The latest campaign to end Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) hit the country like a fierce storm. Everywhere you went, and on social media, angry youths, who are the worst hit by the police unit’s brutality, extortion and impunity were up in arms.
Despite promises of reform, the protesters gave scrapping of SARS as the only condition that would pacify them and so the protests persisted in several parts of the country even after Inspector General Police Mohammed Adamu had announced on Sunday, October 11, that the SARS founded in 1992 to crack violent robberies had been dissolved.
The hashtag #EndSARS first used a few years ago was reignited after a video footage went viral on social media, alleging that officers of the police unit pushed a young man of his Lexus SUV in Ughelli, Delta State and made away with the vehicle.
Many Nigerians have had nasty encounters with SARS operatives. Youths aged between 15 and 40 were the worst targets of the brutality, and in many cases, extortion and extrajudicial killings by rogue members of the police unit.
The Nigerian Xpress chronicles a few of citizens’ encounters with the SARS:
After Kingsley escaped kidnap by suspected ritualists, his SARS ordeal begins
I am a Bolt driver who picked up 3 riders from Eleganza before Lekki 2nd toll gate and heading to Oshodi at about 9:45 pm on Wednesday, 23rd September 2020.
On the way, one of them said he will stop at Law School after 1st toll gate, on getting there I stopped for the guy to alight and to my shock, the two at the back held me from the back, held on to my throat and dragged me to the floor of the backseat…
While the one in front took over the steering, at this point they started hitting my knees, shoulders and elbow with a hammer to weaken me, I became so weak with pain and remained calm till dey drove to a distance and the driver suddenly said my fuel is finished.
Their commander asked me if I hard fuel keg in the boot and I said yes, so he asked the driver to park close to a fuel station and use the keg to get fuel but the other one said no need to park that he should drive in since they have weakened me already.
At this point, I prayed for God’s help because they pulled my black polo and used it to cover my face but when I noticed they were already at the fuel station, I started shouting but they zoomed off and someone drove after us, crossed us but his car was hit off the road.
So they continued and at this point, the torture on me became more severe, one of them held on to my nose with his teeth with blood pouring out while the other one tightened his hands to my throat, I didn’t even have the voice to beg but only struggled for life.
They already had the music to it’s highest volume and wound up the glasses, while they were driving, I begged them to just go with the car, I had 45k in my wallet (the money I made on previous trips) and I had my piggy bank in the boot where I was saving for accommodation.
In that piggy bank, I already had a lot in it because I was saving 2k daily and that’s about the second month, I begged them to go with it and let me go but they said they needed my heart and manhood for their ritual, all my begging fell on deaf ears.
This happened till past midnight, one of them loosened my belt. And the next thing I heard was, “commander make we cut this thing and throway this guy, he’s causing lots of attention” but the commander told him to hold on till they get to Ibadan.
YOU CAN’T IMAGINE THE FEAR NOW
They kept driving and I was getting weaker due to the torture but at a point, I saw the heads of people outside, I summoned the courage to shout and struggle. That was how the Area Boys there ran after us with weapons, one broke my back windscreen and jumped into the car on motion.
In an attempt to escape, the driver drove an end-point road and crashed the car against a parked trailer. That was how the mob captured the two at the back and the one driving escaped but the rest of the Area guys picked up anything they could lay hands on in my car.
They picked 3 of my phones, my swift 4G internet modem, MY PIGGY BANK WITH MY ACCOMMODATION SAVINGS.
They turned my car upside down.
This was happening till MAROKO POLICEMEN came and picked the two criminals and we managed to get my car to the station.
The case was now transferred to #SARS Ikeja and my IPO in charge of the case now said I had to pay for the investigation. He said they need to apprehend the other guy that ran away and, I’m like, ”officer, see all I’ve gone through with bandages on me.”
I was scheduled for a chest X-ray with Throat and Nose examination but couldn’t go because I had no money left with me but he insisted I bring money to assist the police. I’ve been able to raise 20k, ignored my treatment, I am yet to get a phone (tweeting with my friend’s phone).
