Police Brutality Series
The subject of this interview is a touching story of a teenager who decided to stay anonymous. He lives in Ota, Ogun State. He has had a couple of encounters with SARS operatives—one which happened 4 years ago, but the last one was the one he decided to discuss because it ruined that day for him. He was very emotional about it.
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 on that day go?
It was not a good day at all, despite being excited when I left the house. It happened at Sango Ota, in the evening, this wasn’t the first time it actually happened. The first one also happened at sango, around 4 years ago sha.
I was actually asked to get a Bible for my mom and in return she gave me money for a bag (the normal school bag, I love carrying bags). Before I stepped out of the house, she gave me ₦8k in total (₦2.5k for the Bible, ₦3k for the bag). So I got both of them for those prices.
On my way back, I was about to take a bus—this was around 5, that was when they stopped me. They were like “Stop there!”. In my mind, I was like “Seriously I thought they’ve banned these people!!!”.
SARS operatives: Wetin dey your bag?
Me: Oga I just buy this bag ni o!
SARS operatives: You dey lie! Make we check am!
Me: Okay oo (As i handed them the bag).
Then, they saw the Bible and my raincoat, because it actually rained that day. After checking the bag, the harassment continued.
SARS operatives: Bring your phone!
Me: Oga I no fit give you my phone o!
While I was arguing with them, they kept threatening me. Eventually, I sha gave them the phone. They saw my phone had a cracked screen and some parts of the body has been scrapped off.
It got heated! They asked me to unlock my phone, I did. They checked and kept checking the phone. They saw this #EndSARS of a thing, na so kasala burst oo!
THEM CARRY ME ENTER BUS!!!
They were taking me to one “Joju area” like that in Ota. It got to a moment where I didn’t know where I was. I was like “where you na dey carry me go like this”. They didn’t answer.
Guy, I no fit cry that day and my phone still dey with them.
Then we got to a spot where they stopped the bus. They kept asking me stupid questions.
SARS operatives: Oya do us something.
Me: Ah! I no get money o. You fit check, na only ₦44 dey my account sef.
Then they searched me sha. They took the rest of the money my mum gave me. But, thank God I hid an extra ₦1.5k inside my bag. Seems they didn’t search the bag well. If not, I for no see money come house that day.
Guy, let me not lie, that day wasn’t okay.
This is pathetic. Can you explain how you felt when you got home?
I was angry and I was really depressed. But I couldn’t tell it to my mom. I hate to worry her… So she doesn’t even know till today. She has this high blood pressure stuff. So, I wouldn’t want to get her thinking.
Did you tell other relatives what happened that day?
Absolutely no one. Nobody.
Did the experience affect you psychologically?
I have a really strong mind.
Can you briefly explain what they looked like?
Most of them were actually short, some average, cos I’m really really tall. They were wearing black t-shirts and black trousers, their usual uniform. Some of them wore something similar to boots. Everything they wore was black.
They were 4 in number, alongside the driver. They were also in their usual koròpé bus..
Can you also briefly explain what the previous encounters with SARS were like?
No, I can’t. Please bear with me.
With your different experiences and meetings with SARS, when you spot them what do you always do?
Lol. Ironically, I don’t do anything. I just keep my belongings well.
Do you have any advice for anyone who ever comes in contact with SARS, in terms of behavior?
I just feel the person should try to be cool headed and not take things personal. When they ask you questions, answer them logically. Also try to answer their questions with questions. You should try to sound intelligent too, so they won’t override you.
If you are in place of power, what are the things you will do to put police Brutality to an end?
If I were to deal with this issue, first, I feel we can’t really blame most of them for these menaces; looking at it from another perspective. We want them dissolved right? Yes. But we also need to reform the entire police force, from top to bottom.
These people are underpaid. Lately, I was discussing with someone about the salaries of the police force and he told me the salary of a new recruit in the force is about ₦20,000. That amount is someone else’s “money for food”, it is even less than the minimum wage.
I will make sure I resolve it from top to bottom, then increase their pay—making life comfortable for them because their job isn’t even comfortable. I will also scrap SARS entirely and replace them with a better squad. I mean a newly trained squad, not bringing the same officers into the new squad. That’s my take on it.
With the ways youths have taken these protests, do you think things will eventually change?
Yes of course. I’m happy for this protest actually. You see, we have been pushed to the wall. Based on home training, I feel most youths didn’t want to voice out, but we’ve been really pushed to the wall to the extent that we have no choice but just fight back.
So I’m really happy for these ongoing protests. With this protest, I predict Nigeria will eventually change. But, I just pray everything don’t die down like the ones we’ve seen before.
I pray this makes sense, I pray this really makes the change we’ve been all longing for and also the Nigeria we want all it to be.
If you have one sentence or something toxic to say to the SARS officers you encountered, what would it be?
Lol. Omo, I’ll tell them “f*uck you all”. Weray ní gbogbo wọn!
If you have been a survivor of police brutality and you’d like to share your story, don’t hesitate to contact me.