Because I am not in the age and gender demographic usually harassed; I have wrongly watched the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) issue from the sidelines.
I had followed the hashtag #ENDSARS and clucked my tongue and frowned and then moved on.
One day, I was driving in Ajao Estate around CPM. There was some traffic and so I was mostly idling away. I noticed a young walking the opposite direction I was coming from. I noticed him because he had an interesting hairstyle. His hair was long and ‘dreaded’.
I glanced and before I turned; I saw a man wearing a black t-shirt and a baseball cap stop this guy. Soon, his hand was in the young man’s trousers holding him belt-up. The young man became irate. He tried to shove this man but that man was sturdier than his lanky frame.
I was dying with curiosity. But I could not stop. So, I kept watching them through my side mirror till traffic moved.
About 10 minutes later, I was close to the Redeemed Church on Asa Afariogun way. I saw a bus with men wearing black t-shirts and caps. This time round, the person sitting at the door was carrying a gun.
Now all motorists and passers-by were curious.
This same young man I had seen minutes ago was in the back seat struggling with two men. They forcefully restrained him.
I looked at someone and mouthed “what is happening?”
The person said just one word and I understood.
It really hit me hard.
Now because I am not privy to the details of the situation; I must state that this is all conjecture on my part.
It did look like the young was targeted because of his looks and his hairstyle. Then it hit me again.
I am a mother of three sons, though they are all under 10, give a few years. But this could be them. I could be at home fretting about the usual things that mothers fret about with the extra worry that SARS has imposed on parents.
My kid could just be walking on the road and minding his business. Then find himself abducted and robbed by people who have sworn to serve and protect us.
Like the late Tiamiyu Kazeem, a football player of Remo Stars Football Club; who was going about his business in Sagamu, Ogun state in February.
He was allegedly killed by SARS officers. He had done nothing wrong.
Like the late musician Chibuike Daniel (aged 20) AKA Sleek; who was standing with a friend in front of a hotel waiting for a car when he was accosted by SARS operatives. Because the reputation of SARS precedes them, the young men took off in fear. This led to the death of Chibuike.
It is alleged that he was shot four times by the police for failing to unlock his phone.
I was especially moved like many Nigerians when I saw the video of the father of Chibuike crying. He spoke about living in the north where religious skirmishes occur intermittently but coming out unscathed. He said his son was “wasted” for no reason. No robbery. No theft. Nor kidnap. Nothing. Just shot and killed like an animal.
He cried out for God’s vengeance.
I wiped away tears as I watched the video.
On Saturday, October 3, 2020; a young man was killed at Ughelli, Delta State in front of Wetland hotels. It is alleged that they drove away in the deceased Lexus Jeep. (Source @AfricaOfficial2 on Twitter. Videos are available)
To raise a healthy child to adulthood and watch him snatched away for no reason is the absolute worst case scenario for any parent.
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I kept asking myself “why?” If you are apprehending an unarmed man that you outnumber, why use such lethal force? If you must kill a criminal, must there not be proof of crime?
It scared me.
I did not give birth to any child to be taken away because of another person’s greed.
I imagine this would be painful if this young man had been killed by criminals. But by people who are government-sanctioned to protect people and paid with taxes is something that my mind cannot reconcile.
Are particular hairstyles only meant for criminals? Who gave these men the right to demand a person opens his phone? If a person is a suspected fraudster, what are courts of law for?
Why do they extort a supposed fraudster and release him back on the streets? Why are SARS operatives using their guns and their uniforms to intimidate citizens?
Do they see citizens as human beings?
Do they have children?
Or do they have brothers?
Why are they rarely in the NEWS for apprehending actual criminals?
And even more important questions…
What are their bosses doing about this?
Can we see lack of a real reform of SARS as a defiant act to keep things in status quo? Doesn’t our government see the nearly daily videos of acts of impunity on citizens?
Do we have to wait till one of their sons is killed in such a situation before we see any real change?
Just today, I was driving in FESTAC approaching Apple Junction from the bridge. Just like I had seen last Sunday, there were three uniformed policemen wearing blue camouflage fatigues waving guns. They were selecting SUVs to stop. They caused a mini hold-up as they begged each motorist (the ones in flashy cars) for money.
It was the most disgusting and dishonourable thing I have seen in a long while. One of them lifted up two fists to greet me. I glared at him and refused to pause.
Beggars like that do not deserve to serve our country.
If they can collect chicken change from motorists, what will they do when they see cash from criminals?
Dear Nigerian government, you have the power to change this. I understand that Nigeria is complex. But you can actually stop this.
Remove these men from our roads. Punish them mercilessly when you establish that they have committed crimes.
Save our youth.
Prevent the next parent from crying.