Is SARS brutality, youth killings over after IGP’s order?

By Udeh Okoro Emmanuel

If the order of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, stands as a basket that can hold water, then the incessant police harassment, extortion, human rights abuses, illegal detention, torture and callous killings have come to an end.

As police brutality is alive and unwell, #EndSARS resurfaced in 2019 after a police stray bullet killed Kolade Johnson in Lagos during a raid in his neighbourhood, reportedly for youths with dreadlocks. The public reaction, in the face of national conversations on the violent policing of Nigerian youths, makes sense and is extremely warranted.

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The IGP gave the order yesterday banning the personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other Tactical squad of the force including the Special Tactical Squads(STS), Intelligence Response Team (ITR), Anti –Cultism Squad and other Tactical Squads operating at the Federal Zonal and Command levels, from carrying out routine patrols and conventional low-risk duties –stop and search duties , checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc.

It is worthy to note that Nigeria’s security agencies have largely abandoned their mandate to tackle crime and instead, turned to harassment and extortion of the youth. Though several calls by the public, including activists, for reforms have failed to yield results, it is not too late for President Muhammadu Buhari to act. People who choose to join security agencies must understand their job is to protect Nigerians and not compete with the criminals already making lives miserable for people.

Recently, the family of a graduate of the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Ifeoma Abugu, 28, was thrown into mourning after she was said to have been sexually assaulted and killed by some personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja. She was arrested in place of her fiancé on September 10 2020 when the police officers did not find him at his residence.

A 21-year-old man was killed the same month during a high-speed chase by police officers attached to the Osun State Joint Task Force in Osogbo. The deceased and with three others were returning
from a mall when the security men gave chase.

Before then, an auto mechanic, Chima Ikwunado, died in police custody in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. An autopsy carried out by the police pathologist determined that the cause of death was extreme torture and not high blood sugar level as the agency had initially claimed. He was arrested along with four others for driving against traffic in cars belonging to their customers and was later
labelled a cult member.

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Clearly, the usual rhetoric by the regime has been exposed for what it is and therefore failed to deter notorious security agents. And it must be said that it is not limited to the police and its anti-robbery unit; it has indeed become a habit for security agencies generally to harass, torture and extort money from Nigerians, particularly the youth.

Any young man with a laptop, smartphone, dreadlocks, tattoo and/or good car faces the risk of being profiled as a fraudster, arrested, kidnapped, assaulted and extorted by security agents. It is just as if it has become a crime to be a
youth in today’s Nigeria, which has indeed failed them. Let us keep our fingers crossed, our eyes open and watch our effective this order will be and how the youth will react by being law abiding.

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