For some years now, there is hardly any month without the harsh tag ENDSARS occupying a prominent position on trends on twitter.
This sums the perception of the police from the public, making mockery of the ‘police is your friend’ gospel preached in the media by the uniform men. For every story that accompanied the #endSARs tweet is a horrible experience of people from different parts of life.
They found twitter and other social media platforms as a place they could ventilate their experiences with the police, notably operatives in the department of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Truth is, when one sits back to sincerely ponder over the myriads of challenges negating members of the Nigerian Police Force in their duty to ensure a crime free society, you would surely want to spare some line of words to appreciate their efforts.
Whether or not you agree, with poor welfare package, analogue crime fighting methods and the ultimate fact that the nation is a developing but critically ailing society, our corps deserve some appreciation and encouragement for the sacrifices they make. At the expense of their own comfort, they are on the streets day and night, under the sun and rain, trying to secure our precious lives and properties; and many of them have lost their lives in the course of this. Take salute the Nigerian Police Force!
However, why there have been advocacy to improve the relationship between citizens of the country and the police which swore to protect them, recent events have further undermined the “Police is your friend” cliché.
Nowadays, youth take to their heels at the sight of a police man for fear of being apprehended and seriously dealt with.
Last weekend, a student at the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, was rushed to the hospital after operatives of the Nigeria Police Force invaded his room and beat him to unconsciousness. His crime? He took to his heels upon sighting the police men around his lounge. The victim, a student of Mass Communication, was identified as Cajetan Okereke.
Cajetan saw a police van approaching the hostel and out of fear ran into a room with some of his lodge mates since it had become a tradition for men of the security agency to arrest students indiscriminately.
The police team went after him, banging his door as if he was declared wanted by the state governor.
Upon opening it, the student stated, the policemen, numbering about four, hit various parts of Cajetan’s body including his chest before he slumped. An eye witness said that the corps left Cajetan unconscious and fled the hostel with the excuse that their victim had wasted time before opening his door. Cajetan was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was rejected before he was brought to the school’s medical center where he is responding to treatment.
The SSA on Students Affairs to the executive governor of Imo State, Oparaji Franklyn, had intervened and it was reported that the four policemen from Nekede/Ihiagwa who orchestrated such malicious act were arrested.
The big poser is, why the police come after Cajetan? They took him for an Internet fraudster! Perhaps the young man was well dressed as a youth, which is against the ‘constitution’ of the Nigeria Police. It is a crime for a young man in Nigeria to be on dreads. Young people in the country now use their laptop computers in hiding. And to think that a young man driving a flashy car is now an invitation to a face off with the police is at worst ridiculous.
This is especially as it concerns members of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of the law enforcement agency.
Common sense should tell us that SARS should not employ the same commando style used for armed robbers in dealing with perpetrators of cyber crimes as the crime is not the same with those that has to do with people taking other people’s belongings by use of harmful weapons.
I have been harnessed twice by SARS operatives. My phones were accessed to my consternation. My time was wasted. They simply wanted to find fault with you and force you to pay financially for it.
Ordinarily, when one is guilty of a crime, he is taken to the police station where he is detained until investigations are concluded. But no, SARS will pronounce you guilty at that spot they confronted you, charge you according to how sophisticated your car and clothes look and force you to pay immediately. They sometimes threaten to shoot you if you don’t comply. They can be worst than armed robbers sometimes.
You don’t end a crime by behaving like a criminal. How do you end cyber crimes? Is it by stopping young people carrying laptops, phones or driving flashy cars, confiscating these items, harassing the bearers and extorting money from them?
You claim they obtained the money by trick only for you to collect it by force. Both SARS and Internet fraudsters are in the same category. Judging from the accounts of many who have narrated their ordeals with SARS, one would conclude that the essence of the new dimension which they have taken is to make money in the guise of clamping down on cyber crimes and criminals.
If Nigeria really wants to end cyber crimes, it must not be by stop and search. The search should be done on the internet where the crime is committed, making use of efficient monitoring mechanism.
You cannot stay in Lagos and catch a thief in Kaduna. The cyber route should be followed to end cyber crimes. That is why there is EFCC, an anti graft agency, saddled with the responsibility of dealing with financial crimes, including cyber crimes in the country.
To my knowledge, no cyber crime is committed without connection with the Bank and I am also aware that the CBN has a policy in place which it initiated to check financial crimes. What SARS should rather do is to liaise with the apex bank, its subsidiary banks and EFCC to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of cyber fraud and other related offences, and this must be done within the armbits of the law.
Fishing out cyber criminals is not guesswork where any built, fresh or rugged-looking guy bearing laptop or driving a flashy millennium car is adjudged a cyber-criminal.
The Inspector-General of Police and the federal government of Nigeria should, therefore, address this issue forthwith and stop SARS from posing terror to Nigerians instead of being their security.
SARS must stop provoking Nigerians to take laws into their hands because when lawlessness becomes lawful, it becomes lawful to be lawless. As much as I know, crime is not fought with a crime. I also write in the hope that I would not be misjudged by a criminal.
May our laptops know peace!
Written by: Kizito Duru.
Facebook: Nze Duru Kizito.