The SARS man has collected the money as at yesterday 6th Sept. The man asked me to come today by 3 pm that he’s going to court, I got there today and called him but he shouted at me and said I should come back on Friday and ended the call. I called again…
…and he said he would swear for me if I call him again.
You need to see the floor of my car. The interior has turned to this green slippery dirty floor. I don’t know what else to do. My knees hurt so much and I can’t stand for long yet #SARS wants to make money off me.
When he was taking me to the O/C’s office yesterday, he told me never to disclose to the O/C that he has collected money from me, else my case will be delayed and I may not get my car this year. I cooperated yet he is still acting so wickedly.
Kindly help tag the right authorities. I have lost a lot already. It’s my friend that has been responsible for me. NO HOPE FOR ACCOMMODATION AGAIN. I don’t know how long I will put up with my friend. My car is completely damaged. No other source of income.
Kween Obianuju Iloanya with the Twitter handle @Ada_mummyya is crying for the whereabouts of her brother, Chijioke feared to have been killed by Okwuzu SARS men.
She said: Today, I found out @Csp (name withheld) the man responsible for the disappearance (or possibly death) of my brother is on twitter. This beast kills for fun and claims he’s untouchable. @anambrastate_ and @GovObiano must stop protecting this man so he can pay for his crimes!
He claims that nothing can happen to him, he was responsible for dumping over 100 dead bodies of young men in the Ezu river at the borders of Enugu and Anambra in 2012. Had my father swimming in a river filled with dead bodies to see if he could find his son! #WhereisChijioke.
This man denied ever arresting my brother and while my parents were leaving his office, they saw him being led in and my parents identified him immediately. This man ordered that my parents be pushed out of his “compound”. Why lie? #WhereisChijioke
The next day this animal tells them point-blank that he had killed my brother and that they should do their worst! My mum collapsed immediately and was rushed to a hospital, this animal deserves death! #WhereisChijioke
The scam started from there, lots of people told us he was bluffing and that we should bring money, we sold lands to pay for his release and he kept upping the amount! We went to the Commissioner of Police Anambra State, who said his hands were “tied”. #WhereisChijioke.
The few people that ever left that cell said they saw my brother; we don’t know how true. We were willing to pay anything but this animal frustrated us. The human rights guys we met in Anambra (maybe works with him, I don’t know) scammed us too.
However, as long as I live, this man must answer for my brother’s whereabouts one day! He must answer and that day will be soon. I won’t relent or rest. Dead or alive, he must give us answers. #WhereisChijioke
Again I repeat, @anambrastate_ and @GovObiano should allow justice to prevail! Stop shielding @Csp (name withheld)! Let him answer for all the people he has killed in Awkuzu SARS! Let him give an account of his abuse of office and power!
My SARS experience:
By Ichie Chukwuebuka
As the issue of SARS trends, I find it very pertinent that every evil those criminals are known with is laid bare. Having said that, I am of the full support that the Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad be completely scrapped.
I know that many would be surprised to read that I’ve had an encounter with SARS, but it is what it is; the vulture is not edible meat. If this place is a jungle, they’re just in the league of wild dogs & nowhere near the gang of the kings of the jungle.
Last year, my cousin and a very good acquaintance, a noble gentleman and an astute gentleman called and informed me he got the news that SARS arrested one of his boys who’s handling phone accessories business for him. He told me that the boy was said to have been taken to SARS detention facility at Ikeja Police Command. I asked what the accusation was and was told that SARS raided the boy’s business line, arrested him and picked him up with the accusation that he bought a stolen phone.
My cousin told me in clear terms that he was afraid of visiting the SARS detention site at Ikeja, as many of his business associates, who had similar accusations and visited the facility were summarily detained along with their boys, brutalised and tortured along with their boys. They were also billed huge sums of money, which family and friends must raise and pay before they were released. Upon this concern, I told him that I would follow him to the SARS office and see what the accusation was and how things could be resolved.
On that fateful day, I followed my man to the SARS facility. We were made to drop our phones, even after I introduced myself, I obliged. I’ve learnt the art of diplomacy over time. I met with the said commander/leader of the squad that made the arrest I was there for, calmly. I wanted to know why the boy was arrested and all the details involved, which the man narrated to me but not without being brash and uncouth all through.
