The Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force has earned a reputation for brutality and
unnecessary bloodshed. Since its outset, the group has been responsible for torture, extrajudicial killings,
extortion, and injustice. In March of 2019, 36-year old single father Kolade Johnson was shot dead by a
SARS operative in the attempt to arrest another man with dreadlocks. This development caused an
increase in anti-SARS movement traction, as many Nigerians took to social media to share their
experiences with the group.
As expected, Nigerian civilians have responded to the brutality with outrage, some calling for an end to
the group’s activities altogether. The issue with the anti-SARS movement, however, is that it aims to
punish an entire squad for the actions of a few rogue officers. Although the group has committed gross
human rights violations, it has also implemented a highly successful anti-robbery campaign.
In 2013, SARS arrested Abiodun Egunjobi, the leader of a notorious gang of robbers who have reportedly
killed well over 50 policemen and several civilians. In May 2019, acting Inspector-General of Police
Mohammed Adamu insisted that SARS has contributed up to 80% of the successes recorded by the
Nigerian Police Force. SARS was originally formed in order to combat robbery in Nigeria, with largely
Unfortunately, however, SARS’ brutality, combined with its reputation for operating as
a witch-hunting vehicle, profiling young and affluent Nigerians with flamboyant appearances, has
damaged its public image beyond repair. Arguments both for and against SARS have a measure of
validity, as the group has both contributed and posed a threat to justice in Nigeria. For this reason, ending
SARS may not necessarily lead to an increase in the justice that we all seek and expect from the Nigerian
Then, there is the issue of reform. After a statement by vice-president Yemi Osinbajo in 2018, SARS was
rehabilitated and remodelled in an attempt to salvage public faith in the group’s abilities. A year later,
however, and the “new” SARS is guilty of the same crimes perpetrated prior to the reform.
So, what exactly should we do with SARS?
The public’s trust cannot be given. It must be earned. SARS must prove that it is worthy of its authority
over the Nigerian public. So, here is how the government must approach this situation: The Special Anti-
Robbery Squad must have 365 days (1 year) to regain public trust. For the duration of this year, SARS
will maintain its authority over the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. After this period has
elapsed, the existence of SARS will be put to a vote on a national level. A referendum should determine
whether or not the group is to continue to exist. In 2017, 32 SARS operatives were arrested for acting
against protocol in Abuja. The Nigerian Police Force must hold all other SARS operatives accountable in
this manner, even if that means conceding to #endSARS.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.