My SARS Experience -By Ichie Chukwuebuka
As the issue of SARS trends, I find it very pertinent that every evil those criminals are known with are laid bare. Having said that, I am of the full support that the Nigerian police Special Anti-Robbery Squad be completely scrapped.
I know that many would be surprise to read that I’ve had an encounter with SARS, but it is what it is; the vulture is not an edible meat. If this place is a jungle, they’re just in the league of wild dogs & nowhere near the gang of the kings of the jungle.
Last year, my cousin & a very good acquitance, a noble gentleman and an astute gentleman called and informed me he got news that SARS arrested one of his boys who’s handling phone accessories business for him, he told me that the boy was said to have been taken to SARS detention facility at Ikeja police command. Asked what the accusation was and was told that SARS raided the boy’s business line, arrested him and picked him up with the accusation that he bought a stolen phone. My cousin told me in clear terms that he was afraid of visiting the SARS detention site at Ikeja as many of his business associates who has had similar accusation who visited the facility were summarily detained along with their boys, brutalized & tortured along with their boys and were billed huge sum of money which family and friends must raise & pay before they’re released. Upon this concern, I told him that I would follow him to the SARS office & see what the accusation was & how things could be resolved.
On that fateful day, I followed my man to SARS facility, we were made to drop our phones, even after I introduced myself, I obliged; I’ve learnt the art of diplomacy over time. I met with the said commander/leader of the squad that made the arrest I was there for, calmly, I sorted to know why the boy was arrested and all the details involved, of which the man narrated to me but not without being brash and uncout all through. At a point, I inquired how they tracked and arrested my brother’s boy on the said stolen item he bought and the SARS man ordered his boys to bring “that criminal” from the cell, shortly, a very malnourished skeletal young old man(he was young but appeared old and dieing) was brought out to me, given series of slap, club hits and matchet slaps and was told to tell me what happened, the man fidgeting gasping for breath faintly said “na me thief the phone come sell am give am” (exactly his words) the SARS man now thundered at him, “you no go talk say una shoot the woman kill am? “ the man managed to give some nods as he was pushed away amidst kicks and beatings. Add that right there in my presence, I witnessed all manner of torture being meted out to detainees, men kept shouting & groaning in pain, at intervals, I heard commands like “break his hand, tight the rope, shoot his leg”.. And single shots of gun that followed. At a point, I requested to see their over all boss, the OC, Officer Commanding SARS, but the man I was talking with told me clearly that I couldn’t see the man, that anything we had to discuss on the issue starts and ends with him.
I knew clearly that the man that was talking to me was not happy with my presence in their premises on that very issue & the explanations he was making to me was a privilege they don’t extend to “ordinary people” He made this remark to me severally, both as an act of courtesy, reminder and warning.
After presenting the supposed criminal who admitted to robbing and selling the stolen phone, SARS man emphatically told me that he was done with me as he had explained the situation to me and that I should allow my brother to see them to find a way to resolve the issue. My cousin followed him into his office and after some minutes, he came out and told me that the SARS man told him that he should pay Seven Hundred Thousand Naira to them in order to “die the matter” release his boy & his goods they confiscated. I couldn’t believe my ears. I sorted the man’s attention, he called me into his office & at this point, he was becoming more abrasive and hostile, he warned that he had respected me enough & that I should hands off on the matter and leave them to do their work. I told him that since it was likely a criminal case the way they presented it, that they should do due diligence, investigate further and find out the link between the young man who purchased the said stolen phone & the supposed criminal, wether it was just a random purchase or he was actually a collaborator, that in the line of establishing the fact of the matter, that was what they should do but they’re rather demanding for ransom in hundreds of thousands of naira. I made it clear to him that the money they demanded won’t be paid, that if they’re interested in the case they should do due diligence & prosecute it to the fullest. At this point, this man became livid, it was as if he was stung by a venomous scorpion. There was no kind of threat this police man did not issue me, he told me that right there they could shoot me, frame me up and send message to my people that I was the gang leader of a notorious armed robbery squad, that I uses my influence as a military man to lead them in a series of armed robbery attacks, & that they would make the man they brought out from prison who admitted to the robbery to add me to his story as a military man who is the leader of their armed robbery gang. He called his boys and ordered them to cock riffles on me, that if I do anyhow they should shoot me, he equally told them to beat the hell out of my cousin and throw him inside cell where his boy was, and all hell was immediately loose on my cousin there in my presence, AK47 rifles, pistols and Sub machine guns (SMG) were cocked and roundly pointed at me. I’ve never seen something as brazen as that. They actually anticipated a violent response from me but I maintained calm in the midst of the chaos. I was just shaking my head, letting out a smirk and a smile while reminding the SARS man that he didn’t know what he was doing, while he kept daring me to do anyhow and see what would happen. On the other hand, my cousin who was being brutalized and being kicked away into detention prison kept shouting amidst his pains and calling out to me not to fight; and of course, I never intended to fight. (that thing line between bravery and suicide) Was I afraid? Never, even though I knew trigger was very ready to be pulled at me, i knew what was witholding a shot or shots was my reaction to the whole malee.
