The Nigeria Governors Forum has said the announcement of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit as the replacement for the scrapped Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (F-SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force is necessary but ill-timed.
The forum’s position was contained in a communique signed by Kayode Fayemi, Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Ekiti State after the forum’s teleconference meeting with Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector-General of Police, on Wednesday.
The communique was issued on Thursday.
Adamu had on Sunday announced the disbandment of F-SARS following sustained protests by Nigerians across the country demanding the scrapping of the police unit due to alleged brutality and extortion committed by its operatives.
As part of the promised reform of the force, the IGP had on Tuesday announced the formation of the SWAT unit to “fill in the gaps” created by the disbandment of SARS.
However, the announcement of the new SWAT team has not been received well by protesters, who claimed that the new unit is a direct replacement of the defunct SARS team and that the police force has not addressed concerns of police reforms.
According to the communique, the IGP informed governors that the new SWAT team he was putting together will only carry out intelligence-based activities and will not be involved in regular operations.
The communique read: “The IGP informed the Forum that after a psychological and medical evaluation, SWAT Officers will be trained and posted to all State Commands – about 50 per State, where they will operate only on intelligence-driven operation.
“They will not take part in routine operations but will operate specifically on intelligence after which they will return to their Commands.
“The IGP assured Governors that he will leverage the provisions of the new Police Act 2020 to carry out extensive reforms within the Police and he pledged for the support, understanding and guidance of Governors to embark on the new reforms.“
However, the governors, partly toed the line of the protesters, saying the timing of the SWAT formation is inauspicious because of the mood of Nigerians.
They noted that even though the formation of the new police unit was done in good faith, Nigerians may misinterpret the announcement as an attempt to dress the scrapped F-SARS in new garments.
The forum, however, expressed its support for the IGP to carry out far-reaching reforms geared towards greater effectiveness, accountability, and transparency in the police force.
The communique read: “In response, the Forum acknowledged the concerns of many Nigerians especially youths that have been affected by the excesses of some officials of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and the Nigeria Police;
“This notwithstanding, Forum members noted the efforts of officials of FSARS in their States, as they have greatly assisted in containing the increasing spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, and other high-end crimes particularly in the Northern States, where containing these criminal activities would have otherwise been very challenging.
“Members, therefore, expressed concern about the sweeping decision to scrap FSARS even while acknowledging the need to address its excesses.
“After deliberation and extensive discussions, members resolved as follows:
“Governors were unanimous in their support for the IGP and endorsed his plan to carry out far-reaching reforms geared towards greater effectiveness, accountability, and transparency; members called for increased regularity in the meetings of the Nigeria Police Council in order for it to effectively carry out its regulatory and supervisory roles as contained in the Nigerian Constitution.”
On the IGP’s plans on SWAT, the Governors “stated that even though the effort might be necessary and in good faith, they argued that the timing is inauspicious as the mood of the nation negates it and may understandably be misinterpreted as a surreptitious move to dress FSARS in another garb”.