When SARS illegal activity started years back from their raid on bars and club houses to arrest alleged fraudsters, Nigerians looked the other way. Slowly it turned into an avenue for guys with tinted hair, braids, dreadlocks and unique hair cuts to get harassed. It took another turn when dressing came into the equation. It became amusing when it began affecting any guy using an Apple phone. People even made jokes about it.
Slowly but surely, it expanded and became a hydra-headed monster. Now, the only ‘criteria’ you need to meet to get harassed by SARS is to be a man between the ages of 15-40. 40 is me stretching it but there are some men in their 40s who look like they are in their 30s and that is enough for you to be harrased, assaulted, extorted or worse, killed.
I often hear about how they terrorize young boys in Lagos and get away with it and it all felt weird considering the fact that Lagosians are known to be super smart and sharp! They tend not to let nonsense slide so when reports trickled in everyday about the harassment young boys in Lagos go through in their hands, I wondered whether it had a government backing. Perhaps the men of SARS had the right to do so due to some stipulated laws right?
Then more reports flooded in , this time absurb and ridiculous. People getting harrassed for the littlest and mundane reasons ranging from the nice sneakers they wear to even apps the SARS officers have no idea about. I have never seen them in action until June around Palms mall in Kwara state.
I happened to be watching when this couple were about to alight from a bike directly opposite the mall. Before the boy could even drop, they were immediately blocked by the SARS van and the boy was accosted to their vehicle while the surprised girl who was wondering what ever happened sat still on the bike. They immediately put the boy, who looked to be in his late teens in the van, they flanked him on both sides and drove off. I was so angry because I couldn’t do anything neither did every other person around.
That wasn’t the only time. Another day it was some group of guys inside a Camry pencil, they were stopped while their car was rummaged. All their possessions were tossed this way and that way by some officers while the rest sat in the SARS van. They held their guns in a position that shows they are ready to shoot at the slightest provocation. Again everybody ‘minded’ their business. I was so angry I went on Twitter to rant.
Similar thing is going on in Kwara state. SARs and AKS patrol Tanke, Fate side and pick up innocent boys to extort them. It is horrible. https://t.co/QXckc5OSiZ— Kaothar the Boss. (@kanzahsays) June 21, 2020
Okay what governor @RealAARahman doing about these SARs people? They just stopped a random boy on bike now for no reason around Fate road. I feel so scared for the boy.— Kaothar the Boss. (@kanzahsays) June 9, 2020
Who are these AKS police people? Are they a type of SARs?— Kaothar the Boss. (@kanzahsays) June 14, 2020
There I was wishing I was equally a uniformed paramilitary or military personnel who could intervene for the poor boys who were flustered and confused as to what their offense was. After what seemed like hours, they eventually drove off and left the boys.
Do you know how shitty the system has to be for people to be WARNING others that SARS is at so so place? We are running away and protecting ourselves from a squad that should ordinarily be protecting us from special crimes. Spits 🤮— Chidi Okereke ⚔️ (@Chydee) October 3, 2020
These horrible experiences are what young boys in Nigeria go through nowadays. Young boys now fear for their lives when they are out and about. They take extra care in what they wear, how their grooming is and if they look too ‘rich’ so they won’t attract SARS officers. No man is safe, those that are worse off and often get targeted by them range from lanky secondary school boys to men in their early to late 20s. They are the age group that are at the greatest risk of getting accosted and harrased.
This is Kolade Johnson being laid to rest April 18, 2019.— Tosin Olugbenga (@TosinOlugbenga) October 3, 2020
He was killed last year by SARS officers.
We trended #EndSARS for almost a week, absolutely nothing has changed since then.
We need to declare #WarOnSARS. pic.twitter.com/nI6RuWroQ2
Yet, the argument some of the older Nigerian folks have given for the mistreatment of these boys is as embarrassing and disappointing as you would have guessed.
‘Why were they also dressing like touts?’
‘Why were they also carrying black bags about? Where are they carrying laptops too?’
This is so sad considering the fact that even clean shaven and well dressed men have fallen victim. They fail to understand that even honest workers going about to make their daily bread have been kidnapped, extorted and probably killed and dumped off somewhere. Nobody is safe from men of the SARS. Not even women!
Women who have been unfortunate to be in hotels where SARS men have raided illegally have been sexually harassed. A recent case was of a woman who was arrested because her partner was alleged to be a fraudster. She was illegally arrested, detained and raped to death by the same people who were meant to protect us.
University students don’t have it better. Tanke route in Ilorin which leads to the University of Ilorin campus and student lodges is a favourite spot for them. They ply these routes constantly waiting for innocent students to come out of their lodges so they can pounce on them. They don’t care if you are struggling to go by. You get threatened with death or with a heinous offense you have no idea about.
The worse thing in this horrifying situation and abuse of power is the fact that, ritual killers and organs traffickers can parade as SARS officers to kidnap unsuspecting Nigerians.
The SARS update accounts is typical of how Nigerians handle social problems. Instead of dealing with it, we try to avoid it, as if that is the solution.— Man of Letters. (@Letter_to_Jack) October 3, 2020
Rogue SARS personnels feed on your fears and lack of self-confidence, we are now exactly where they want us to be.
Many are scared of the fate that will befall their husbands, brothers, sons or lovers as the day goes on. Will it be death? Or he will just be robbed? Will he be beaten? Or he will get kidnapped only to become a forgotten hashtag in a matter of weeks? We find out on another episode of 60 ways Nigeria is trying to suffocate and ruin her citizens.
Stay safe out there darlings.