Former Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro has given insights to how the Nigeria Police Force set up the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In an interview with Daily Trust, Okiro stated that the controversy concerning SARS at the moment was caused by what he called ‘policy somersault’. According to him, successive police authorities failed to hold on to the principles of the police unit for years, leaving it to rot away.
He recalled that SARS started during his time in office as the Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations in Ikeja, Lagos, when the infamous armed robber called Shina Rambo was having a field day in 1991. He said: “His modus operandi was to sna*ch cars and begin a shooting spree in a convoy of gunmen. He was so brazen that he even shot at policemen at checkpoints. “There was no way to stop him. So, I and the then commissioner, Ademola, came up with the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
“The idea was that they would be in mufti, and armed, simply for the very important element of surprise. They would take cover, and communicating with walkie-talkies, hit the armed robbers. “They did that two or three times, and the robbery attacks went down, drastically, and at a point stopped altogether. “Soon SARS started spreading, from Lagos to other states. And I began to notice that at every roadblock, you will see armed policemen, but in mufti. Now, how do you differentiate between a policeman and an armed robber?” Okiro went on to say the original idea of SARS has been bastardised, adding that by the time it spread to other states, anyone could carry arms, dressed in mufti, with a T-shirt with SARS emblazoned on it. “Anybody can wear such an outfit. They even go into cases of bounced cheques and shady business transactions. SARS business is not to investigate, but to hit. It’s a Special Anti-Robbery Squad, not an investigative one,” he added. Okiro however disagreed with those calling for the police unit to be scrapped, rather he advocated for SARS to get back to its original concept, to hit robbers and come back. “SARS needs to be restructured and not scrapped completely. The police is meant to fight crime, they should be allowed to do their jobs in the most effective way. “If they are deviating from the concept, they should be called back on the right track. Ending SARS is like the police stopping their fight against robbers,” he concluded. The Nigeria Police has since said it saw no reason to disband the unit because it was doing quite well in its given duties across the nation. Police spokesman Jimoh Moshood said SARS has been doing well and moves to have the unit scrapped should be seriously condemned.