SARS: The Black man’s Gestapo in modern times
What we have been referring to, as Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) is nothing but a demonstrably criminal network within the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) structure. They operate every inch like the Nazi police — Gestapo.
As far back as 2017, when their brutality on innocent Nigerians pitched fever heat, there has been calls from all corners, demanding that since they refused reform, they should be disbanded.
Those demands had arguably fallen on deaf ears as neither the Police Service Commission (PSC), the Presidency, nor the Federal Ministry of Interior made any move towards heeding the complaints.
Nigeria at best is an enigma to itself. Rule of law, protection of human rights and the opinion of the masses are second fiddle.
In October 4 2017, a star artist Simisola Ogunleye popularly called Simi tweeted: “People are not supposed to be afraid of the people who are supposed to be protecting us.”
Her message was just one among the uncountable tweets from the league of Nigerian celebrities who joined their voices in the trending hashtags of #EndSARS. Chinagorom Onuoha (African China) and Michael Ugochukwu Stephens (Ruggedman) all had their tales.
SARS brutality and animalistic manhandling of Nigerians increased geometrically since the inception of this regime.
Their weapons purchased by the taxpayers’ money and entrusted to them by the common authority of our constitution to protect us turned into instruments of terror against the commoners.
On September 11, barely three weeks ago, in the suburb of Abuja, they invaded the house of one Mr. Afam Ugwuma from Anambra state, residing at Lokogoma district of FCT. He has left for work that afternoon.
They bitterly beat his fiance (a young graduate), one calm and amiable Ms. Ifeoma Abugu from Enugu Ezike, in Igbo Eze North LGA, Enugu State.
Miss Ifeoma was in Mr. Afam’s house to plan for their wedding and traditional marriage scheduled to take place in December this year.
They raped and gruesomely murdered her.
To cover their dastardly act, they whisked her away to station, after beating her to coma, and coined unfounded stories to flesh up their crime. She breathed her last in the station.
This irked the indigenous lawyers from her hometown, and they took the case up.
Only last week, in legislative plenary the senator representing her zone in the senate, alongside House of Representatives member from her constituency – Chukwuka Utazi and Hon. Atigwe respectively, moved motions for the officers involved to be dismissed and prosecuted.
Prior to that, an association of concerned Igbo Eze North Youth Forum has issued a statement, which was made available across their social media handles, threatening to involve the actions of civil society organizations, both within and outside the country if NPF refused to redress the murder of their sister.
Extra-judicial exertion of SARS has rends the sky.
Total breakdown of law and order is looming across the length and breadth of the country if these armed killers parading as SARS are not dismantled.
The endurance quotient of the masses has reached elastic limit.
Yet the outcry was unheeded, which made Nigerians resort to self-help. Ugheli was the town and Delta, the state, where it was test-run. What happened there two days ago was a clear case of reign of lawlessness occasioned by the evil of impunity, in an uncanny regime.
The people took the law into their hands, and murdered five FSARS operatives in broad daylight.
Seeing the horrific incidence as a prelude to further riotous uprisings against the outfit in many other volatile states like Lagos, Rivers etc, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) acted swiftly!
He issued a statement restraining the outfit from patrols and road checks, banning them from any other outdoor activity except in incidence established cases of armed robbery or serious crimes.
But was that what Nigerians demanded? No!
Check the records and you would remember that between 2017 and 2019, IGPs have banned the outfit six times, after which they reinforced and bounce back worse and more monstrous than before.
The clamour was for a total annihilation of SARS in its entirety and a holistic reform of the police force, not a sheer ban on their mobile patrol.
It was also a call for justice to take its course. The order from IGP is a clear case of being smart by half. He made the call to shield the ravenous monsters and not in the interest of the victims.
The lives of five operatives mobbed to death in Ugheli are seemingly more important than those of ordinary Nigerians they had horrendously lynched for over five years with impunity.
You don’t treat public tormentors with kids glove.
They deserve to be wind down and the operatives who were alleged to have indulged in nefarious activities in the course of their virulent assignments be prosecuted. Real peace they say, is not just the absence of war but the presence of justice.
If Africa is to make any headway in post colonial civilization, the black man must learn to love his neighbour, place premium on human life, and respect the inalienable rights of his fellow citizens.
Not even in the deapotic Abacha days did we see what is being witnessed today in terms of human rights abuses from SARS.
If we showed solidarity with U.S in the #Blacklivesmatter saga against George Floyd’s murder, then it’s time to show more intensive concerns domestically. Something more heinous than Floyd’s murder is happening unabated here.
In October, 2018, a presidential panel on SARS chaired by the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr Tony Ojukwu, received no fewer than 103 complaints on human rights abuses against the operatives of this squad, leading to the untimely death of at least 96 innocent Nigerians. 80% of those cases occurred in the southern part of the country.
The spread was quite uneven. It leaves much to be desired. The insurgent North east, the banditry-stricken North west and the militia-invaded North central were waved off while the operatives cause havoc in the South.
But that was not so much an issue as the disappointment that the findings of the panel remains shrouded in secrecy till date. The panel refused to act on its findings, neither did it publicize it.
The cries of those widowed, orphaned, maimed and/or impoverished by these wolves in sheep clothing remained unattended to by authority concerned.
It is a moral burden on IGP and the NHRC to redress the injustices or face the backlash from the people in the tribunal of posterity. As expected, the unguarded court of public opinion has began its sitting and are slamming the gavel of conviction against the police.
The Ugheli massacre was just a litmus test.
To sanitize the police, an honest approach towards disbanding SARS and integrally reforming the force need to be taken forthwith. Anything short of that is a shifting sand, postponing the evil days and licking our wounds to save the day.
May the Light spare us!
✍Eze Jude O.