Nigerians have recently been on a social media campaign seeking police authorities to immediately scrap the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, popularly known as SARS.
The call follows several incidents of brutality, abuse, and harassment reported against officers of the police department.
Using the #EndSARS, Nigerians dominated Twitter with their amplified demand for an end to SARS, listing allegations of extra-judicial killings, wanton arrests and dispossession of properties through physical assault and other intimidation tactics.
An online petition has also been opened to draw awareness to the situation and canvass government action. The social media campaign comes after years of appeal to police authorities to address alleged gross rights abuses by SARS fell through.
The recent social media uproar is coming after some SARS operatives of the Lagos State Command, allegedly shot a youth in the Yaba area of the state.
The #EndSARS campaign began after a viral video emerged online showing an angry mob chasing a black bus used by the operatives.
A Twitter user, Charley, had posted about the shooting on his handle @yabakid, but did not indicate the exact location in Yaba or the identity of the victim.
“A SARS officer just shot a boy in the head right in front of me WTF! I’m so shocked!
“This happened in Yaba on Thursday right in my hood. They (SARS men) stole the phone of a ‘yahoo boy’ and shot another boy in the arm. The youth in the area mobilized and gave them a chase,” he wrote.
Late in October 2017, a 2015 graduate of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ekwere Imoh, was shot by policemen attached to SARS, Oyo State Police Command. The policemen also shot a female friend of his, identified simply as Doris, who was with him. There were no concrete reasons for shooting the duo as they were neither criminals nor under arrest.
Earlier in the same month, a lady, Kachi Anifela Zion, accused officers of SARS in Ilorin of sexual molestation. She said a male SARS official under the pretense of searching her, dipped his hand in her underwear.
She further revealed that the SARS official threatened to beat her if she shouted, adding that the officer continued to fondle, rough handle and humiliate her for several minutes. The SARS official implicated in the matter was later arrested.
A video also emerged online in November, where a gun-wielding SARS operative threatened to shoot two people at Akute area of Ogun State.
Posted by Wuzup Naija on Friday, November 17, 2017
Through the #EndSARS campaign, many Nigerians have taken to the internet to express ugly experiences as well as those of their relations and friends in the hands of SARS across the country.
Narrating his brutal experience in the hands of drunk police officers, Adekunle Gold alleged that SARS operatives usually go through people’s phones in search of international calls in their call history. He further opined that such practice has to stop.
Simi also narrated her ordeal with SARS operatives while in the company of friends some weeks ago. According to her, the group of policemen pointed a gun at them for laughing and not getting frightened by their presence.
Reekado Banks stressed that SARS operatives need to be checked while Olamide often referred to as the “Voice of the Street” called for men with guns (Police) to be well oriented.
Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar has lent his voice to the trending #EndSARS campaign. In a couple of tweets, Atiku said the protest shows that Nigerian youths are angry and urged the Federal Government to address the matter promptly. He wrote:
“The arbitrary harassment of young Nigerians by Police (who should be protecting them) has no place in a democratic society.
“The #EndSARS protest shows Nigerian youth are upset and the matter needs urgent attention.
“Everyday, we encourage our young people to become entrepreneurs. Buying a laptop to earn a living shouldn’t attract harassment.
“I commend our young people for protesting these injustices peacefully online, and encourage the IG of @PoliceNG to take these complaints seriously.
“I also urge the National Assembly to look into these complaints, and address the human rights issues. Reforms are urgently needed.”
But the Nigeria Police Force has refuted the allegations that some SARS officers have become unprofessional in their conducts.
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Reacting to the call for SARS to be banned, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force, Jimoh Moshood said SARS has lived up to its function which is to fight robbery in states and that those that are complaining against the operations of the officers might just be armed robbers. According to him, the anti-robbery unit has done a lot in sanitizing the country.
The police said those carrying out the campaign on social media were criminals who have found the operations of the special unit so hot for their activities, and challenged them to come out for identification so that it can investigate them.
It also asked well-meaning Nigerians to disregard what it described as the so-called special media campaign against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, insisting that the campaigners were armed robbers who relocated to the social media it referred to as “comedians center” to drum up support to achieve their aim. Hear the Force Public Relations Officer:
“We do not take any infraction or violation of human right of any Nigerian likely. You know that so many police officers have been dismissed and even charged to court. So, Nigerians should not give in to insinuations from people that just come to the social media and start spreading falsehood. Such people spreading such information may likely be armed robbers themselves. There is laid down rules for police procedures and any police officer that go beyond boundary to do something outrageous which is against the law is apprehended.
“As we speak, SARS is doing fantastically well across the country in reducing incidents of robbery to the barest minimum… they are doing very, very well. There has not been any specific violation of human rights against any SARS personnel. So anybody that is spreading such a rumour is not doing the nation any good. SARS has no excesses and when there is any, we do investigate. The call for SARS to be scrapped should be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians. Anybody calling for their proscription is not doing the nation any good and such people should be suspected as having something to hide.”