A campaign (#EndSARS) has gripped social media calling for the scraping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad popularly referred to as SARS.
Sparked by a video of SARS operatives allegedly brutalising a Nigerian youth in the tech hub of Yaba, the campaign has gone viral with many youths on twitter sharing their experiences at the hands of SARS. Most of the experiences are horrible. If they were to be compiled into a book, it could perhaps rival tales from the worst torture camps available anywhere on earth.
People have shared stories of torture, beatings, shootings and even more worrisome outright extortion from SARS. There are stories of how SARS arrest and hold their victims’ captive until they are paid huge sums of money before they are released.
Effectively, SARS has moved from being an anti-robbery squad into being the robbers and kidnappers. Since the #EndSARS campaign went viral, it has attracted more than a 100,000 tweets and an online petition for SARS to be scrapped has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.
Not surprisingly, the police response to the end SARS campaign has been very typical.
They have branded those calling for an end to SARS as “armed robbers.” Basically, the Nigeria Police is saying that the over 100,000 youths who have shared their sad encounters at the hands of SARS are all “armed robbers.”
The answer from the Nigeria Police is a reflection of how SARS treat youths on the streets. Every youth with a laptop is a “Yahoo boy” while every youth driving a good car, is a beneficiary of some illegal act. Apparently, for the average SARS operative, all Nigerian youths are guilty until proven innocent. And this seems to be a position endorsed at the highest level of the Nigeria Police.
Amnesty International, in line with the campaign, has shared a report on the operations of SARS detailing torture and extra-judicial killings that have been carried out by SARS in their various stations across the country. But according to the police, these are all fairy tales, people’s imagination or “nightmares” as Abayomi Shogunle, the police spokesman referred to it on twitter.
Despite the tonnes of complaints about SARS on twitter, it is also very telling that the Presidency has not deemed it fit to respond or offer any assurances.
Apparently, it is not a big concern that SARS is accused of torturing and killing many Nigerian youths in their own country on a daily basis. The least expected from the Presidency is to immediately apologise that an agency of theirs has gone completely rogue and announce clear steps to bring them back in line with their original mandate.
The worst of criminals deserve a judicial process not outright execution or torture. SARS has apparently forgotten what it was set up to do and how to do it. If they cannot be reformed immediately, they should be scrapped.