Growing outrage has led to a new campaign in Nigeria to scrap or reform the country’s feared Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. The problem is that SARS have been accused of human rights abuses and harassing, in particular, young boys and even robbing them.
“We don’t like SARS, and even us, we plan to buy gun to shoot ourselves for SARS!” says one young man in Lagos.
The online campaign named #ENDSARS involves stopping or at least reforming the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Young men and women took to the internet to tell their own stories of being harassed by SARS and accused of being “Yahoo-Yahoo” boys, or scammers. The police then take their phones, laptops, abuse their girlfriends, and then fine them. The police justify such behaviour by saying that young men with such money must be online scammers, not students.
Videos have surfaced online of terrible behaviour by the SARS campaign.
“The SARS are just trying to make things right, but they are taking it to the extreme,” says one young man who has been regularly stopped by SARS. He was forced to go to an ATM and pay N30,000 fine to the police.
Since the launch of the #ENDSARS campaign, the Inspector-General of Police in Nigeria has ordered for the reorganisation of the anti-robbery squad. But Segun Awosanya, one of the lead campaigners against alleged abuses by SARS, despite welcoming the move, said it fell short at satisfying the campaigns demands. The challenge for the police and Nigeria – is that a anti-robbery quad is needed in Nigeria to help prevent crime.
“SARS has been doing very well in ensuring that robbery is reduced to the barest minimum in the country. However, concerns and allegations against them as regard the violation of human rights are being investigated on the directive of the Inspector General of Police,” stated the Nigerian police.
Last year, an Amnesty International report accused SARS of “getting rich” by torturing detainees and demanding bribes in exchange for freedom:
“A police unit created to protect the people has instead become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption,” said Damian Ugwu, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher.
Chidi Oluchi, 32, described how he was arrested in Enugu before being robbed of his belongings and then tortured in custody by SARS officers.
“They told me to slap myself and, when I refused, they started beating me with the side of their machetes and heavy sticks. My mouth was bleeding and my vision became blurred,” said Chidi, who was released after he paid SARS officers N25,500 ($100) to be freed.
Do you think Nigeria’s anti-robbery squad should be scrapped or reformed? Comment below! #ENDSARS