Governors of states in the north of the country have opposed the recent disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police outfit that’s come under criticism for rights violations and abuses.
The Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, announced the stance on Thursday while fielding questions from State House reporters after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari on the improving security situation in the north and the plan to host National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) in his home state.
The governor, while speaking on the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), said what is needed is the reformation of the unit to enable it to discharge its functions optimally.
According to him, SARS was not made up of bad elements alone as it also included personnel who were doing their work diligently.
He cautioned that the baby should not be thrown away with the bath water as the police unit had been useful in the fight against insecurity in the north.
Lalong, while reacting to question on his message to the protesting youths, said: “We had a meeting yesterday (Wednesday), the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). When we see issues like this, most of the complaints vary from one state to the other. In one aspect, some people said they don’t want SARS, some said they want SARS but a reformed SARS. They want a reformed SARS because as far as they are concern, some of these SARS operatives help them in addressing insecurity.
“If there are bad ones under, holistically, bring them together and reform them. Then, you work for them. So, our opinion and conclusion at that stage was that let us not just say that we are throwing away the baby with bath water. If there are good ones, you don’t chase them away. So, as SARS is banned, we are now looking forward to an opinion because most of the States in the north said no. They want SARS because SARS helps them. Borno said without SARS, he would not have been surviving today. Niger also wants SARS.
“So, if you are addressing this issue of SARS, you need to know what is wrong in some places. Is it the process of recruitment? Is it the character of the people?
“You can’t say because somebody is wrong, everybody is wrong in the country. These are some of the issues we concluded yesterday (Wednesday). And it’s for the Chairman to go and meet Mr. President to still look at this issue holistically and critically so that we understand where we are going.
“On a whole, we all agreed that there must be general reform within the police. But you can’t do general reform without proper funding. You must address the issue of proper funding so that they don’t say government is responsible for lack of funding and we attack them for non-performance of their duties.
“I’m sure our Chairman will meet Mr. President. We all went back that everybody should go back and address the issue in his State. Because in some of the States, you find that people moving people to do protest are people from other States.
“But in real sense, some of the things are not even happening in our State or they are very minimal. If there are complaints that people are coming outside, let’s not begin to generalize it or we will miss the point.
“Let’s address it and find out if in those environment, things are happening like this, we must go back. It’s just like we are addressing Coronavirus. When we say Coronavirus is everywhere. At the end of the day, we said no. In some places, Coronavirus is not there. We generalize.”
Lalong promised to engage the youths protesting over insecurity in the country under the aegis of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) to see the genuineness of their grievances and address them accordingly.
The governor, while speaking on the killing of a village head and vigilante in Barkinlade local government area (LGA) of Plateau State, said four out of five persons had been arrested in connection with the incidents.
Lalong, who expressed interest in community policing, said about 80 percent of his people are already in Makurdi doing training since Plateau is one of the pilot States for the project.
He voiced optimism that insecurity would be a thing of the past in Plateau with the adoption of community policing and information sharing from the populace.
He said a gun runner who killed an SSS officer a few weeks ago was arrested within two days and was now in cell waiting for prosecution.
He also announced the appointment of a new coordinator for Operation Rainbow.