It was a really hard time in 2018 (and still continues to be), for young developers as myself and others. The SARS Unit (Special Anti-Robbery Kidnapping Unit) of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) were not friendly or professional towards young ones at all. Many young people lost their lives as a result of their careless actions. So many well meaning Nigerians have rose up and begun the #ENDSARS campaign on Twitter. This lead to a series of numerous positive changes.
The bad and inhuman operation of the SARS rouge unit has sparked a aloud out cry and a deeper view in to what was really happening to the citizens of Nigeria under the watch of the Police. At the long run, the phenomena of harassment has continued to increase drastically.
Earlier in the past month of September 2019, there has been an increase in the rouge activities of this Special Unit of the Nigerian Police Force at all level. Yes, both National and Local level of rouge activities. Before we head to that in a bit lets look at some insights on the activities of SARS.
Overview on SARS
- In 2006, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was formed to combat robbery in Nigeria?—?it worked.
- Around 2009, SARS found its way into Nigerian Universities as a medium to repress the surge of internet fraud and cultism which had spilled to the streets. This era also coincided with the radicalism of style and fashion evolution among Nigerians under 35.
- On January 21, 2018, news filtered in that FSARS was disbanded, but people claimed it was only going back to being SARS under state leadership and not the Inspector General of Police’s office.
- The idea of restructuring SARS after months of accruing complaints on denigration of Nigerian Youth at the hands of SARS operatives always seemed shady.
- The Senate passed for Second Reading ‘A Bill to Repeal and Re-enact the Police Act of 1943.’ Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, presided over the session.
- The IGP who was newly appointed overhauled the ENDSARS campaign to a default reset. This has kept Nigerians where they are right now. The fact that SARS keeps targeting the youths is another alarming scenario.
The Rude Re-Awakening
The issues is no longer funny. It’s always life threatening. Nigerian Millennial’s are constantly being brutalized by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS especially in Lagos, Edo, Owerri and Delta State. Suspects are often arrested without proof, properties searched without warrants and being extorted for money.
Last week, a young Nigerian Software Developer was illegally harassed by SARS. They detained him and made him pay cash for their act as they labelled him a fraudster. This SARS thing is not even about software developers or guys with gadgets. They target random young men on the streets with or without gadgets. They see you with a deadlock as your hairstyle, they label you a fraudster. They see you using an iPhone they label you a fraudster. In-fact, everyone they come across that’s a young person is a fraudster.
So yeah, SARZ messed up my Saturday and I get to be locked up because I’m a software developer. Read More Details.
According to Toni Astro, this is what he has to say: “I’ve been hearing people’s experiences and most of them complaining about not having an ID card. I had an ID card but they chose not to see it. All they wanted to hear was me accepting their accusation of what I wasn’t.”
You cannot change the organization if the men remain in the body, alive and breathing. The name might be gone, but the idea was always going to remain. It becomes worse. On the other part, the ‘restructuring’ of SARS never seemed a permanent solution to the problem we had?—?SARS.
The Nigerian Police Force was already a corrupt organization, abusing power and office at will and for sport, but the story of SARS had been overshadowing their shady dealings. With the restructuring of SARS and not a complete disbandment and other forms of affirmative action to shelve the continued abuse of office and power, and internalized corruption as well as oppression of Nigerian youths.
Take another case study that happened to Nigerian Photographer Yinka Badmus. On December 31, 2018, 24-year-old Nigerian photojournalist, Yinka Badmus who works with Talk Village International was allegedly arrested because of his hairstyle?—?dreadlocks. Claims were that he was simply eating noodles close to his house at Pedro Bus-stop, Gbagada, Lagos when he was arrested. He has since been remanded at Ikoyi Prison by the Lagos State Police Command Anti-Cultism Unit. Reports also claim that his Fundamental Human Rights have been breached as he has simply been blatantly denied of his right to call someone, which has been the normal act of that same rouge unit of the Nigerian Police Force called SARS!
The “Nigerian dream” for an average Nigerian youth is leaving (or dare I say ‘escaping’) the country to start a new life elsewhere. That is a major sign of a failed state. That is an abomination and it has become accepted by the older generation who have failed woefully. The current has not said anything inthe new plight of the Nigerian populace by SARS. Will that remain constant? No! As of 30th September 2019, a group of well meaning Nigerians have decided to say Enough is Enough.
Nigeria’s technology leaders have launched #StopRobbingUs, a campaign to put an end to the common practice where Nigerian police stop young people with laptops and unlawfully arrest, attack or, in extreme circumstances, kidnap them, forcing them to withdraw funds from their bank accounts in order to regain their freedom. Working alongside Enough is Enough Nigeria [EiE], a network of individuals and organisations that promote good governance and public accountability in Nigeria, the #StopRobbingUs movement is now considering a Class Action Lawsuit on police brutality.
Led by ‘Bosun Tijani of CcHUB, Jason Njoku of IROKO, Iyin “E” Aboyeji of Future.Africa and Oluyomi Ojo of Printivo, amongst others, the campaign is calling for the Federal Government of Nigeria to intervene in the continued practice of illegally arresting and extorting young people in Nigeria who work in the technology sector. A fundraiser has been launched by Flutterwave to raise money for a legal intervention and public awareness programme, which has already seen donations flooding in from across the globe.
The #StopRobbingUs campaign comes after Toni Astor, a Lagos-based software engineer, posted on Twitter a harrowing account of his encounter with Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] officers in Ketu, Lagos. During his ordeal on Saturday 28th September, Astor was allegedly publicly intimidated, arrested, beaten and extorted, in order to secure his freedom. News of SARS officers (Nigeria Police and all tactical units) targeting software engineers is a frequent occurrence in Lagos and this is the latest in a string of attacks. Today’s news builds on the larger #EndSARS movement that has rocked Nigeria over the last year, which has used social media to appeal for an end to the frequent robberies of Nigerians, by security operatives who are supposed to protect them.
In the next article, we will explore the deep side of Tech Companies who are putting forth effort to stop this mess, we will also examine those companies who are are sitting on the fence.