11th October, 2020
For too long the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) division of the Nigerian Police Force has terrorized and harassed the citizens of Nigeria. Not only do they illegally arrest and exhort money from their victims, they have also been known to torture and kill those unfortunate enough to get into their net.
In light of these many injustices, over the past few years, many movements have arisen to goad the government into doing something to curb the activities of the rogue unit.
The Nigerian government in response has only made half-hearted changes that have done nothing to relieve the suffering of the masses.
This time, however, the youth of Nigeria is unified in its cause to make the government impact some real changes. Operating with the hashtags #EndSARS and #SARSMUSTEND, the peaceful protesters are standing their ground and bringing attention to their plight, urging the Nigerian Government to completely scrap the rogue unit to avoid even more losses in the future.
These people** have shared their experiences with the rogue SARS unit which gives them the motivation and strength to protest against it for their rights.
A** shared with RadrAfrica the pain of being a young man who has the air of being well off;
“I’m a creative writer and a content writer. I was working in an ad agency back in 2017 and it was pretty cool because my job allowed me to be as expressive as I wanted from my work to how I looked. I would change my hairstyle as often as I wanted from afro to Mohawk to cornrows to dreads but every change made me prone to SARS encounters. It became so frequent at my Bus stop that I got to know some of them.
One of them tried to play “Uncle” but I didn’t want to be friends with the police and I avoided him as often as I could. It was so bad, I used to take the long way home because I was avoiding SARS and I’m not a criminal. This guy who tried to play “Uncle” came to me one evening and he said I had the whole Yahoo boy package on me, he told me I was just wasting away with legit hustle and he was going to take me to a place where I’ll get fortified and I’ll start to cash out from scam. I had to lie that I had tried and it backfired because of my ancestral background, that was the only way I could get off. Other times I had to explain what Fiverr was about, how I use PayPal to work with foreigners, and all that but they never want to listen, they always want you to admit that you’re a scammer and pay your way out of it. Once I went into chicken republic with a friend and we sat to eat there, this guy walked up to me and he whispered that he’s with Sars and I can take my time with the girl I’m with but they’ll be waiting outside. I had to talk to an elderly woman who came to get stuff and she was the one who helped me out by claiming I was with her.
Currently, I’m working with a content creation company and on nights when I have to work late, I have to plan my trip in a bid to avoid sars. I’ve not had ugly experiences like some people but some of my friends have not been so lucky and I really hate that I have to stick to certain hairstyles, style of dressing and even avoid certain places while trying to avoid the Anti-Robbery Squad. I’m not a criminal.”
B** a young gay man also recounts his experience with SARS operatives earlier this year:
”I was just released after an hour of being arrested by 5 policemen on the street based on ”perceived homosexuality”. The one hour with them was hell. I was subjected to mental and physical torture but I never allowed them on my phone.
They said all sorts of awful things to me. Dragged my ear, dragged my hair, and almost slapped me and did other stuff.
I was humiliated by people meant to protect me. They repeatedly called me. Disgrace in my brother’s voice. They later released me after preaching to me and used the name of God to justify their act of violence.
Also, they kept asking why I had a big ass and kept making comments like ”leaking yansh”, ”impotent”, ”ashawo”, ”Your boyfriend go burst you shit go commot”.”
D** shared her own experience with the rouge unit;
”It was in April 2019, my younger brother’s 20th birthday and we were heading out, our bike suddenly got stopped by SARS officials and the only thing they asked my brother was “ess, where you dey work?”, he said ”Ahn ahn”, I was stunned.
Next thing they were telling him to come down and to bring his phone that he is a criminal, I still had my Nysc ID card then so I started telling them to leave my brother alone that I was a corper and he’s just a student and I asked them how they could not even ask him to identify himself first, I refused to let my brother go with them and that infuriated them. One of them started shouting at me threatening to slap me that I should get out of the way and my brother should follow them
I didn’t back down and this whole time I had given my ID card to one of them who I perceived was their boss, in the process of blocking the bus entrance and shouting the one that threatened to slap me said he’ll shoot me then I decided to pick up my phone while telling them that it was my fault I had wasted my strength and time on them and that it’s because they don’t know who I am that I’ll show them.
I brought out my phone and tried calling my dad, I don’t know if that was what changed their mind but the one with my ID card told my brother to take me away from their sight and we should leave, that it’s only a man that can be slapping my mouth very well that will suit me since I think I’m stubborn.
Everytime I think back I wonder what would have become of me if he had actually pulled the trigger.”
These are only a drop in the ocean of various experiences with the SARS unit which is marked with violence and abuse of power. This is why the youth are calling on the government to abolish the unit once and for all.
Lend your voice to the cause by using these hashtags in your tweets and amplifying the voice of the movement; #ENDSARS #SARSMUSTEND.
You can also donate to the fund here and join the protests near you!
**Names have been changed to.protect the identity of the victims