Recently, when the despicable activities of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos State Police Command became irredeemably notorious, its reprehensible conduct was halted and residents were reprieved, transiently.
Now, they are back deadlier and multitudinously! Before this current massive invasion of most parts of the state, particularly Surulere (Aguda and Ijeshatedo especially) and Yaba (Ojuelegba axis and Jibowu), the cruelty was to molest young men who came their rabid way. Such victims were frisked and made to part with money on grounds of “yahoo-yahoo suspicion and potential charge threat.”
Last week, I sent my personal assistant to buy me a laptop which will serve as a backup. On his way back, he was stopped at Agbonyin Avenue in Surulere and asked to produce the receipt for the brand new laptop which he did. The seeming gangsters insisted he was an advance fee fraud agent. At the end of the day after so many hours’ delay, the reckless cops extorted N3000 from the young man and freed him subsequently!
The latest strategy is to rampantly comb public TV-viewing centres where most people gather every evening to watch football matches on the DStv platform of global major leagues, hotels and pubs (popularly known as “beer parlors”).
The hellish policemen use buses to move their viciously manhandled victims to nearby police stations and asked to pay ransoms ranging from N50,000 to whatever whimsical amount before their release! Those who hesitate in reaching their relatives or friends are transferred to Panti Police Station en route to Badagry, if there is further delay or no financial mediation prospects from victims’ kith and kin. The heartlessness and audacity of these indecorous and illegal operations are benumbing, to say the least.
There was an instance where innocent Nigerians were taken to the Ijeshatedo police station and the men at the station implored their colleagues to move them to another station that the cell was filled with earlier SARS victims and other routine suspects! These dastardly activities are daily occurrences. I would be utterly scandalized if the diligent Lagos State Commissioner of Police Imohimi Edgal is unaware of this Gestapo-like indulgence by his officers and men.
One of my tenants—who had been a serial victim of sorts—told me last week that he was somewhere and saw the cops in question arrest a man who was strolling with his pregnant wife in the evening in Ijesha and told the woman to go and get money fast and meet them at the Aguda police station before they relocate him to Panti that night, unfailingly! Even under the usually despotic military rule, this kind of blatant human rights abuse never existed. There were only a few cases of isolated arrest and detention of regime hypercritics, who were subsequently released after interrogation and intimidation. Why this kind of temerity and gross irresponsibility should become an integral aspect of policing baffles me beyond comprehension. Even in previous republics, this type of bestial effrontery never reigned. What is happening here is sheer lawlessness with everyone turning a blind eye, especially police authorities and well-heeled members of the society. This worsening impunity can only happen in Nigeria. Even the South African police with all their reputational negativity cannot be so deviant.
What is going on here resembles kamikaze warfare between the police and other citizens. This kind of illegality is unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. What is on the fray is an outright infringement on people’s freedom of movement enshrined and guaranteed in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Unconstitutional behaviour should not be associated with a law-enforcement agency like the police and, indeed, any other institutionalized establishment.
Since most Lagos policemen are underutilized and have ample time to terrorize residents all day and night, they should be posted to Maiduguri to fight the Boko Haram insurgents or other trouble spots in the country where they would confront fellow terrorists!
Because most Nigerians are timid and unready to stand for their rights, they prefer to “negotiate” their freedom in the hands of official bandits who display their guns as if we were in a state of emergency. The only language these callous cops understand is brutality. And knowing that most of their countrymen will scamper at the sight of a hunter’s gun, the terrorism is aggravated!
In most other countries, the citizens will take up the gauntlet and resist the bourgeoning inhumanity by the police who are sustained with our taxes even if at the cost of fatality on both sides and the menace will stop. Here, we are too afraid thinking of our parents, husbands, wives, concubines, mistresses, rent, tuition and property that we are ready to swallow illimitable police