I then told the SARS man that it was okay, they should do what they wanted, I would take my leave and they would hear from me. It was late in the evening, I left. This experience was the insult & embarrament of my life, I’ve never in my wildest imagination imagined that I would find myself in this kind of insult. To be frank, that night, not even a single sleep crossed my eyes. I made drastic effective decisions, plans, contacts, I called a police commissioner friend, a biker friend and a perfect gentleman who once headed the ikeja SARS (I still imagines how he headed such evil empire) He pleaded with me to calm down & promised that he would make sure everyone involved in the insult & assault is identified & made to answer for it. Within 10mins after speaking with him, around 10pm, the officer commanding SARS (OC SARS) Ikeja called me and introduced himself. He told me that my friend, his senior colleague called him and narrated how I was badly treated at his command, he pleaded and apologized and asked me calm down & suspend every action I wanted to take as he would make sure his officers involved in the act were dully punished & made to make retribution.
I actually didn’t stop, in the morning, I went to my command and lodged official complaint on the issue to the my Military intelligence unit and Military Police and also informed other necessary relevant authorities. One thing that the charlatans at the SARS office never knew was that every damn thing that transpired between me and them was duly recorded & the evidence resounding. I shared this with my police friend & I believed he notified or forwarded same to the OC SARS which made him to put across the night call and pleaded that I soft pedal on any action I wanted to take.
I went the following day to the SARS office as was invited by their over all boss. He actually lived up to his words as upon my entrance to his office, all the officers involved in the case were marched into his office barefooted & without belt to hold their trousers, my cousin was also brought in and he confirmed that he was tortured and forced to cough out Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira in the night when I had left and he was locked up. The OC made them refund the money immediately there and then, ordered that all the confiscated wares be brought out and handed back to my cousin’s boy while they were released immediately. He assured that he would institute disciplinary action against the erring officers and had them duly punished, I equally informed him that the case was already officially reported to my people and we would be taking official steps on our own towards the issue, an aspect he feverntly pleaded that we jettison with the promise that the disciplinary steps he had initiated would deal with his erring officers accordingly.
To cut an already very long story short, there were several other negotiations and pleas that were considered both privately and officially before I dropped the case.. But among them was not the fact that my cousin would later tell me that these SARS bandits later contacted him privately from the address he gave on the statement he was forced to give in the night of this incident & threatened him that if his military brother pursued the case to extent that it made them to be dismissed from their work, they would track or had their colleagues in the job track him no matter how long it took and assassinate him. A threat that made him to continued pestering and pleading with me to drop the case, reminding me that he had recovered everything that was taken from him & we should let go. A threat I came to know months after the issue was already supposedly resolved and abandoned.
~ A true-life story (My police friend, my cousin, and his boy are all in my list and will probably read this, it’s just for considered confidentiality sake that I didn’t mention them)
SARS shouldn’t be reformed as I don’t believe there’s any kind of reform that will straighten the kind of terror and criminal elements in that outfit. They should not just be banned but banned and designated a terrorist group.
Sunday 11th of October 2020