At a point, I inquired how they tracked and arrested my brother’s boy on the said stolen item he bought and the SARS man ordered his boys to bring “that criminal” from the cell. Shortly, a very malnourished skeletal ‘young old man’ (he was young but appeared old and dying) was brought out to me, given a series of slap, club hits and machete slaps and was told to tell me what happened.
The man, fidgeting and gasping for breath faintly said: “na me thief the phone come sell am give am” (exactly his words). The SARS man now thundered at him, “you no go talk say una shoot the woman kill am?” The man managed to give some nods, as he was pushed away amidst kicks and beatings.
Right there in my presence, I witnessed all manner of torture being meted out to detainees. men kept shouting and groaning in pain. At intervals, I heard commands like “break his hand, tighten the rope, shoot his leg…” And single shots of guns that followed. At a point, I requested to see their overall boss, the OC, Officer Commanding, SARS, but the man I was talking with told me clearly that I couldn’t see the man, that anything we had to discuss on the issue starts and ends with him.
I knew clearly that the man that was talking to me was not happy with my presence on their premises on that very issue and the explanations he was making to me were a privilege they don’t extend to “ordinary people”. He made this remark to me severally, both as an act of courtesy, reminder and warning.
After presenting the supposed criminal, who admitted to robbing and selling the stolen phone, SARS man emphatically told me that he was done with me, as he had explained the situation to me and that I should allow my brother to see them to find a way to resolve the issue. My cousin followed him into his office and after some minutes, he came out and told me that the SARS man told him that he should pay seven hundred thousand naira to them to “die the matter”, release his boy and his goods they had confiscated. I couldn’t believe my ears.
I sought the man’s attention; he called me into his office and at this point, he was becoming more abrasive and hostile. He warned that he had respected me enough and that I should hands off on the matter and leave them to do their work. I told him that since it was likely a criminal case, the way they presented it, that they should do due diligence, investigate further and find out the link between the young man, who purchased the said stolen phone and the supposed criminal, whether it was just a random purchase or he was actually a collaborator, that in the line of establishing the fact of the matter, that was what they should do but they’re rather demanding for ransom in hundreds of thousands of naira. I made it clear to him that the money they demanded wouldn’t be paid, that if they’re interested in the case, they should do due diligence and prosecute it to the fullest.
At this point, this man became livid; it was as if he was stung by a venomous scorpion. There was no kind of threat this policeman did not issue to me. He told me that right there they could shoot me, frame me up and send message to my people that I was the gang leader of a notorious armed robbery squad, that I use my influence, as a military man to lead them in a series of armed robbery attacks, and that they would make the man they brought out from prison, who admitted to the robbery to add me to his story, as a military man who is the leader of their armed robbery gang.
He called his boys and ordered them to cock riffles on me, that if I did anyhow, they should shoot me. He equally told them to beat the hell out of my cousin and throw him inside the cell where his boy was, and all hell was immediately let loose on my cousin there in my presence – AK47 rifles, pistols and submachine guns (SMG) were cocked and roundly pointed at me.
I’d never seen something as brazen as that. They actually anticipated a violent response from me but I maintained calm in the midst of the chaos. I was just shaking my head, letting out a smirk and a smile while reminding the SARS man that he didn’t know what he was doing while he kept daring me to do anyhow and see what would happen.
On the other hand, my cousin, who was being brutalised and being kicked away into detention prison, kept shouting amidst his pains and calling out to me not to fight and, of course, I never intended to fight (that thin line between bravery and suicide). Was I afraid? Never, even though I knew the trigger was very ready to be pulled at me, I knew what was withholding a shot or shots was my reaction to the whole melee.
I then told the SARS man that it was okay, they should do what they wanted, I would take my leave and they would hear from me. It was late in the evening, I left. This experience was the insult and embarrassment of my life. I’d never in my wildest imagination thought that I would find myself in this kind of insult.
To be frank, that night, not even a single sleep crossed my eyes. I made drastically effective decisions, plans, and contacts. I called a police commissioner friend, a biker friend and a perfect gentleman, who once headed the Ikeja SARS (I still imagine how he headed such an evil empire). He pleaded with me to calm down and promised that he would make sure everyone involved in the insult and assault was identified & made to answer for it.
