BY SAMINU MACHUNGA
“Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a financial, political, religious or ideological aim.” – Wikipedia
What becomes of a nation when those whose responsibility is to enforce the law are those who break it the most?
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a division of the police, has become a cancer; targeting mostly the youth, the future of the nation who now cower in fear of their animalistic antics.
If you are unfortunate to be accosted by these uncouth, ill-mannered, uneducated men, you may — if grace doesn’t shine your way — end up being a victim of torture, ruthless beating, and extortion.
Dressed in all black, SARS officers look brutish, intimidating, and unprofessional. The only thing special about them is their unexplainable disregard for life and the law.
What do they want?
To solve a problem, one must go to the root. Treating the SARS situation the way the federal government handled the codeine epidemic will be like putting a band-aid on a broken leg.
When you get arrested by SARS (or any Nigerian police for that matter), there is no protocol whatsoever. You don’t have your rights read to you and you are not told why you are being arrested.
They just ‘wing it’ — throwing a number of baseless accusations your way.
The most common is that you are an internet fraudster or as it is coined in Nigeria — ‘yahoo boy’ or ‘G-boy’.
The next common accusation is being a cultist which just makes one wonder what business an anti-robbery squad has to do with cultism.
That aside, the only visible way SARS tries to find guilt of being a ‘yahoo boy’ is by searching your car, personal emails (without a warrant), texts, and phone calls.
I guess ‘innocent until proven guilty’ isn’t just the Nigerian way.
Whether or not incriminating evidence is found on you, if you’re lucky your case will end at the ATM. They tell you to “bail yourself”.
If you aren’t so fortunate to be able to pay your way out, they take you down to their station where you will be subjected to torture and inhumane living condition/treatment until someone comes to bail you out.
From all the testimonies of their victims, I think it’s safe to assume that their aim is financial. Unless there are other political strings that aren’t apparent (theory for another day).
Stories about SARS harassment dates back to more than a decade but as the social media world has taken over, testimonies flood Facebook pages and Twitter timelines on a daily basis.
Is social media as powerful as we think or is the government just turning a blind eye to the cries of Nigerians?
In December 2017, after years of silence, the #EndSARS kicked-off to raise awareness, with the hopes that the government would put an end to the menace.
While some pushed for SARS to be scrapped, others pushed for a reform, and the police dismissed the claims levelled against SARS, saying “they’re doing fantastically well”.
A protest was organised in some states across the country where hundreds of Nigerians came out to march for their lives.
In that same protest, Nigerians protested for SARS to remain, which didn’t make any sense seeing how grievous their misconduct is.
The twist led people to speculate that the pro-SARS protest was funded by the people behind the curtains as a counter to continue their crimes, which was not far-fetched because Nigerians living hand to mouth will do anything for a handout.
And like everything in Nigeria, the anti-SARS campaign was silenced.
Fast forward to June, life has been blown into the campaign once again, an indication that it is not one of the numerous problems Nigerians are willing to live with.
Why has federal government not directly addressed the issue? There’s no reason why such a weighty issue shouldn’t be made a priority but I guess they have better things to do.
This is what makes SARS a legal terrorist organisation with nobody to answer to but themselves.
The incompetence of the police and the government as a whole will only plunge the country into a state of crisis when the youth decide that enough is enough.
Saminu Machunga is a wordsmith and reporter for TheCable Lifestyle