As the trend, #EndSARS keeps circulating the social media on the request to stop the nefarious activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), I thought i should revisit the experience of my friend, Kanayo Zion Nwabuwa.
Myself and Kanayo had met at Ogba two days earlier discussing way forward with our media profession. We later fixed another meeting for Friday, May 22, 2015. He was supposed to come visit me at home but i was at another friend’s office. I called him up to confirm out meeting, he said he was already on his way. I waited and waited, dude didn’t arrive. I called him up several times, the only single time it rang, he didn’t pick up. The rest of the time, it was switched off. So I came to the conclusion that it was one of his acts of annulling things at the last minute. I let it slide and left the office.
Next morning, he buzzed me on BBM, before I could rage on him for hanging up on our meeting, he exploded about he was held by SARS operatives. I called him on phone, he briefed me to an extent.
Here is the open letter Kanayo penned to the IGP narrating his personal ordeal with the SARS operatives:
OPEN LETTER TO THE INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE
Cc:Attorney-General of the Federation
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
Lagos State Commissioner for Police
SHAMEFUL, NEFARIOUS AND DISGRACEFUL ACTIVITIES OF OFFICERS OF THE SPECIAL ANTI-ROBBERY SQUAD (SARS), AGBADO POLICE STATION.
It is with high altitude pain in my heart and utmost shame being a Nigerian that I write this piece and I am very sure that several tens and hundreds of individuals if given the chance will hurl stones at anyone who identifies himself as an officer of the NPF, SARS or MOPOL, male or female, good or bad. My name is Kanayochuckwu Zion Nwabuwa sir, and this is my story.
At around 12 noon on Friday, 22nd May, 2015 while on a motorbike with another passenger on the road that connects Iju-ishaga and Agbado railway crossing I met officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad who were stopping anybody they felt would be a cash cow. The other passenger and I were asked to highlight and we faced a barage of questions starting from “what do you do” and for me ending with “enter the bus”.
Between “what do you do” and “enter the bus” the other passenger and the bikeman were asked to go when the officers found that they both couldn’t express themselves properly in English language, the other man being a fashion designer. I told the officer that stopped the bike (a huge dark-skinned man whose name I found to be BJ and probably in his late thirties) that I’m a writer and when he sought evidence I handed my phone to him as it contains most of my pieces, this sir was the beginning of my trouble.
I made attempt to open my applications where I have word-to-go so the man could see and maybe read but he turned around with the speed of a concord jet and when he turned back to me he asked “who is Anna Williams”? I was perturbed and distraughted because I have NEVER heard that name in my life! Instead of checking for articles and pieces that I claimed to write officer BJ went to Yahoo Messenger, I could hear his thought in my brain; “he must be a yahoo boy”. He didn’t allow me touch the phone until over four hours later, actually I didn’t see the phone at all till then! All he did was show me the phone for about three seconds and started his five hour-long accusations and names-calling. It was during these three seconds that I saw “annawilliams”.
He then beckoned on another officer, a dirty-looking and sweaty dark-skinned man who wore a sleeveless NPF sweater on a striped long-sleeved blue shirt and dirty metallic-ash coloured pants on a pair of slippers to march me into a waiting Volkswagen bus. Before I went into the bus I asked why I was being arrested to which officer BJ retorted in Yoruba language “were ‘n se e ni??” meaning “are you mentally disturbed?” The dirty man also asked with so much violence in his voice “se o ya were ni??” Re echoing BJ’s question. At this point the allegation was clear, I am an internet fraudster and I must “pay my tithe”!
All my pleas fell on very deaf ears, I entered the bus and saw four young men who had been picked up for various offences. The bus was very rickety, old and according to the officer driving had just enough fuel to get to the police station. While in the bus I kept explaining mysef and told them to at least go through the phone so they can ascertain my claims of being a writer and a media person, I even told them to go through my pictures and they’ll find a picture of me presenting on radio.