Within 10 minutes after speaking with him, about 10pm, the Officer Commanding, SARS (OC SARS), Ikeja, called me and introduced himself. He told me that my friend, his senior colleague, called him and narrated how I was badly treated at his command. He pleaded and apologised and asked me to calm down and suspend every action I wanted to take, as he would make sure his officers involved in the act were duly punished and made to make retribution.
I actually didn’t stop; in the morning, I went to my command and lodged an official complaint on the issue to my military intelligence unit and Military Police and also informed other relevant authorities. One thing that the charlatans at the SARS office never knew was that every damn thing that transpired between me and them was duly recorded and the evidence resounding. I shared this with my police friend and I believed he notified or forwarded the same to the OC SARS, which made him put across the night call and pleaded that I soft pedal on any action I wanted to take.
I went the following day to the SARS office, as was invited by their overall boss. He actually lived up to his words, as upon my entrance to his office, all the officers involved in the case were marched into his office barefooted and without belt to hold their trousers; my cousin was also brought in and he confirmed that he was tortured and forced to cough out two hundred and fifty thousand naira in the night when I had left and he was locked up.
The OC made them refund the money immediately there and then ordered that all the confiscated wares be brought out and handed back to my cousin’s boy while they were released immediately. He assured that he would institute disciplinary action against the erring officers and had them duly punished.
I equally informed him that the case was already officially reported to my people and we would be taking official steps on our own towards the issue, an aspect he fervently pleaded that we jettison with the promise that the disciplinary steps he had initiated would deal with his erring officers accordingly.
To cut an already very long story short, there were several other negotiations and pleas that were considered both privately and officially before I dropped the case. But among them was not the fact that my cousin would later tell me that these SARS bandits later contacted him privately from the address he gave on the statement he was forced to give in the night of this incident & threatened him that if his military brother pursued the case to the extent that it made them to be dismissed from their work, they would track or had their colleagues in the job track him no matter how long it took and assassinate him. A threat that made him continue pestering and pleading with me to drop the case, reminding me that he had recovered everything that was taken from him and we should let go. A threat I came to know months after the issue was already supposedly resolved and abandoned.
~ A true life story (My police friend, my cousin and his boy are all in my list and will probably read this, it’s just for considered confidentiality sake that I didn’t mention them).
A personal account of a victim of the SARS Police Operatives:
I was picked up by SARS at Egbeda, Lagos, and was driven down to Dugbe SARS police station at Ibadan, Oyo State capital. It was a day I would never forget.
One Monday morning, five SARS officials came to my office at Egbeda, with one Olumide, a guy that I know, and started questioning me.
They asked me if I knew Mr. Olumide. I told them yes (mind you, they were not in uniform).
One of them asked me when was the last time I saw Olumide. I told them about three weeks ago. I asked them what was the whole interrogation about. One of them said he wanted to buy a phone. I told him I didn’t sell phones. I am a mobile software engineer.
He said but I sold a phone (tecno cx) to the Olumide three weeks ago.
I said yes … I needed some money for my house rent, as at that three weeks ago and I had to sell my personal phone to the Olumide so that I could sort out my house rent issue.
They then proceeded asking me where I got the phone. I told them I bought it in the GSM village, Olugbede market. I opened my drawer and brought out the receipt of the phone, as proof of ownership.
One of them asked me to take them to the place I bought it.
I said no problem. I took six of them, five SARS officers and Olumide to where I bought the phone. I pointed to Mr. Usman, the person that sold the phone to me. He didn’t deny selling the phone to me. My mind was at rest, hoping that I was out of whatever trouble it was, not knowing what was going to happen next.
They said that the phone was a stolen phone and they had been tracking the phone for about four months ago. I was already shivering.
Then I thought since I bought the phone and showed my receipt and took them to where I bought them, I didn’t have any problem.
One innocent customer came to Usman’s shop that moment, and he wanted to buy something; he didn’t know they were SARS men since they didn’t put on their uniforms. He was chased out; the guy started vexing because of the embarrassment. The next thing the SARS men started beating the guy. It was a very serious beating; their team leader brought out his pistol and asked him (the customer) to be chained.
