How many deaths until SARS is either scrapped or reformed? | #EndSARS

#EndSARSA

#WeAreTired, #EnoughIsEnough, #StopKillingUs, #EndSARS, the list goes on and on, and for one thing: the killings, harassment, and abuse perpetrated by the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS).

On Tuesday, September 15, that’s barely a week ago, YNaija joined voice with many Nigerians over a report that four suspected internet fraudsters were chased by the unit, where one reportedly died and others sustained injuries. Today, another Twitter trend started centering around the footage of how the unit allegedly gunned down a man in Woji, Port Harcourt, Rivers.

From the trend, the man, identified as Sleek, was said to have had an altercation with some men in the unit which led to a shootout. It was gathered that he refused a request to search through his iPhone.

Sleek’s death automatically reignited the age-long social media trend, #EndSARS, and, as if COVID-19 has not done much, we have had too many avoidable deaths this year alone.

In August 2019, SARS operatives, on a raid in Ijegun to arrest kidnappers fired several shots in a bid to subdue the alleged kidnappers. During the course of action, a stray bullet hit a pregnant woman, who reportedly died on the spot.

In the same month, four SARS operatives were caught on film abusing and then shooting (to death) two suspected thieves. They were, however, arrested and charged with murder.

In September 2019, SARS operatives, Lekki division, allegedly tortured and robbed Nigerian rapper Ikechukwu Onunaku. According to a report, the rapper was forcefully made to make several withdrawals from an ATM to pay the said operatives.

These stories – reported or not – are similar. They stop unsuspecting civilians, and illicitly search ‘the suspects’ on the basis of their appearance, or assumption that they are into illegal business.

In February 2020, Nigerian footballer Tiamiyu Kazeem was chased down to his death by SARS operatives. They had suspected him to be an internet fraudster because of his hairstyle.

These deaths has become more than just a social media outcry. And, residents of Port-Harcourt have already taken to the streets to protest the death of Sleek, demanding that justice should be served.

Here are reactions from Twitter:

Since 2016, many Nigerians have been calling on the Federal government to either scrap the unit or reform it. The cry, however, seems to have fallen on deaf ears or treated with little or no concern.

When, in August 2018, the then Acting President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, ordered the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Kpotun Idris to create measures to reform SARS as well as carry out an investigation on all the persistent complaints and reports on the violation of human rights violation, Nigerians celebrated victory. But, Osinbajo’s order only went as far as rebranding them as Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and the instalment of a human rights desk officers to check reports.

More recently, the president, in a memo dated September 16, 2020, signed into law the Nigeria Police Bill, 2020, which seeks to revoke the Police Act Cap. P19. Laws of the Federation, 2004. The new bill also seeks to provide for a more effective and well organised Police Force, driven by the principles of transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources.

While the new bill reeks of hope for Nigerians who have been at the bitter end at the hands of the SARS, we shouldn’t get excited yet. Nigerians and members of the civil society, need to mobilise members of the public in regularised policy-making, and civil dialogues between stakeholders of the Nigeria Police Force and the government in understanding this bill and ensuring that measures are put in place to protect Nigerians form ‘unruly’ armed officers who threaten their rights.

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