Frank Mba, the spokesman of the Nigeria police force, says it will be difficult for any responsible organisation to scrap the special anti-robbery squad (SARS).
Speaking on the nationwide protest against the police unit, Mba said some SARS operatives are involved in the fight against insurgency and banditry in the north.
Fresh cases of police brutality renewed protests calling for an end to the special unit which is notorious for its excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and, in some cases, extrajudicial killings.
In Lagos where the protests began and now in its second day, residents flooded major roads with placards, insisting “enough is enough”, and it is time to scrap the squad.
When he appeared on a Channels TV programme on Friday, Mba faulted said some of the protesters that want SARS banned are beneficiaries of crime.
“If the #EndSARS hashtag is seen as a symbolic call for the reform of SARS, I would say clearly that the leadership of the NPF is in line and ready to work with those making that call,” he said.
“However, if the hashtag should be seen as a call for the total disbandment of SARS, I would tell you very clearly that it will be difficult for any responsible organisation to work that path, taking into cognisance the amount of investment in training that government has made in setting up that department and the very critical roles it is playing.
“As a matter of fact, we have received a lot of calls from people particularly in states like Maiduguri, Yobe, and some other parts of the north where SARS operatives are deeply embedded in the fight against banditry, insurgency.
“And these people have made it very clear that ending SARS is not even an option for them because of the critical roles SARS operatives are playing in those areas, heavily on bandits, terrorists and other kinds of criminals.”
The police spokesman said while some are genuinely concerned about the excesses of their police unit, another group want it scrapped criminals who would benefit more in its absence.
“There are people who are beneficiaries of criminal enterprise,” he added.
“Some of them probably people who are receiving stolen goods; who are into organised crime such as arms smuggling, illicit arms movement, importation of drugs and other kinds of crimes that are economically motivated.”
As gathered by Mentorslinks, TheCable had reported how policemen, including SARS officials, reportedly killed 92 Nigerians in one year. Amid the opposition against the special unit, the IGP banned the SARS officials from carrying out ‘stop and search’ operations on roads.
However, concerns remain on the implementation of such measure which has been introduced on more than one occasion in the past with little or no action to enforce it.