A video clip has gone viral on Twitter showing two officials of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force beating a young man with a big stick for allegedly refusing to unlock his phone.
This is the most recent of the many reported acts of brutality being meted out on innocent citizens on daily basis by SARS operatives.
In the video, the young man, wearing red shorts and a black t-shirt was slapped and hit with a big stick several times.
It is not clear what lead to the encounter between the young man and the SARS officials, but the men appeared to have been angered when the young man said to one of them, “I know my right… you will see” amidst the slaps and beatings.
He then tried to make a phone call and one of the SARS men accosted him saying in pidgin, “I dey talk to you, you no wan hear. Who you wan call? Oya Call the person. You dey crase?”
Further infuriated, the other officer attacked the young man again hitting him several times with the stick, before they collected the phone from him, telling him to come to their station to collect it.
The 34 seconds video was apparently recorded by a bystander without the knowledge of the policemen.
Watch the video below as shared on Twitter by ‘Gossip Mill Nigeria’:
"I Know My Rights, You have no Right to Search My Phone" – Young Nigerian Guy Cries Out As SARS Police Officers Mercilessly beat Him Up All bcos He had 2 phones and Refused to Unlock the Expensive one, they seized it, told him to Come to Alagbon FCIID to Retrieve, Pls RT #Endsars pic.twitter.com/gHz2FFWXl9
— Gossip Mill Nigeria (@GossipMillNaija) April 12, 2019
Can a policeman search somebody’s phone without a warrant?
During a question and answer session on Twitter sometime in 2018, the then Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris was asked whether it was legal for policemen to search peoples phones without a warrant, and he responded: “It is not ideal for officers to search your phones without a complaint. It is not professional. Officers have been lectured not to unnecessarily search peoples phones without any case or complaint against the person.”
Regardless of the clarification, SARS operatives have continued to harass and intimidate young people by forcefully searching their phones and laptops in the name of trying to detect internet fraud.
Similarly, in response to a similar question about the legality or otherwise of police going through peoples phones, LawPadi.com, a legal awareness website, explained thus: “The police have a right to search phones and laptops. However, this search can only be performed if a search warrant has been issued. If the police officer does not have a warrant to search your phone or laptop or other electronic devices, then any search carried out is an illegal one.”
This recent act of police brutality captured on video is coming barely 48 hours after a mobile policeman was also caught on tape harassing a young passenger during a stop and search and forcing the young man to open his phone.
The officer was angry that the boy said his phone was worth N200,000 when he (the policeman) has not been able to afford a good phone despite having been in the service for 14 years.
“I dey work for over 13 years now, this year, June, will make me 14 years for service, I never get money to buy N250,000 phone, na only N15,000, N20,000 phone na im I dey use,” the policeman said in pidgin.
After forcing the young man to unlock the phone and going through it, the policeman then smashed the phone on the ground. You can watch the video here.
Police authorities would later announce that the officer was arrested and is facing disciplinary actions.
In another case of brutality, two weeks ago, a SARS official shot and killed a young man named Kolade Johnson in Lagos State.
The deceased man, a father of one and only son to a widowed mother, had gone to a football viewing centre to watch an English Premier League match when SARS operatives arrived the area and tried to arrest a resident who was spotting dreadlocks hairstyle.
When the residents tried to intervene, the policemen fired shots into the air to disperse the gathering crowd and Kolade Johnson was hit. He was confirmed dead at a nearby hospital where he was taken.
His killer, a police Inspector named Ogunyemi Olalekan, has been dismissed from service and charged before an Ikoyi Magistrate Court, Lagos. He was remanded in prison custody till the next adjourned date.