This week could well have been judgment day for the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Thousands of young Nigerians are using the #EndSARS hashtag to relay just how badly they’ve been treated by officers who should be protecting them from armed robbers.
It’s been a successful social media campaign thus far; with celebrities and politicians adding their voices to the clarion call to get SARS to behave like humans and not some bestial creatures.
Tales of woes
One lady said SARS made her cough out ‘bail’ money for wearing a G-string. The other said SARS groped her and fondled her breasts.
Young men have told of how SARS personnel led them to the ATM and coerced them into withdrawing money at gunpoint. SARS have arrested people for standing outside their family homes. A lady lost her son after SARS arrested him and ended his life behind bars. The late son was charged with zero crime. There are videos all over Twitter of SARS or police officers beating up suspects who were found with laptops or smartphones on the assumption that they are ‘Yahoo Yahoo boys’ or internet fraudsters. One SARS officer opened fire on civilians at a gas station and returned to the police truck menacingly like he had just won the lottery.
Nigerians have relayed stories of SARS at its very worst–the brutal, iron-fisted police force that kills and maims for a living.
The atrocities of SARS that have been laid bare this week aren’t anything new. For years, Amnesty International (AI) and the local press have railed against the extra-judicial killings and human rights violations perpetrated by SARS.
Living the SARS nightmare
And the stories told by ordinary Nigerians concerning SARS are believable to the extent that we’ve all lived the SARS nightmare.
During my university days, I was often stopped around the Ogba, Lagos area by SARS personnel and interrogated for carrying a laptop in my backpack. Once, I had to part with money to buy my freedom. My offence? I carried a laptop which automatically made me an internet scammer in SARS’ books.