The whole market gathered but no one could ask what was going on. We were cuffed too – me, Olumide and Usman. They took all the phones Usman was selling – about 52 phones, both new and UK-used. However, they counted the phones though.
The shop was being shared by two people; the other occupant was a pregnant woman. So, they wanted to empty her show glass too but she claimed that those were not Usman’s phones. Their team leader gave this pregnant woman a serious slap. Then the Igbo traders interfered and explained that her stuff is different from Usman’.
They left her and packed us inside a Highlander jeep (me, Usman, Olumide and the innocent customer), chained like criminals and left. I was wondering, what’s happening? They first took us to Idimu Police Station. They got down but I didn’t know what they went into the station to do; we were still in the jeep.
Later they brought down the innocent customer and started beating him for insulting them earlier. At this point, I was very scared. Our phones had been seized at that moment. About 30 minutes later, they returned the customer into the jeep and started driving towards Ogba area and Agege. I don’t really know roads like that and I kept wondering where they were taking us to until we got to Ojodu.
The customer was already crying and begging, that he didn’t know they were policemen. He was asked to pay N50, 000.00 right inside the jeep or he would be taken to the station; he was just crying. To cut his own part of the story, they took him to one ATM spot where he withdrew N18, 000.00 for them. I think that was the entire money he had; and they dropped him there.
We proceeded on our journey but I still didn’t know where our destination was. I was terrified like mad seeing the brutalities they had been displaying.
It was already getting dark like, about 7pm or so. They kept driving, discussing and laughing.
The driver was playing Pasuma’s Fuji music. The three of us (me, Olumide and Usman) were very quiet during the whole journey. At last we got to the station after several hours’ drive
I was just looking like mumu. They asked us to come down. Then I silently asked Olumide where we were; he said Ibadan.
Ah I don die! Nobody knew where I was; neither my mum nor any member of my family,
I thought to myself. My head was blank and I didn’t know what to do.
They marched us to their OC’s office …and the man started asking us questions one by one – our names, our states, and how the phone got to our hands…
Olumide said he knew me very well; he bought phone from me. I told them that I bought the phone from Usman with receipt. The OC asked me where I got the receipt I told them it’s from Usman that he issued it when I bought the phone.
This OC now asked one funny question, like why did I ask for the initial receipt of the phone before buying. I was trying to explain but they gave me another slap from one of the SARS officers, ordering me to keep quiet, that I was talking while their oga was talking.
Usman was asked where he got the phone. He said he got it from somebody a long time ago
That the owner just needed money when he bought it. The OC said they should go and lock us up. We were dispossessed of our stuff, everything, and taken into a cell. Even that cell story is crazy.
It has a small passage and four cells. Everywhere was full, no space. Each room had nothing less than 60-70 people. Even the passage was fully packed; there was just one big OX fan at the entrance of the passage before entering the cell gate.
We went through small questioning from the governor in the cell. They have Marshal; they have governor, and OC torture in the cell.
We were slapped and they searched; they collected N1,500.00 from me. I had hidden it inside my boxers so those policemen didn’t see it, otherwise, they would have collected it.
After hearing our story, the governor told us to come inside cell no. 1. We stood all through the night because there was no space. I had never seen that kind of gathering before, like packed sardines.
I swear that we are really suffering in this country.
Fast forward to the next morning, about 9:30. They brought us out to come and write a statement; statement with slaps o!
I was so confused I couldn’t remember how to spell my name properly.
I think Olumide had someone in Ibadan. His people came down to the station that morning and after some discussion and all, this man paid about N100, 000.00 to them; Olumide was released immediately.
Ah, I was shocked! So, Na money matter?? I don die!
The IPO came to meet me and Usman and started asking us where we were from and so on….
I told him I was from Kogi State…I could have just claimed Ondo State because my late dad was from Ondo while my mum is from Kogi. He asked which part, I told him Ebira. That was the man said all Ebira are criminals, this and that… That he would make sure I rot in jail. He was so serious as if it’s something personal. I was confused.
