Before EFCC turned into another SARS


BY ADEBAYO ABUBAKAR

When the Special Anti Robbery Squad, popularly known as SARS, was created by the then Inspector General of Police about 30 years ago, it was intended for a particular purpose – to combat the threat. of armed robbery and other violent crimes that were on the nation’s consumption at the time.

Wikipedia, the online search engine, describes SARS as “a notorious Nigerian police unit with a long record of abuse.” According to the search engine; “SARS was a branch of the Nigerian police under the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID). It was founded in late 1992 as one of 14 units of the Force’s Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, which was established to detain, investigate and prosecute those involved in crimes such as theft. armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes.

They have a special warrant to attack the roads and other shadows of thieves across the country. They were therefore not placed under the supervision of police commissioners at the state level. Rather, they reported directly to a Deputy Inspector General of Police. This gave them a certain degree of autonomy vis-à-vis undue interference by state police commissioners.

But along the line, SARS lost its focus, abandoning its core mandates, as clearly spelled out in the order establishing the outfit. Its agents have simply abandoned its primary mandate of fighting violent crimes like armed robberies, kidnappings, among others; and began preying on perceived, unsuspected (on reasonable grounds) “Internet scammers” commonly referred to as “Yahoo Boy.”

Meanwhile, “Internet fraud” is a crime, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU has been established, legally empowered and technically equipped to fight. And they do their work in complete anonymity, using high-tech equipment.

But in the name of fighting internet fraud, which does not belong to the violent class of armed robberies and kidnappings, SARS, like intruders, would have none of these things. They harass, arrest, detain, extort and / or execute anyone who is unlucky enough to get into the profiling of extremely corrupt and trigger-friendly agents, who are most often mufti.

They would pick on any young man, in his twenties and late thirties or early forties, wearing a dead end hairstyle, carrying a laptop or smartphone. Reports say some victims have been escorted to ATMs and forced to withdraw anything in their accounts to buy their freedom. The few who dared to play hard, either rotten in detention, were summarily executed or permanently physically disabled.

When the young Nigerians stopped feeling safe when they saw the men in the uniform or the regular police, even if they did not commit any known violation of any law in the land, they took to the streets with signs and then on social media, with the #EndSARS hash-tagged campaign.

The highlight was, at the Lekki toll booth, where peaceful protesters gathered, continuously for about two weeks. But it took a violent turn, following the arrival of the military who were reportedly invited by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to enforce the newly declared curfew on October 20, 2020. From many demonstrators were reportedly shot dead. fired by the military. But they vehemently denied killing anyone.

The question of how many people were killed by military bullets remains a matter of controversy to this day, as the military has denied firing a vital bullet. However, he admitted to firing what he called a “white bullet”. However, blood-stained pieces of the Nigerian national flag were seen at the scene.

The protest then spread like a wild fire harmattan, in most parts of the country. It was a demonstration like no other before it. It was a protest that shook the very foundations of the Nigerian state. Police officers were reportedly killed and police stations and vans set on fire.

Most of the protesters’ demands, the main one being the disbandment of the unit with immediate effect, were granted by President Muhammadu Buhari.

As I type on my keyboard, the Nigerian Police, NPF, and their men are still battling the resulting crisis of legitimacy, struggling to regain the trust of the Nigerian people.

If a juggernaut called the Nigerian Police could suffer so much, any law enforcement agency, especially paramilitary organizations, must watch it.

This highlights the new penchant for impunity for the men of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. The media is inundated with reports of how the men on the commission are currently invading hotels, inns and private residences, violating people’s privacy, in the name of acting on a whistleblower, or “credible intelligence.”

About two years ago they started with senior judges; raided their homes in the middle of the night, alleging they were involved in money laundering. But in the end, nothing was found about these priests at the Temple of Justice. It was the ominous sign that many Nigerians have never seen or decided to ignore. If judges could suffer so much humiliation, how much more, an ordinary Nigerian like you and me?

Their modus operandi has become pretty much that of their deceased sister outfit, SARS. They profile Internet fraudsters based on their age, hairstyle and the level of sophistication of their electronic gadgets (personal computer, phones, etc.). Meanwhile, I guess, they have the technological ability to track internet fraudsters, using digital fingerprints.

In Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, about two days ago, dozens of university students from; “Ilorin University” and “Kwara State University, Malete” saw their hostels invaded in Gestapo style, with a few doors broken, and students, male and female, manhandled, only to the “Bawa boys” come out without the slightest evidence that they acted on the basis of intelligence, which carried some semblance of credibility.

Also last week, there was a report that the EFCC had raided a hotel in Enugu and arrested students, and young leaders from Ohanaeze Ndigbo (an Igbó socio-cultural group) who were holding a security meeting, were arrested and hunted in the coastal region. The buses.

Another woman on social media claimed they groped her in the dark after cutting off the hotel’s power supply. But Commission spokesperson Wilson Uwujaren alleged internet fraudsters known as “Yahoo Boys” used to use naked women to distract EFCC officials. Funny, isn’t it?

I believe that financial crime investigations in the age of the electronic economy should be technology-driven, so that an EFCC agent does not have to invade and violate the serenity of hostels, hotels or private residences, pulling sporadically, turning off the electricity power supply and start groping women for evidence of Internet fraud.

Any electronic transaction, fraudulent or not, leaves digital fingerprints in its wake, which would prevent the perpetrator (s) from escaping the long arm of the law.

The strangest law enforcement strategy in Nigeria that isn’t limited to the EFCC is that they arrest most suspects before they begin to investigate the charges against them. It is like putting the cart before the horse. They arrest, torture and detain before starting an investigation.

Before the EFCC becomes the new “SARS”; Before they start attending #EndEFCC, someone needs to remind them that the US FBI didn’t fire a single shot before arresting Instagram celebrity and alleged internet fraudster Ramon Abbas, popularly known as by Hushpuppi. All they have done is due diligence which is the corollary of a thorough investigation before they start hunting him until he is finally arrested. And no sooner was he arrested than full reports of the FBI’s detailed investigation were released.

In healthier climates, law enforcement officers will rush to suspect suspects, only if and when they have completed their investigation. But the reverse is the case with law enforcement agencies in Nigeria. No wonder they have a hard time getting convictions against most of their defendants.

Could it be that the historical affinity between the Nigerian police and the EFCC is at the origin of the police approach to the fight against financial crime? Keep in mind that the pioneer staff of the Anti-Transplant Agency came from the Nigerian police. “DNA doesn’t lie”. The umbilical cord is too short.

As the police struggle to restore their legitimacy in the eyes of Nigerians; a situation that has created a huge void in our national security architecture, we cannot afford to add the anti-corruption agency to the list of law enforcement agencies that have lost their legitimacy.

Adebayo Abubakar writes from Ilorin. You can reach him on 08051388285 and [email protected]

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