In the course of carrying out my duties today, I came across the part of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria where it is stated that: “the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria shall be the primary purpose and responsibility of government….”
Such an assuring statement that should make Nigerians feel safe in their country! Sadly, on all social media platforms, and on many streets across Nigeria, Nigerians – young and old, have been calling for the abolition of the State Armed Robbery Squad and the Federal State Armed Robbery Squard (SARS and F-SARS). This protest, led by such brilliant and incomparable countrymen like Runtown, Falz, Aisha Yesufu, and hundreds of others, is seeking an end to the brutality that appears by all designs, to be government-sanctioned.
You would be right to agree that the actions of SARS and F-SARS are government sponsored. After all, this group of marauders have been supposedly “banned” four times by the Nigerian government through its Police Force since Nigerians began to ask for the abolition of this death squad. Within the same period, at least ten Nigerian youths have been killed by this same “banned” group. In addition, thousands of Nigerian youths, most of whom have been innocent, have been extorted of their savings at gun-point by this same group. All you need to do is to have small money and be young in Nigeria and SARS will take it from you.
What has remained disturbing is that for every time the so called ‘ban’ was announced, the government did not fail to show that it was only paying lip service. How else will one explain a new “ban” everytime the agitation arises? While they announce the “ban” using media channels, on the streets, the same SARS or F-SARS officials intensify their acts of brutality in complete defiance of the announced ban. And drawing wisdom from African proverbs, when you see a bird dancing in the middle of the road, there must be an authoritative drummer in the bush.
It has become clear to all that SARS or whatever other nomenclature the Nigerian Govenment decides to call it, will not really be banned by the government for obvious reasons. The truth is, everyone who knows how the Police Force works will tell you that the money extorted goes through the following channels:
From SARS operatives on the street, to the Officer-in-Charge SARS, to Assistant Commissioner Operations, to the Deputy Commissioner Operations, to the Commissioner of Police in the State, to the DIG Operations and then the Inspector General of Police.
It is a multi-million naira business that guarantees a life of luxury for these greedy men. This is why they continue to pay lip-service to ending it. Would you end a means of livelihood that brings you millions of naira monthly? Why would they ban a body that raises millions for them every week? Money that services their unending desires? I mean, this legalized robbery fetches the Nigeria Police Force tens of millions every month.
If these guys, dressed as frightening armed robbers as they usually do, find out that you have some savings of about N300,000 and threaten to kill you if you don’t pay them N200,000, your first impulse would be to take them to an ATM Machine and pay them so you can live. The money, of course, goes through the channels and the bosses are satisfied. They encourage them to get more in the following week. In the end, the operatives on the streets can break down doors to extort whoever they can because of the backing from the top.
There have been stories about Police heads who have condemned the process and for their efforts? They got transferred! This is why it has been difficult for the NIgeria Police Force to caution SARS or fully disband it. How many Armed Robbers have we heard about lately? It is easier now to just join SARS and be a legitimate armed robber. It has gotten to the point where Nigerians have developed more fears for SARS operatives more than they would for armed robbers. Of course, it is difficult to differentiate between a SARS operative and and an armed robber— both groups act and dress alike.
I have heard people say we should call the help-lines put out by the Nigeria Police Force and report them. Why give them money when you have nothing to run for? Surrounded by criminal looking men threatening to “waste” you if you don’t pay the requested money, would you rather pay N200,000 out of the N300,000 you have or die? Or perhaps, report to the drummer in the bush whom the dancing bird owes his loyalty? The Police hierarchy knows this. They know that every month, these rogues will make millions for them through initimidation. How do you think they will end it?
But everything is changing. Nigerians are now aware of the fact that those at the top will not #ENDSARS because of how profitable it is to them. It is why in the coming days, tired of being treated like slaves in their own country, Nigerian youths may take up arms and attack SARS and the entire Police Force. They know of course, that they may die in the process, but at least, it is better to die fighting your oppressor than to live in eternal fear. And when these youths pick up arms and fight back, it would be a direct confrontation and the casualties would be from both sides.
#ENDSARS is no longer just about the lives of Nigerian youths, but about the lives of police officers too. Whether anyone agrees to it or not, we have got to the point where we either stop the molestation of youths, or the country combusts and everyone burns with it. Of course, the Police bosses who pay lipservice would be spared while the criminal elements they recruited as SARS officials would be the victims when the blood flows. Either ways, we are now firmly seated on a time bomb.
*Oruh is the author of In Memoriam of a Modest Shame.