He asked Usman, who said he was Hausa but that his mum was from Kogi too, Igala, specifically. Fortunately for Usman, the IPO too was an Igala man. The same Kogi o!
They started speaking Igala language…they started smiling. I just knew my village people were after me at this point. This man went to bring food for Usman.
I was still confused as to what exactly I did wrong to the IPO. They allowed me to call my mum with the IPO’s number. I wasn’t allowed to say much to mum on the phone.
They just told her to come to Dugbe SARS station in Ibadan.
It was later in the cell that Usman was telling me that Ebira people and Igala people don’t like themselves. The country is messed up; no love anywhere. What sort of tribalism is that one…the same state o!
My mum came that second day. She was asked to go and bring N200, 000.00. My mum said she didn’t have such money, but requested to see her son.
These SARS sent her out of the station, saying that she’s not ready. I was there for a week.
There is this my uncle’s friend in Abuja that my mum called; he knows people. He called the Commissioner of Police, Oyo State.
The next Monday, I saw two black jeeps just come into the station compound….and they summoned us…me and Usman. Two of the SARS people that came to arrest us and their OC were also taken straight down to the commissioner’s office at Ibadan. I was just looking like mumu, not knowing what was going on.
I heard the OC telling them not to mention the third party (Olumide that has been released the second day) at all in their explanations.
After waiting for like two hours downstairs, they took us to the commissioner’s office. It was a two-storey building.
When I got there, there was one office next to the commissioner’s office. I saw my mum and sister sitting there. I was relieved a bit.
When we got inside the palatial office, the commissioner just asked us who among the two of us (me and Usman) is the mother here presently. I raised up my hands. I was trembling; I thought my end had come. He asked where she was. Before I could talk, the OC said they had called her line but that it was switched off. I quickly told the commissioner that I saw my mum in one of those offices, as we were coming to his own office. They sent for her so she came with my sister.
Guys, please, take care of your mothers; nothing is like a mother’s love.
My mama had lost so much flesh because I was inside a police cell.
So, the commissioner started asking us questions. I explained my own part about the phone, how I got it and receipt and all. He asked Usman; he explained. The commissioner was surprised. He asked me if I explained to the officers; I said yes. Confused, he asked the OC. That’s why I was there since last week despite the fact that I produced a receipt and showed them where and who sold the phone to me. The OC quickly denied instantly that he didn’t know about the case …that it’s in the morning of that same day that he’s just learning about it. Ah!
I was too terrified to even counter their claims. All I just wanted was to leave there alive. The commissioner apologised to my mum and warned me to be careful whenever I would be buying something like that next time.
Then he asked: “Who was the complainant of the said stolen phone?”
There was total silence.
The SARS couldn’t say anything…
No complainants? And they were threatening us before that the owner of the phone was robbed, that even a car was stolen…So all na lie??? We are finished in this country.
Anyway, I was released that day.
So, basically what these people do is to get some phones from God knows where and note down their IMEI and serial numbers. Give it to someone to sell in a market and start tracking the phones just to arrest people involved and extort them, claiming it was robbed.
– Copied from Deji @Dejixing2
My personal experience with SARS officials – Derinsola Eleran
Few years back about 8pm, my friends and I were on our way back from an event.
We were around Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos. We were stopped by SARS officials.
Inside the car with me, one female and two males. They asked us to come down for checks. We did.
While the guys were coming out, they started manhandling them. They threw one on the ground and cocked their gun.
I shouted that hian!! hian!! this is an honourable man and they should stop manhandling him.
Guess what they did to me! One of them slapped me and believe me, I saw stars. One of my earrings removed in the process.
Guess what! they still continued beating the guys and no, they didn’t find anything unlawful or incriminating on them!
Eventually, the other lady and I ran for our dear lives and they took the guys with our car to their station.
I had made two plates of noodles garnished with orisirisi, and it was in the car. Guess what, They ate it all!
The guys bailed themselves out with huge amount of money the next day.
I still shiver at what might have happened to me and the other lady if we hadn’t run for our dear lives. Perhaps, we might have been raped.
Their behaviour was barbaric! Appalling! Cruel!! Barbarous!!! and uncouth!!!