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Murder of young man ‘by police’ sparks another #EndSARS campaign on social media

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BEING young is NOT a crime. Having dreadlocks is NOT a crime. Sagging your jeans is NOT a crime. Having tattoos and piercings is NOT a crime. The big crime is the police harassing and killing the innocent youth they are paid to protect, and nobody stopping them. #EndSARS.”

The above is a tweet by Joe Abah, former Director General of the Bureau for Public Sector Reforms, as another round of #EndSARS campaign resumes across various social media platforms, especially Twitter.

#EndSARS is a social media campaign calling for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force, following several allegations of extra-judicial killings, intimidation and harassment of young Nigerians in the name of curbing criminal activities.

The recent #EndSARS campaign is following the fatal shooting of one Kolade Johnson by men of the Special Anti-Cultism Squad (SACS) of SARS in Lagos State. Johnson was said to have been shot where he had gone to watch a football match on Sunday.

A witness told Naijanews.com, an online news website that the security operatives “came to arrest one of the boys of a major music producer who wears dreads” but when bystanders tried to explain to them that the boy was not a yahoo boy (informal slang for internet fraudster), they started shooting in order to disperse the crowd.

“Because Kunle was probably the last person in the crowd, he was shot point-blank from behind…we had trekked some few metres before we all saw he was bleeding, he died on his way to the hospital at Ikeja”.

There have been several reports of SARS operatives arresting or harassing young people who had dreadlock hairstyles or a tattoo or who sagged their trousers. Despite the outcry, however, the ugly trend has not abated.

In a Twitter post in reaction to the development, Segun Awosanya, a human rights lawyer who is popular for always fighting for young people who are being intimidated or harassed by SARS operatives, pledged that Kolade Johnson’s death would not be in vain.

“Now that the recalcitrant Anti Cultism acting as Criminal Fashion Police have started killing our youth in the bid to intimidate, abduct and rob them of money, we will ensure this is the last time that unit operates. The end has come,” Awosanya tweeted via his ppular handle, @segalink.

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“We must be ready to travel for deliberations on this issue. Another life will not be cut short on this matter. We saw this coming and warned. Now it is happening. This must end!

“Kolade JOHNSON will not die in Vain. We will implore the Senate President (Bukola Saraki) to prioritise the passing of the #NewPoliceActBill for the assent of the President. We can’t continue to watch our young die while we pursue the cure to symptoms. We need this urgently.”

Amnesty International, a global human rights group also weighed in on the issue, describing SARS a  police unit created to protect the people, but which has instead “become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption”.

Because of corruption SARS officers believe they have carte blanche to torture Nigerians. This is hardly surprising when many of these officers have bribed their way to SARS in the first place. The police chiefs in charge are themselves entwined in the corruption.

“The majority of the victims of torture in SARS custody are poor and unable to hire legal representatives. In some cases when detainees cannot afford to pay bribes, they are simply tortured more,” AI further wrote.

Aisha Yesufu, co-leader of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign, also joined in the conversation, calling for a nationwide protest to bring SARS to an end.

“To my knowledge, SARS has killed more people than any deaths at a protest. When you say come out and protest for your lives many say they don’t want to be killed and yet the bullets are finding us one after the other. Who’s next?” she tweeted.

This recent tragedy coming barely three months after the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, ordered a re-organisation of SARS, which until then operated as FSARS (the F standing for federal). Adamu also disbanded all other similar investigative units that existed in the Police at the time, including the Special Investigation Panel (SIP), Special Tactical Squad (STS), and the IG Monitoring and Intelligence Team.

Before the IGP’s pronouncement in January, Vice President (then Acting President) Yemi Osinbajo had also given similar order in August 2018 for SARS to be overhauled. Laolu Akande, the spokesman to the Vice President, said the order was due to “persistent complaints and reports on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that border on allegations of human rights violations”.

However, in carrying out Osinbajo’s directive, then IGP, Ibrahim Idris, merely renamed the unit from SARS to FSARS, moved the unit from the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department to the Department of Operations, and appointed a new police officer to head it.

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