A 20-year-old man, Tolu Balogun has accused operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of extorting money from him and his friends. Balogun said the incident occurred on June 20, while they were lodging in a hotel.
We lodged in the hotel, which was close to the house. After settling down, we decided to go to an eatery downstairs to get some food to eat. A few minutes later, SARS operatives came into the eatery and confronted us. They claimed to have information that we were Yahoo Boys.”
Balogun recounted that when they requested to know who gave them such information, the policemen told them that it was not their business. They were ordered to stand and face the wall. The policemen began to frisk them. He said: “They corked their guns to scare us, saying that they would shoot anyone that argued with them. They started searching us. They asked for an identity card. We brought out our school identity cards and gave them, but they threw them on the ground.
“They started asking us for settlement, after falsely accusing us. We were reluctant to even release any money to them. For 30 minutes, they kept scaring us with their guns and insulting us. The manager of the eatery came out to intervene. He paid them N10,000 and that was how they released us. I wasn’t happy with the way I was harassed and threatened for no reason.
These people need training to identify criminals from non-criminals.” A hairstylist, Deji Badmus, who went to get things for his boss, was harassed and beaten up on the road. He was beaten for having scissors in his pocket and was accused of being a cybercriminal. Badmus said that the incident occurred on June 4. He said: “My boss sent me to get some hair materials at Ogba. When I got there, I found out it was expensive, and I had no extra money on me aside from the one that my boss gave me.
I decided to go back to get more money from my boss. On my way home, I was stopped by SARS operatives. They stopped my cyclist and ordered me to get down. They searched me. They saw a fancy scissors, which I kept in my pocket. That was how they alleged that the scissors was a weapon.
“I was trying to explain that I was a hairstylist and present my identity card, when they suddenly started beating me. Two of them kicked, slapped and punched me. I couldn’t move; I was weak. People came from different streets to see what was happening. Two old women from the crowd came and pleaded that they know me, that I was a hairstylist. After much persuasion, they left me on the ground. People from the crowd came to help me.
The scars of the beating are still on my body. I will never forget that day. I was brutalised and traumatised.” A 300 Level student of Babcock University, Damola Oyerinde, narrated how he ran into SARS operatives, on his way to the bank. He said that the policemen confiscated his phone and scrolled through his messages. According to him, they knew he was innocent, but still collected part of school fees. He said: “It happened in January, I was heading to the bank to pay my school fees. It was at Iyana-Ipaja.
They demanded to know what I was carrying in my bag. They collected my phone, checked my text messages and my WhatsApp messages. They found nothing. They wanted to check my bag, but I refused; I told them that I had just my school fees in the bag. One of them slapped me and snatched the bag from me.
“When he opened the bag and saw the money, he said I was a Yahoo Yahoo boy. They said that was why I was carrying huge amount of money. They said that I even looked like a yahoo boy. I kept arguing with them; that it is my school fees. They brought out the money and shared it. When they were done, they returned the bag and took me to Igando Police Station. I didn’t have enough credit to call, but I flashed my mum. She called back, asked me to give the phone to the policemen. She asked them to release me and return my school fees.
They returned the money, but it was not complete. They had removed N5,000 from it. I left with an incomplete school fees.” A resident of Ojodu Berger, Mr. Akeem, said that he was stopped by a SARS officer when he took his child for haircut. He said: “They stopped me around Agege; I was with my son. He sat at the back of the car. They asked why I was driving a good car. They asked for my driving licence and my ID card. They also asked about my job. I got angry at their questions.
While I was exchanging words with them, one of them pointed a gun at me and my four-yearold son started crying. That got them angrier. They threatened to deflate my tyres. But after much argument and because of my son, I had to give them N10,000. I didn’t want my son to be traumatised by the gun pointed at me. Since then, whenever he sees a policeman on the road, he gets scared.”