Jimoh Isiaq was standing by the side of the road, wearing a blue, white, and black striped sweater.
His multicoloured shorts are as reflective as himself. He folded his hands, watching from a distance as other young people brought an #EndSARS protest close to his house.
Jimoh was hesitant about joining the protest. Though he featured in a couple of videos from people recording the protest, in every frame of his outlook, Jimoh was afraid.
He wanted to join, but he also wanted to live.
As Jimoh dilly dallied, the protesters moved further from his position. As the stray cameras picked up other people, there was a gunshot. And then another.
People scampered for safety. Cameras were no longer focused. Everyone was running for their lives.
When the dust settled, and they returned for the injured, Jimoh’s striped sweatshirt is soaked in blood. Jimoh is no longer contemplating. Jimoh is dead.
As the protesters tried to carry Jimoh’s lifeless body, they saw other young, bullet-wounded people.
They rushed them all to the hospital, hoping for a medical miracle. The others survive. But Jimoh’s odyssey now continues in the afterlife.
His crime? He was a Nigerian asking not to be killed by the Police.
Like Jimoh, several young Nigerians are shot at by policemen, every day. They are shot at for earning money; they are shot at for not earning money.
They are beaten for using apple gadgets; they are beaten for not being able to afford apple gadgets. They are illegally arrested, kidnapped and framed for crimes that they did not commit.
Stories like this are commonplace in Nigeria today. But one thing that connects all the stories is the brutal manner in which officers of the tactical force unit, Federal-Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) kill Nigerians.
In Nigeria, F-SARS does not discriminate. It beats everybody. Jimoh is dead, but what about those who survived?
Abdulhakeem is a young journalist who thought he was going to die in Offa, North Central Nigeria when he encountered F-SARS.
He was travelling on a commercial bus when they were stopped by armed men, whom they later discovered were F-SARS.
Members of the F-SARS unit introduce themselves only by their guns – never by ID Cards or by clothing. Oftentimes, they do not even wear anything linked to the Nigerian Police force.
Abdulhakeem and his co-travellers were lucky to survive because they negotiated for their lives. But not everybody is fortunate to encounter SARS unscathed.
Michael said he had more than five different experiences with F-SARS. He was once kidnapped and taken to an unknown location around Berger in Lagos State, South-Western Nigeria. At the isolated location, they demanded N200,000 ($520) from him.
Another incidence he recalled was when F-SARS illegally detained him at Grammar School, Berger, Lagos.
He was given a pre-written statement to sign, indicating that he was a cyber-criminal. His crime was owning an iPhone.
When he protested that he wasn’t going to sign, a female officer told him to shut up and sign if he wanted to meet his family again. But in an unfortunate turn of events for the officers, Michael said: “luckily at that moment, I had an attack. I’m asthmatic. That was when they allowed me (to) go after four hours”.
Michael survived because he had a medical emergency that could have equally killed him.
Eniobanke said he was picked up in Ilorin, North Central Nigeria, by a set of officers whom he described as “ruffians”. In the exchange that all victims know, he demanded identification, and the officers immediately attempted to kidnap him.
An older woman intervened, and Inspector Friday (a well known rogue officer in Ilorin) who led the operation agreed to have him follow them to the F-Divison of Nigerian Police Force, Ilorin, riding on an okada.
At the station, when they found it difficult to pin any crime on him, they alleged that as a blogger, he was committing crimes. Then they said he would be charged for inciting violence against them because he called them kidnappers.
Eniobanke’s father sent a Lawyer to defend his son, but before the Lawyer got to him, they had already forced bail funds out of his friends. Despite that, the Lawyer still paid N50,000 ($130) to perfect his bail.
Eniobanke also recalled how operatives of F-SARS, led by one Inspector Friday, had in the past arrested a dog because they went to raid a student hostel and did not meet students at home. So they took their dog.
While Eniobanke was narrating his experiences, he mentioned that he had to bail one of his staff last week. What was her crime? Her hostel was burgled, and one of the neighbours reported to F-SARS to do their job. What did F-SARS do?
They arrested everyone they found when they went for an inspection and had people bail them out for a fee.
Alpha, another young Nigerian was stopped by men of the F-SARS and asked to present his vehicle receipts, license and particulars. When Alpha gave them, they said Alpha was too young to own a car. Alpha’s harassment happened in Sapele, Delta State, South-South Nigeria.
An NGO volunteer, Afolabi, was also given a dose of F-SARS harassment while trying to help his community.
Afolabi had however refused to be bullied. Luckily for him, some passers-by joined and helped him escape further harassment.
Students, Journalists, Volunteers, Bloggers; nobody is safe from operatives of F-SARS. These menace of operatives apply undue force at every given opportunity.
Despite a nationwide protest that led to their so-called scrapping by the Federal Government, there seemed to be no deliberate steps being taken by the police authority to question the errant officers.
Abdulhakeem wants the government to, “proscribe SARS, provide an insurance scheme for every Nigerian against harassment by members of the Nigeria Police Force; and this insurance scheme should be funded by NPF’s budget allocations so that whenever any of their members goes rogue, people should be paid from the insurance scheme that would be surcharged from their salaries.”
All that Michael wanted was for “the government to end the SARS unit and reform the Police as a whole because they are still the same people.”
Eniobanke feels “beyond ending sars, there is a need for total reformation of the Nigerian Police Force.”
Nobody deserves to live with as much fear as Nigerians do when they see Police officers.
Many Nigerians live with PTSD, extreme anxiety and panic. Those who survive F-SARS, live the rest of their lives in fear. They are perpetually traumatised.
They live it planning to look as poor as possible when they leave their homes. They live their lives planning conversations in their heads, in anticipation of being harassed.
A young Nigerian recently committed suicide, unable to live with the trauma of his harassment. When the fresh protests started, an officer shot a protester in the mouth.
Just a few days ago, a young man from Ogiri compound, Ita Alasa, Ogbomoso, was murdered in cold blood; he is Jimoh Isiaq.
Nigerians are tired of begging for their lives. They are demanding for only one thing now; #EndSARS.
(This story was first published on ekonews.com.ng and is part of an #EndSARS series to amplify the stories of different categories of F-SARS victims in Nigeria.)
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