The #EndSARS campaign which surged from the beginning of October was a call for police brutality and alleged criminal offenses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad within the country to end.
While speculators wondered if the campaign would come to an end, following the Inspector General of police’s disbandment of SARS on Sunday, 11th, 2020; many protesters changed course, calling for the IG’s proposition of forming a new anti-robbery unit to be put to the sword.
To go by the name Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) team, the new anti-robbery police unit is meant to replace the now-defunct SARS. They would be tasked with carrying out the duties previously assigned to SARS.
The IG of police in a statement chipped in that members of SWAT would undergo a psychological and medical examination before admission into the force. He stressed that the unit would be held accountable for abuse of authority or violation of human rights. According to him, the unit would begin training from Monday, 19th October 2020.
But Nigerians took to Twitter just hours after the announcement, calling for the disbandment of SWAT, with the hashtag #EndSWAT trending immediately. According to them, SWAT is just a rebrand of SARS and is not the police reform they request for from the government.
Some of the reasons put forward by protesters for the #EndSWAT campaign include;
- The use of ex-SARS operative in forming SWAT
- Admission of ex-convicts into the force, and
- Lack of disciplinary action drafted for operatives who abuse human rights.
In answer to that, the police have listed the following criteria as the qualification for admitting members into the SWAT team:
- No former SARS operative would be a member of the SWAT team.
- Only young, smart, and vibrant officers must be selected for training.
- Officers must have over seven years of experience and a clean record – he/she must have no pending disciplinary issue, a record of violation of human rights, or a record of misuse of firearms.
- Officers must be strong enough to withstand the rigors of SWAT training and operations.
- Selected officers must undergo physical fitness tests, medical and toxicology screening, etc and unqualified candidates shall be discharged.
Talks are still been held as to the promised police reforms while protesters continue to make their voices heard.