EldaDavid Kehinde Samuel is a Resident Policy Fellow of the Nigerian Global Affairs Council – A Technology-based and Digital Media-driven Public Policy and Evidence-based Research Think-Tank. He shared his thoughts and policy recommendations on what the Federal Government could do to fix the tactical squad popularly called FSARS with Rasheed Adebiyi. The FSARS is under serious fire as Nigerians have been on the streets in the last four days demanding it is disbanded. However, a voice of caution from Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe had called for reforms in place of total disbandment. Elda seems to have responded with not less than 15 policy suggestions to make the tactical squad of the NPF more community-oriented and citizen-friendly. Here are his thoughts
The FSARS despite the negative publicity and baggage that has damaged their brand identity, they remain an active force committed to rooting hardened criminals and kidnappers, trust us, there are dare-devil elements that live around us all over Nigeria. They will have a field day if the FSARS were banned even for a day, you cannot call on the Military to defend our roads and streets for criminal elements that reside amongst us, that’s the sole responsibility of the Nigerian Police Force and the special tactical squads set up for such purpose.
Some Nigerians have sold their souls to the darkest part of the earth and virtues such as empathy or positive emotions are far-removed from their hearts and souls… The FSARS was created to tame these monsters of hardened criminals so not every Police Officer signs up to become a part of the SARS particularly those without a strong heart that fears no death.
There is no verified or reliable data though to back up the number of robberies or kidnappings they have foiled, there is no data to back-up how many officers they have lost to dare-devil armed robbers or kidnappers. This lack of sufficient data or information makes it a hard nut or cause to defend or commend the impact of the FSARS.
Nigerians have clamoured for the ban of FSARS, that’s the easy part because yes we agree that the brand identity FSARS is damaged but don’t forget that even if a new Taskforce is created with a more polite and community-friendly brand name, the same elements that make up our Police Force will be recruited or volunteer themselves to take on this dangerous job of ensuring that hardened criminals and kidnappers don’t have a field day in Nigeria.
Whilst we are clamouring for the BAN and scrap of the FSARS, keep this in mind, the FSARS isn’t the original problem, the original problem is the make-up of our Police Force, FSARS is simply a victim of the culture that the Nigerian Police Force has indirectly instituted, the FSARS are no different from the regular policemen or women we deal with everyday who are bribe loving and gun trotting elements that damage the brand identity of the Police Force.
The Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NIGAC) is calling for proactive measures to be taken and we will enumerate some of the proactive policy measures Government and the Police Hierarchy can implement. Here are the suggested policy measures the NIGAC proposes to our Federal Government and the Nigerian Police Force:
Retire the FSARS Brand: Like we have postulated at the top, the FSARS brand is damaged, the Federal Government and the Nigerian Police Force Hierarchy must realize that for the populace to believe that any change has taken place, it must start with the rebranding of the Tactical Squad in charge of tough operations. Any change short of a change in name is simply cosmetic and Nigerians will not believe that her Government is ready to effect any serious change.
Select a New Brand Name for this Tactical Squad: The Nigerian Global Affairs Council posits that the new name should reflect a community-oriented and citizen-friendly Police Force that projects its strength as one that works with the citizens to reduce crimes after all Police can work more effectively if the citizens trust them to share intelligence with their Internal Machineries. The brand name to a more community-oriented and citizen-friendly one will also impact on the psyche of the men of that squad as they seem to feel that every Nigerian is a potential fraudster, armed-robber or kidnapper – this has enabled them to recklessly target young people, maim young people and even kill a lot of young people. We believe that a change in brand identity to a community-oriented and citizen-friendly one doesn’t change the objectives of the tactical squad but it will set the pace for a total reset of the mindset and heart of Officers of the Police Force who join or are recruited into this Tactical Squad. One name suggestion we have is: FEDERAL COMMUNITY PROTECTION SQUAD or whatever better names Nigerians can muster.
Offsite Learning and Development Program: All Police Officers to join the newly reformed Tactical Squad must undergo a one year offsite Learning and Development Program – It should not be called Training as the word has been abused and it has become a routine word in the minds of our Police Officers and all the trainings they have gotten has obviously not shown forth their designed results. Our proposed Learning and Development Program for Tactical Squad members should focus on teaching them Community Relations Skills, Emotional Intelligence, Effects of Substance Abuse (Practical) and its Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Crisis Management, Citizen-oriented engagements and Communication Skills etc., if our Officers of this newly reformed Tactical Squad undergo this level of Learning and Development in one year, we can be rest assured that their mind-set and orientation will change because they will be able to see our citizens from a different lens, this approach might not stop the bad eggs but it will have broad-based impact and ripple effect on the entire Police Force Culture.
Quarterly Test for Substance Abuse: To be admitted into the newly reformed Tactical Squad, all Police Officers must be tested for substance abuse. Only a sane and stable mind can effectively and efficiently carry out their Jobs in a Professional Manner expected of a Security Operative. The National Assembly and Police Hierarchy must institute a LAW that makes it mandatory for Officers of all Special Tactical Squad to be tested once every quarter for substance abuse and alcohol level consumption over the period, we won’t advocate against a ban on drink on alcohol but don’t drink whilst at work and if you are going to drink off-duty then ensure it is at a minimum if anyone wants to remain in the Tactical Squad.
