The Special Anti Robbery Squad which has grown to become a menace that answers to no one.
Hardly a day goes by without reading about a terrible experience of a young Nigerian at the hands of SARS operatives. The encounters are disturbing frequent at this point and despite hashtags and online protests, it seems this special division of the Nigerian Police Force will continue to operate with a disdain for fundamental human rights and the abandonment of their fundamental duty- to protect and serve its citizens.
After numerous reports of alleged assault, extortion and torture of Nigerians by SARS operatives, the hashtag #EndSARS became the rallying cry to mount a concerted opposition to the illegal activities of the police unit. It gained momentum before fizzling out when it seemed the SARS horror stories had reduced.
The hellish reports are back in full force. The profiling of young Nigerians as criminals with no hard evidence litter Instagram and Twitter timelines. #EndSARS is popping up on timelines again. Unfortunately, despite mounting claims both by foreign agencies and alleged victims, nothing seems to be done about SARS.
To be fair, we have a few cases of the NPF properly handling men of the SARS unit who went against the law. Unfortunately, these cases are too few to stop the growing menace of the police special unit. The top brass of the Nigerian Police Force have tried their best to curtail the activities of SARS but we are yet to see huge results.
From the reports, it is clear that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad target mainly young Nigerians who appear in a certain way. SARS operatives wrongfully profile young men and women with dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings and expensive smartphones as criminals or Internet fraudsters.
This wrongful profiling has cost innocent young men and women their freedom and money also. As barbaric and inhumane as it sounds, it is clear that the NPF is running its ship based on a supposedly 'moral centric' leaning to identify criminals.
It would soon be a year of the anti-SARS movement online and despite the attempts to reform the Nigerian Police Force by citizens, nothing has been done about it by the Federal Government.
The Buhari administration has been notoriously quiet on SARS and the #EndSARS movement. Not a whiff of a statement has come from the office of the President and the Vice-President.
Nigeria's political elite and ruling class (apart from Abubakar Atiku) more or less are not concerned about the maltreatment of people by the police's special unit. As with most things that affect everyday Nigerians, the ruling class cannot be bothered if an innocent person is tortured or killed.
The apathy of the Nigerian politicians and leaders is simply because the SARS menace has not affected any of their children or relatives.
The political class feeds fat on the resources of this country, making it immune to everyday struggles that millions of us go through daily. Their children are sheltered from the hellish conditions they have created. Many off springs of Nigerian politicians and leaders study abroad thereby escaping the brutalities that the children of average citizens face at the hands of SARS.
In Nigeria, the biggest sin is to be poor. Once you are poor, you are vulnerable to the worst Nigeria has to offer, which are a whole lot. Nigeria runs on the systemic oppression of the poor orchestrated by those in the corridor of power.
The reason why SARS has not been reformed is that the children of the high and mighty are not affected by its activities. Yeah, we have a few rich kids who have bumped into SARS, but as a whole, they do not face the dangers that the average Nigerian youth does.
There is a reason why you can't find SARS in highbrow and really exclusive areas like Ikeja, G.R.A, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island. These are the places where dynasties stay and no SARS operative would want to get into trouble with a billionaire for harassing his son or daughter.
You can, however, find SARS operatives lurking in areas that need the most protection- middle income and low-income neighbourhoods. In the eyes of Nigerian politicians and rulers, SARS is a poor man's problem that has nothing to do with them.
Until the children of top shots are assaulted, detained and extorted by SARS officers, expect nothing to happen. The cries of the poor are never heard by those who should bring justice. The reform we are seeking for the Special Anti Robbery Squad is not coming soon even though the NPF is in need of one seriously.
Its notorious activities might dwindle for a bit since we are approaching an election year but once we are done at the polling booths, the menace will strike back to harm innocent citizens. Our leaders won't care because their children will not be affected.