In all there were five officers (BJ inclusive) and they wore SARS t-shirts except for the dirty dark-skinned man (they actually were all dark-skinned and had a significant measure of filth except for the officer driving). These officers were in the bus with us and while I was pleading profusely (I couldn’t be bothered about the others) the dirty dark-skinned officer sighted someone and quickly told his boss who was driving to stop. Funny enough we were already headed for the station (BJ had jumped down already in a rambo-like style as he saw a young man driving a Toyota Camry) when this happened. In less than two seconds the dirty officer had removed his NPF sweater and moved to “apprehend” the “criminal”! They got him and dragged him like a notorious band leader on the CIA watchlist!
These officers did not respect the fact that this man was quite elderly and a Nigerian Legioneer. He was pushed into the bus and given the beating, bashing and battering of his life..his offence?…he asked why he was being arrested! While he was talking THIS SAME VIOLENT DIRTY OFFICER punched the man, slapped him ceaselessly, pulled his necklace off his neck forcefully, gave him a few more punches on his right cheek when he knew he had a ring on his left middle finger, wanted to cuff him by his left hand to the window burglary but the man kept asking and screaming ontop of his voice, hit the man with a black baton on his right leg and continued beating this man even when his boss the driver asked him to stop; Lucifer himself would have shed a tear for this man. My heart skipped a few beats at the sight and I wept for this man inside me…that was BRAZEN violence and abuse of right. Succinctly put, these officers nearly beat this man to pulp, but for some sort of miraculous strength he would have given up the ghost!
After driving us round and looking for victims we made for the station and typical of Nigerian Police officers the stories changed!
I became a satanic criminal who went AWOL from his house, the other young men got their crimes upgraded to something stronger and the legioneer simply became a waste of breadth..appalling and distasteful! The dirty and violent man denied asking me to enter any bus and even shouted “do I know you!!?” You can imagine how many things would have crossed my mind. He kept threatening fire and brimstone each time I called for his attention and I said to myself; “it shall not be well with these people”.
Oh I almost forgot! Two other young men were picked up because they had gallons of fuel in their silver-coloured 2004 Honda Accord and the driver was suspected to be an internet fraudster!!. One was a petrol station manager and the other I didn’t quite hear his profession. I therefore ask; is every good looking young man an internet fraudster? Or is it a crime to look good as a young man? Don’t our police officers know that Yahoo messenger comes with almost every gagdet and having it on one’s phone doesn’t make one an internet fraudster?? Perhaps it is a grave offence to walk and talk smart having a good command of the English language; who knows? with the Nigerian Police SARS it might be a herculean task for one to comprehend, let alone articulate.
At the station I got to know the dirty and violent officer’s name-Razaq, some others called him “Aro”. It might be worthy of note to know that of all the officers NONE could make a comple sentence in English language and sometimes they had to look for a certain “shola” to help in taking statements. This is particularly sad as it is officers like these that foreign media stations will interview and say Nigerian policemen are a colossal waste!
In my case the officer that took my statement (I can’t really remember his name but it starts with letter O and he has quite a large stomach for an officer) just dictated while I wrote and after every sentence would ask “what did you write?” Needless to say I was coerced into writing something “funny”. Time check-4:00PM!! While I was writing some officer came (he was also very dark skinned, wore a camouflaged round-necked top and a camouflaged baseball hat) and started asking questions I can’t even remember. He mocked me and called me all sort of names ranging from “disgrace to Ibos” to “hardened criminal because I was fagged out already and shed tears at some point.
To make matters worse I’m light skinned and I wore a pair of stockings so I steadily got statements like “you just come from London abi” and “you think say na America you dey abi, you go see yohsef tuday!!” Again I shed a few tears and the mocking continued. My tears were not out of fear but out of the rot, decay, anti-human and animalistic behaviour of our security operatives. Especially after proof that I’m innocent. Again I have a question sir; if there is a robbery incident in my house tomorrow is it these same demons and greedy animals I’ll run to for protection? GOD FORBID! I’ll rather I ran to the devil or simply face my problem myself and “if I perish, I perish”!