Incentivize Good Motivation: Whilst we advocate for reforms, we must also realize that HUMANS are incentivized to do better when there are clearly defined reward systems in place for good behaviour – let’s not forget that the Job they do as Police Officers and as Members of a Special Tactical Squad is very dangerous because they can be Killed-in-Action (KIA) at anytime. A Life Insurance of 20 – 100 Million Naira dependent on years of service should be paid-up for each member of our Special Tactical Squads. Any Officer killed in action in a honourable manner should automatically know that their families will be well-compensated, but this is only if the officer did not get up to 10 strikes throughout his membership of the tactical squad. Strikes should occur when there is serious breach of professionalism or there is proof of dereliction in duties as a Tactical Squad Member. If an officer honourably retires from the Tactical Squad and Police Force, that officer should also have access to that Life-Time Insurance Premium so long they did not get 10 Strikes on their records. This will foster good behaviour.
Call for Disciplinary Action: 10 Strikes means disciplinary action or outright dismissal if offense is criminal in natural as a Member of a Special Tactical Squad.
Welfare: To motivate and engender good behaviour, we must give incentives to maintain decorum as the reward and benefits for acting responsibly as a Member of a Special Tactical Squad is more enticing. All members of a Special Tactical Squad must reside in a largely residential and dedicated estate outside the Barracks that comes with complete and respectable amenities. Members of these Special Tactical Squad must be given decent housing as those are one of the basic determinants of how a human being behaves, if he lives in a decent environment, he acts as one and if he lives in a dungeon looking barracks then they reflect the behaviour of the environment they reside in. Children of Special Tactical Squad should also be provided with Guaranteed Scholarship up to their University Education, this will help reduce the incidence of crimes perpetuated by Officers of the Special Tactical Squad. They enjoy these benefits for the duration of their service as members of the Special Tactical Squad so long they don’t get disqualified by virtue of getting 10 strikes.
Commanders Made to Take Responsibility: Commanders who manage these Special Tactical Squads must provide written approvals for RAIDS to be carried out – a special notice draft note can be implemented across the compound so ORDERS are quickly signed if the attention of the Special Tactical Squad is urgently required. This note can be signed on or immediately after a successful or unsuccessful raid. Any officer who carries out unauthorized raids should be suspended from the Squad and if they don’t carry on 5 more times, they must be disqualified from the special squad and assigned desk duties never to touch a weapon again. Commanders must be promoted or demoted based on the actions and inactions of their subordinates. This will instill DISCIPLINE in the rank and file of the Special Tactical Squad.
Need for Special Operative Uniform: All members of a Special Tactical Squad must ADORN a special BULLET PROOF Uniform, it doesn’t have to be the full regalia of the Nigerian Police Force but it must be a clear cut UNIFORM that makes it easier to recognize them and they must be on their active duty special bullet proof outfit once on duty be it off or on the road. It should be an offense that earns a STRIKE if Special Tactical Squad Members are not on their special outfit, except in rare cases where the commander approves and it is written on the approval notice, tactical squad members can wear plain clothes but with a clear badge that differentiates them. All members of Special Tactical Squads must have their ID cards on full display except in rare cases where they go on raids.
Entire Enforcement of the Ban from Routine Patrols: Special Tactical Squad Members should only be FOUND on the road when there is a serious breach of peace and security in times of robbery, kidnapping, arson, and destructive rioting that regular Police Officers cannot curtail.
Continuous Learning and Development: Continuous classroom learning and development must be instituted as a measure to inculcate the community-friendly and citizen-oriented approach, special tactical squads should take going forward. We do not want Police Officers who see every Nigerian as a potential criminal, it takes conscious and intentional efforts to reset such a mindset.
Ban on Alcohol and Substance Usage: As Members of a Special Tactical Squad, there must be a certain level of alcohol consumption permitted off-duty and they should NEVER DRINK, SMOKE or even be drunk or intoxicated whilst on duty. As suggested above, Police Officers in these squads must undergo quarterly SUBSTANCE ABUSE test that checks for drugs and alcohol consumption levels. Officers found wanting should be dismissed from the Special Tactical Squad and cease to enjoy its benefits.
Well-kitted Special Tactical Squad Members: Officers who belong to a Special Tactical Squad must be well-kitted as per the advice above, excellent vehicles with unremovable trackers that must be active always must be fixed on each vehicle alongside modern communication gadgets. The movements of special tactical vehicles must be reviewed on a monthly basis and unauthorized movements of these vehicles must be red-flagged and queried as part of the Risk Management Function of the Nigerian Police Force.
Well-paid and well-compensated Tactical Squad: Members of a Special Tactical Squad should be well-paid and compensated way above other Members of the Police Force, this is to ensure that they are not tempted to break their OATH to the Nigerian Constitution and their commitment to protect Nigerians. We need a Special Tactical Squad Unit of high-earning Officers who are not intimidated by wealth or riches on display by Nigerians.
Creation of a Risk Management Department: Lastly, the Nigerian Police Force should create a Risk Management Department within its Special Tactical Squad Unit – this Risk Department should be managed by Risk Professionals within the Security Architecture that identifies risk behaviours and actions that can destroy the reputation of the Nigerian Police Force and Special Tactical Squads if not dealt with immediately. This Department should report directly to the Inspector General of Police and National Security Advisor in all its dealings, recommendations, and findings.
If the Nigerian Government applies these recommendations alongside implementing and enforcing the changes that the Police Reform Act 2020 has made, we will have a robust community oriented and citizen-friendly police force that is respected, loved and admired by all Nigerians.