Police Brutality Series
The subject of this interview is David, a professional photographer based in Lagos. Here, he narrates his distressing story of being a victim of police brutality. In this interview, he shared his story of how SARS operatives harassed and assaulted him and his colleague in public without having committed any offence. David expressed his emotions and gave a detailed narration of the incident.
P.S: The content of this conversation you’re about to read is based on the direct words and expressions of the interviewee. Plus, it is also a mixture of English, Yorùbá, and Pidgin. If you don’t understand any sentence, don’t hesitate to use Google translate.
How did your encounter with SARS operatives go?
My encounter with SARS went both ways, scary, terrifying, and I’ll say well too. Bad in the sense that I was harassed and labelled a cultist, and the reason why I said well is that I was later freed to go, unlike some encounters that I have heard of.
How many times have you encountered with these rogue officers?
I’ve bumped in them 3 scary times.
Let’s talk about the one that touched you the most, how did it happen that day?
Okay… That would be the one that I was forced to get into their van like a criminal. On that day, I went out with my colleague in my boss’ car to fill his gas cylinder. On getting to the gas station, my friend and I had to come down from the car to get the cylinder filled.
On our way back to the car, trying to get the cylinder into the car’s trunk, I noticed a van double-crossed our car and pulled over. Then, we got to realize it was SARS operatives.
At first, I thought we were about to be kidnapped because they weren’t on their uniforms. But when I saw their van, my instincts told me they were SARS operatives. And truly, they were.
They asked me and my friend to get into the van, leaving my boss alone in the car. We didn’t want to comply at first until they “cocked” their firearms, we had no choice but to comply.
We entered their van and they started driving us away. My colleague and I were extremely scared, but we had a bit of relief because my boss was driving behind us. A few moments later, we were asked to bring our phones. I obliged because I had already been slapped twice.
They searched our phones and they saw nothing incriminating, immediately they decided to label us as cultists. They threatened that they would take us to their station, frame us, and charge us to court.
At this point, I really wasn’t myself because it was so scary. They even made a statement in pidgin saying “Una mama go find una tire and them no go see una”. Mehn, I was terrified. My colleague was continuously slapped for nothing.
They kept driving around for about 30 minutes while harassing us and wanted to extort money from us. Luckily for us, my boss had already started making calls as he was driving behind us.
I noticed they received a phone call, immediately they slowed down at a bus stop called “General” and pushed us away from a moving van and said “God save Una mama today, we for carry una go and una mama no go see una again”.
I have never felt that embarrassed. Because at the point, where we were being ushered into their vehicles—we were paraded like thieves and they kept shouting and making noises which got a lot of people’s attention.
I felt very humiliated and angry, from that day on, I found it very difficult to go out. I’m always super scared every time I step out of the house. For the first time in my life, a gun was pointed at me and it had to be from a SARS official… I was innocent but after that experience, I started feeling guilty for doing nothing.
This is pathetic, do you have any idea of who your boss called?
I had no idea because we were in 2 different vehicles and I didn’t even bother to ask because I wasn’t myself… I constantly had those scenes played in my head.
Can you recall what happened next after you were dropped off?
Yeah, I can. The next thing that happened was I saw them pull over to harass another set of guys because their van was still in sight. I was really angry because I could clearly see that those guys didn’t do anything, they just stopped and moved them in. I kept wondering, how do these people even think?
I felt sorry for them, I really don’t know what happened to those guys but I’m very sure that’s how they went about the whole day harassing different sets of guys.
How did you feel when you got home that day?
I felt absolutely bad, very embarrassed, very stressed, very angry… I felt almost every negative thing that can be felt after such an incident. I felt used, I felt betrayed by the people that were meant to protect me. I wish I had a superpower to make them pay for every single thing they put me through. It was so traumatizing because I have never gone through such public disgrace.
Who did you tell about this incident, I mean relatives?
I told all of every one of them and while saying it, I could see the fear in my mom’s eye. She was experiencing it live with me. It was so annoying and disheartening.
Can you describe what they looked?
They were very rough, like very very rough. In their conversation while in the van, I could hear them saying they would be returning to “Iyaba”, probably that’s their base, I’m not sure. Based on their looks, they weren’t presentable.
Did that experience affect you psychologically?
It sure did, every time I stepped out of my house I was always scared, couldn’t dress as I wanted to… Mehn, the aftermath wasn’t nice for me. Sometimes, I contemplate on turning down some jobs because it’s one thing to make money, it’s another thing to guarantee your safety when going out and coming in.
How can you describe this experience compared to the other ones you’ve had?
This one was the scariest amongst others because of their appearance and choice of words. These people were ready to do anything if what they wanted wasn’t provided. This is the most horrible experience I’ve ever had to deal with in terms of the rampant police harassment that has been going on.
I’ve never been put into a van, assaulted, and driven around town in other experiences. They asked so many annoying questions you have no power but to answer, and they could do any crazy thing at that moment. We were pushed out of a moving vehicle, it’s way worse than other experiences I’ve had.
At this stage, do you have a formula for dealing with SARS operatives when you have an encounter with them?
Omo! I don’t think there’s a formula for that o… I mean these guys are very unpredictable and heartless. These guys don’t care who you are! We just pray not to encounter them every single day. The system of this country is so f*cked up. Whatever they do, they go scot-free with it.
If you were in a place of power, how would you deal with police brutality?
I would persecute the head of every team… If the head of every team and unit is being prosecuted they would warn their boys to behave themselves because they know they’ll be prosecuted.
With the ongoing protests by the youths, do you think there will be a better Nigeria?
With this new energy, I think the change and take-over are here already. I’m super hyped about this movement. I think there’s a great chance of a better Nigeria with this new energy, new vibes, and unity. Everything just seems to resonate well with the youths. Eyes have opened, I see a better Nigeria.
Usually, I strongly say Nigeria will never be a better place, but with this energy, there’s a glimpse of hope this country will be better. That’s what I feel.
If you have any sentence or toxic words to tell the SARS officials that harassed you that day, what would it be?
600 YEARS OF PAIN AND MADNESS FOR THEM!!!
End Of Conversation
If you have been a survivor of police brutality and you’d like to share your story, don’t hesitate to contact me.
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