The virtual campaign against alleged ill practices of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) gathered more momentum on Wednesday as protesters took to Lagos streets against the unit.
Despite the heavy downpour witnessed early Wednesday morning and the gridlock that followed in parts of the state, aggrieved youths in their hundreds stormed the Police Command Headquarters, Ikeja with placards demanding an end to the menaces of SARS.
Tagged “Three-days protest calling for the outright disbandment of SARS”, the protesters bore placards with inscriptions like “Am I the next to die?”; “Stop police brutality”; “Why shoot bullets at us?”; “I am not a criminal #EndSARS”; “Our lives matter”; “Stop criminalising innocent citizens” and “stop extorting and killing us.”
From their convergence point at Ikeja under Bridge opposite Computer Village, they marched and danced to the Police Command Headquarters where they presented a signed register by participants outlining their pains in the hands of SARS.
They demanded that names of all officers who have been found culpable to be made public and subjected to transparent prosecution.
The protesters also charged authorities to ensure justice and compensation for all victims who have suffered injustice in the past whether dead or alive.
They called for a public enquiry on past activities of the unit, adding all SARS detention centres must be made open for independent investigators to assess them, lamenting that some persons have been held in custody for four years and more just because they were standing in front of their homes or running errands.
According to them, the police hierarchy must ensure all unjust harassment and extortion of youth by cops are brought to an end.
Also, the protesters said policemen on duty must have their name tags depicting their units as well, appealing to the police to outlaw the norm of gun-totting policemen dressed in civilian wears in unmarked vehicles while on duty.
In the long term, they suggested that the police hierarchy should apply digital medium for tracking such cases.
Narrating his experience, one Alex Kingsley said his 16-year-old brother who was given foodstuff to bring to him was arrested and branded a Yahoo boy.
“My younger brother of 16 years in SS2 was given foodstuff to bring for me by my mother only for SARS to accost him that he’s a Yahoo boy. He was holding my mum’s small nokia torch phone, nothing was found on him except the foodstuffs and he was detained,” he lamented.
Another victim, Uche Anyadike said: “When the lockdown started newly, I and my whole family (mom and two older brothers) went to see a family friend but we took two cars because we carried quite a lot of stuffs in the car. We were stopped, actually double crossed by these FSARS people.
“These guys searched both cars pointed a gun on my mum and said she is the leader of our criminal racket. Said she is the one sponsoring and leading us to crime. That’s how we found ourselves in their station.
“Their OC apologised to her after she had introduced herself, and we all did introduce ourselves. The police force needs to understand that most people actually have good paying jobs and can afford to live a good life, without going into something dirty.”
Although their demands to meet with Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu were not met, the protesters refused to leave but converted the inroads to the command headquarters as sit-outs.
Their resilience later paid off as the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Operations, Ali Muhammed, later addressed them.
He sued for peace and cooperation to correct the anomalies.