Just as the day was winding up another fat, black, uncouthed and unruly officer came around and yelled at me “who are you?”, he screamed again, this time in Yoruba language (that seems to be the lingua franca of South-Western police stations) “bo socks e!!…ati bata!!..america lo ro pe o wa ni” meaning “remove your stockings and slippers, do you think you are in America”? I then wondered…is it that these officers are just against we light skinned fellows? Or is it any fault of ours that we have no melanine?..or do they just believe that any good looking or handsome young man who cannot speak any language dialect is wayward, spoilt and a potential criminal???…again with Nigerian Police SARS one cannot tell!
I had told them my tribe and state of origin so they automatically assumed that I didn’t understand Yoruba language…even after I told them I’ve lived in the South-West a considerable duration of time…how stupid! The fat man hit me twice and surprised I was still looking fresh asked BJ (again in Yoruba language); “o she film fun ni?” Meaning you didn’t act “the film” to him? BJ replied with a smile and said “rara o” meaning “no”. The officer continued and asked (AGAIN IN YORUBA LANGUAGE); “she kin she film fun?” Meaning “should I act “the film” to him?” BJ replies; “rara o, omo daada leleyi, ko she nkakan, emi e o gbe” meaning “no sir, this one is a good chap, he has done nothing wrong, he has no balls for anything”. It was at this point that it occured to me what BJ did when he took my phone from me at first. He quickly typed the said scam mail address “[email protected]“: please look at the mail address again! What on earth is “yahoo.co“?
Funny enough the type icon was still on the address! Again I ask questions; is this the kind of orientation given to your officers? What is their duty as security operatives…to protect lives or look for “yahoo boys” amidst highly controversial and very questionable circumstances? Is illiteracy a criterium for recruitment into the NPF? Are they supposed to be carrying out official duties in rickety yellow-and-black vans? So many heartbreaking questions, no answers at all!
Finally, I was allowed to make a call after taking my statement WHICH WAS MADE UNDER DURESS but before the officer with the “O” name gave me the phone he checked the mail again and when I denied knowledge of it he slapped me! I turned and saw the man driving the bus clearly now, he was extra-super black, bespectacled, pot-bellied and unruly. In all these something struck me; they probably all knew that I was innocent and didn’t find anything to nail me with (they had searched me earlier in the bus and found nothing).
I knew something was fishy but when they kept saying so many sorrowful things I had to say maybe the mail address was used by the person who sold the phone to me. This didn’t make sense especially as I I’ve used the phone a while so definitely I would have seen it and deleted it! Again officer “O” (I can identify him facially, he frequents Iju-ishaga area) said to me “I know you don’t know the password abi??…abi you sabi am?”
Then I knew it was all a set up! I called my cousin who then came with my uncle and when they got to the station all the officers could say was “ask him”: apparently they had NOTHING to say! I went to a corner and watched their discussion after which my uncle was told that we could go. I saw something like an outstretched hand apparently to “bail” me but the officers gave me a scornful side look and rejected it. I knew the possible reasons immediately…the money was small, they had confirmed that I’m a writer and I’ll write about this or because they knew I was innocent!
All said and done I was free to go: my uncle and cousin exchanged pleasantries but I simply walked away with my hands tucked into each other behind me. I didn’t bother to say thank you…they had messed me and my day up! Just as I was leaving I heard BJ clearly saying “look at him, idiot! You’re stupid!! If not for your uncle you would have slept in the cell today!!” I then turned around and said a mocking “thank you sir” to which he replied “who needs your apology?” I couldn’t be bothered, I was out already! Time check..5:00PM!!
Now tell me why I shouldn’t tie Nigerian Police officers to a tree spiritually and watch them rot to death on a sick bed. I now see them as objects of gloom, sorrow and doom. They represent evil in its entirety and I make bold to say that the Nigerian Police is NOT our friend!
If there’s any justice in the world then something MUST be done to BJ, Razaq and their colleagues at SARS, agbado station. I’m willing and ready to identify them facially.
This sir was my experience in the hands of your men on Friday, 22nd May, 2015
Kanayochuckwu Zion NWABUWA