My heart is heavy. I am at loss for what to write this week. For days, I have suffered anxiety attacks. I have tried to stay away from reading the heartbreaking stories of Nigerians who have suffered harassment and brutality at the hands of members of the notorious Special Anti Robbery Squad all over the country but it’s not possible.
Sometimes, I remind myself that it is okay to be sad that human beings like me are being beaten, brutalized and killed by people who are supposed to protect them from armed robbers. At other times, I break down emotionally from reading too many gut wrenching stories of family members who have to deal with the sudden disappearance and death of their loved ones at the hands of SARS operatives.
I still can’t put down my thoughts perfectly but I support my brothers and sisters who are calling for #EndSARS. I share the pain of my fellow Nigerians who have been silent for so long because of fear. I feel sorry for the family members of the victims of SARS operatives. I can’t imagine losing someone I love that way and be so powerless that I can’t do anything to bring the perpetrators to justice. That level of helplessness can destroy one’s will to live.
But at the same time, I am happy. I am happy that we found our voice amidst the fear and helplessness we have been subjected to for years. I’m happy that the youths are standing tall and demanding for things to change. I’m happy that my generation used the power of social media to their advantage by calling for reforms in the police. I’m happy that the world is watching and taking note that we refuse to be silenced when we are being harassed and killed. I’m happy that our children will read about how we stood up in unity against the system that was meant to silence us.
We cannot forget that some people were killed during these peaceful protests as well. We cannot forget that policemen opened fire on peaceful protesters. We cannot forget that parents, siblings and relatives are mourning the deaths of their loved ones because they wanted a better Nigeria. My heart goes out to these people who have lost a loved one at this time. May God console them and grant them the fortitude to bear their losses. May their tears not be in vain. May we experience a change in this country when this is all over.
As the #EndSARS protest continues, Nigerians have not stopped sharing harrowing stories of their experiences with men of the police force. Social media has been agog with stories of people who lost siblings, parents, lovers, and relatives to police brutality. These stories are harrowing to read but one of them made me shake with sadness. It’s the story of a Nollywood actress Isaac Nsikan who shared how she lost her father and elder brother to stray bullets of the police.
According to the actress, 22 years ago, she lost her father to a stray bullet from a police officer. He was coming home from work when he was hit by a stray bullet in Uyo and the police called the incident an unfortunate mistake. As if that was not enough, 20 years after the sad incident, Nsikan lost her elder brother to a gunshot from the police in front of her parents’ house. How much pain and grief can a family take?
Another story made me cry. It was about a guy named Solomon whose sisters are seriously protesting and calling for #EndSARS in Portharcourt,
The writer said: Today my sister Martha Yellowe Chindah and I took to the streets to demand justice for the senseless killing of our younger brother Solomon Yellowe who was allegedly murdered by SARS on the 13th of March 2019 in Portharcourt.
Solomon was a healthy 27 year old man and final year student at University of Portharcourt with no pre-existing health condition. He was last seen on campus where he told two of his colleagues his intention of making an ATM cash withdrawal. Shortly after using the ATM he was picked up by SARS officers and was never seen again.
The search for Solomon began when word reached us that he did not return back from campus which was completely out of character for him. We searched every police station in Portharcourt and environs. I personally went to SARS Rupkokwu twice where I was told no such person was in their custody. They denied ever arresting Solomon. My elder brother also went there severally as well as other family member but SARS operatives denied ever coming in contact with Solomon.
It was a tip off from a detainee that told us the fate of our brother. He said Solomon had been killed shortly after arriving SARS police station and his body had been deposited at UPTH mortuary. On the 26th of April 2019, we found my brother Solomon’s lifeless body at the said UPTH mortuary. He was deposited there by one SAMUEL SUNDAY of SARS Rupkokwu Portharcourt.
My family made payment for the investigation into the extra judicial killing of my brother to commence at Rivers State CID. An autopsy was carried out which determined that my brother had no gun shot wound but died from brain swelling. Till date, my family never received any information regarding the outcome of the investigations carried out by Rivers State CID.
My then 79 year old father and I went to force head quarters Abuja in order for an investigation to be carried out to determine what exactly happened to my brother. We were told we have to pay for a team of officers from Abuja to come down to Portharcourt for investigation to commence. This includes flights, hotel accommodation (of their choosing) feeding and extra funds for logistics.
I asked why we the bereaved family were being asked to pay the same organization who allegedly killed their son in order for them to do their job. We left and since then, nothing has been done. We join other youths all over the country demanding for the end to police brutality and get justice for all the victims whose lives were cut short just like that of my brother Solomon Yellowe. Sighs deeply.”
When will the victims of FSARS brutality get justice? How will the families of the victims be compensated for their loss? How do we pretend such sad occurrences going forward? What structures will be put in place to ensure that young Nigerians who possess i-phones, laptops, spot dreadlocks and expensive cars won’t suffer harassment anymore at the hands of policemen all over the country? These are the questions that should be tackled during this time.
It is not enough to change the name of the unit from Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS) to Special Weapons And Tactics Squad (SWAT). It is not enough to order all personnel of the defunct SARS to report at the Force Headquarters Abuja for debriefing, psychological and medical examination. It is not enough for the officers who have terrorized Nigerians for long to be trained and redeployed into mainstream policing duties. What about prosecuting them? What about getting justice for the grieving family members of their victims?
I just hope that we truly get things right when this is all over. I hope we don’t have to go through this painful period again as a people and I hope this is the beginning of the transformation of the country in all sectors. God bless Nigeria and Nigerians! May our labour for a better Nigeria not be in vain!