On Friday, March 30, I had left my office headed for home for a much needed sleep, not knowing the shocker that awaited me.
On my way home, I met a friend, Stephen, who had been looking for me to assist a friend of his in distress.
Stephen rushed out of the restaurant as he sighted me, yelling my name until I heard. I honoured his call, we exchanged pleasantries, and I sat with him.
He told me how I was a God-sent at the time, as he had been on the lookout for me. He was with an unfamiliar woman and somehow, they needed my help.
They both told me that they needed my assistance to help facilitate the release of the woman’s son, simply identified as Seun, from the custody of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ikeja, Lagos.
This would be my first time at the dreadful SARS’ office, and most of what I experienced while there couldn’t be better described than inhumane.
As we entered through the main gate, we met some officers at the counter, who asked us why we were there. We responded we were there to secure the release of a boy in custody and had been told to come by one of the officers who was in charge of the boy’s case.
Having said this, the officers insisted that we wouldn’t be allowed in until we gave them ‘something’. I had wanted to protest, but the woman whose son was in custody begged my friend and I not to, for the sake of her son. So, we complied by giving one of the officers N200 to be allowed into the building.
We called the officer in charge of the Seun’s case but, sadly, he wasn’t around. He had gone for a raid and wouldn’t be back anytime soon, he told us. We spent over 4 hours standing and waiting for the officer to arrive.
Meanwhile, the officers had warned us about the use of our mobile devices at the station. We were told to drop our phones but we managed to convince them there wouldn’t be any problem.
While we waited, it is indescribable the ill-treatment meted on the people that were brought in by the officers. Anyone, either a criminal or a suspect, was automatically subjected to malicious beating, assault, extortion, amongst other inhumane treatment.
I will recount few of my experiences there.
There were two boys I saw there, who obviously happened to be suspects. During their conversation with one of the SARS officials, I suddenly heard a thunderous strike, lo and behold, it was a dirty slap. A slap that sent the boy who received it sprawling on the floor.
Another occurrence was that of a man who was brought out of a car boot, having been locked in the tight compartment from Badagry to Ikeja. On sighting him, an officer who wasn’t among those who brought the man, started punching him. The aggressive officer said in Yoruba that the man’s leg “is not even good” as he cocked his gun, threatening to shoot him in the leg. He subsequently changed his mind and greeted his colleagues who had brought the man.
After an endless wait for the IPO, he finally arrived. He told us he had gone to Badagry for a raid. When he arrived, he asked us to follow him as he led us to a place like a backyard.
It was a terrible environment. The place stenches so badly that you wouldn’t stay if you cannot persevere. You can taste the unpleasant odour on your tongue.
While we were there, they brought some suspects and it was the same brutal treatment I had been witnessing since I arrived; You are damned if you have no shirt or slippers on. Slaps and kicks reigned freely.
I didn’t have the chance to go to where the inmates are kept, but from what I had witnessed, it would have been a pretty terrible idea to be there.
It is pathetic how some of the SARS officials actually know the truth sometimes, but would rather assault and extort innocent citizens. They appear to know their prime suspects, and regardless of whether you are found guilty of a crime or you are innocent, you are bound to be subjected to gross maltreatment, battery and assault.
Despite calls from the general public for a reform of SARS with the popular #ENDSARS campaign, I strongly doubt, at this point, whether there would be any positive change within the security outfit at all. The problem is deeply rooted.
It is pertinent to note that, after a wave of condemnation against the police unit, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris ordered the re-organisation of SARS. With the way people’s complaints persist, it is evident that the badly needed reforms in the police unit hasn’t taken effect.
For now, all citizens can do to have a chance of not being victims of the irresponsible SARS officers, are to put the following into consideration:
Dressing: It is shocking that most of these SARS officials dress like rogues. They dress like their targets (suspects/criminals). Isn’t it disturbing to see some of them putting on ear-rings, having tattoos? They practically dress like Yahoo boys and criminals. It’s almost unbelievable they are policemen. However, their style of dressing is understood to be strategies used to lure their targets.
So, avoid dressing irresponsibly. There should be decency in your attire, because you are addressed the way you dress.
Friends: As the saying goes, a friend of a criminal is also a criminal. Be selective when choosing friends. You never can tell what your friend’s friend is into. A typical example of this is what took me on a rescue mission into the SARS’ office.
Avoid used phones: Used phones might either be stolen or found. If you cannot avoid a new phone, it is advisable you either wait till you can afford a new one or go to reliable companies where London used phones are sold.
Phone Usage: Be careful who you give your phone to. Some persons might walk up to you and ask to quickly make use of your phone, if you don’t trust the persons do not give your phone to them. Allowing a criminal or suspect make a call with your phone might end up landing you in trouble.