the sustained protests to end SARS and reform the police.
Despite the announcement by the IGP, scraping the inglorious SARS, the protest in Lagos is taking a very serious dimension with three deaths recorded thereafter.
At least one police inspector, one commissioned officer and an innocent man who got down from his car to urinate was shot in the neck.
The protesters have said that the protest will continue until the police high command completely scraps the tactical outfit and reform the police.
Meanwhile the scraping of SARS seems not to be a national issue as their counterparts in the north is still operating.