Opinion

SARS, Customs Operatives, the New Constituted Killers in Nigeria By Ayo Arowojolu

Two horrendous incidents within the last one week in Ogun States involving the horrific killing of innocent Nigerians by rogue operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have underscored the need to revisit the once vociferous clamour by Nigerians to put a stop to the nonsense called SARS.

Now, the seasons have returned. About this time last year, the clamour for the scrapping of this vital arm of the Nigeria Police Force was so deafening to the extent that the Presidency had to institute measures to re-launch and rebrand the special squad with new defining set of operating code and limitations for the operatives.

However, in Nigeria, it is all policy talks lacking in proper and sincere implementation. First was the incidence in Olomore, Abeokuta on Thursday February 20, 2020 when some dirty-looking, trouser-sagging men of SARS armed to the teeth, invaded the popular Hausa Traders market in a hot chase of some suspected Yahoo-Yahoo youths.

The operatives caused pandemonium for the better part of the day as they fired gunshots which unfortunately hit and killed two young Hausa men who were plying their innocent trades. Of course, the Hausa traders promptly mobilized themselves for a reprisal attack and this disrupted the peace of Abeokuta almost whole day last Thursday.

The dust of the Abeokuta disturbance occasioned by the recklessness of those gun-totting policemen was yet to settle as at Saturday February 22, 2020 when another similar incident occurred at Shagamu in the same Ogun State carried out allegedly by operatives from the same squad of SARS which has its operational base at Obada in Abeokuta.

These Officers drove all the way from Abeokuta to Shagamu, over 45 minutes to effect the arrest of a young promising footballer, Kazeem Tiamiyu, the Assistant Captain of Remo Football Club.

According to eyewitness account, the victim was in company of another club mate when suddenly a team of SARS operatives swooped on them and almost within a jiffy, they were already hounded into a waiting SIENNA vehicle which started heading towards Abeokuta.

From the video clip in circulation on social media, one of the SARS operatives wearing a very heavy beard was the one pointedly accused to have pushed the deceased footballer, Tiamiyu, out of the speeding car on the dualised Highway leading to Abeokuta before a car coming immediately after it rammed into the victim, resulting in Tiamiyu’s death.

As expected, just like the Abeokuta pandemonium, hell has been let loose in Shagamu since Saturday and this has resulted in the killing by the Police of no fewer than five other innocent people said to be protesting the gruesome death of the soccer star.

These wanton killings here and there across the Nation are not peculiar to SARS operatives alone. The men and officers of Customs are also culpable and familiar with this killing enterprise. Indeed, operatives of the two Forces are now being tagged “Constituted Killers”

Twice within the last three months, I have witnessed at very close shave these dare-devil messengers of death in action. Sometimes in November last year in the wee hours of the night, precisely around 1am, about five SARS operatives scaled the walls of a fenced compound beside my house, shooting into the air, asking the woman of the house to produce her son.

The woman declined to open her doors and kept screaming …” how did you enter my house? My gate is locked. So, you jumped the fence abi? Egbami ooooo. Awon Ole ti wole oooooo” But, the SARS operatives kept retorting… “we are Policemen from SARS. Produce your son or we will level down this house”

These rogue operatives disturbed the peace of residents in my street for almost two hours and left, picking along with them the brother of the guy who was their target. It was very unthinkable and shocking to later learn that the SARS men only came to extort the guy, acting on a tip-off by an aggrieved adversary who merely used SARS as an instrument for vengeance.

Were the young man in question to have been at home when the operatives came, the chap would have probably died in their hands owing to torture, if he doesn’t have enough dough to settle them.

Also, about one month ago, a band of Customs Officers stormed my street in Abeokuta around 1am in the night. They came in their Hilux Van and one white truck. They forcefully broke into several shops and houses and started packing away hundreds of bags of rice into their waiting truck.

They also shot intermittently into the air to scare intending aggressors. The only saving grace was that no aggressor was in sight otherwise, stray bullets, injuries and deaths would have been the fallout of some of these things they callously tag: “Sting Operation”. The news that follow usually is that as many as 50 bags of rice are distributed freely to their girlfriends as well as spies who do the tip-offs.

If we are serious as a nation, the reality everyone must know is that Nigeria is building a large-scale corruption enterprise which allows men in uniforms to feed fat on the rest of us. All these needless killings are also corruption induced.

Let’s look at the Border closure following Presidential directives. Let’s ask ourselves: Are our land borders really closed? Have rice and other smuggled goods stopped entering Nigeria? Has smuggling stopped in the land?

For me, my take is that if we don’t confront corruption frontally the way it is supposed to, then corruption will kill us all gradually. We are like a nation chasing shadows. The SARS sad tale in Abeokuta and that of Shagamu, are just a few of this.

The way things are going, it is not out of place to renew the ENDSARS clamour. What it shows is that full compliance on the Presidential directives on the overhaul of SARS which stated that F-SARS has now been saddled with the responsibility of fighting Armed Robbery and Kidnapping-related cases only has not been strictly implemented by the Inspector-General of Police.

There was also the assurance that SARS personnel will not perform stop and search duties, searching peoples’ phones except on distress call to respond to armed robbery and kidnapping offences only and they must appear in their police uniform with full identification pending the launch of new FSARS uniform with identity name tag by the Inspector General of Police for all FSARS Personnel throughout the country. All of these have been implemented in the breach.

Who will save Nigerians from this Police brutality and killings?

Ayo Arowojolu, a media professional, an erstwhile Corporate Affairs Manager of a Bank and notable public commentator can be reached via email

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