By Patrick Odey
A little over two weeks ago, a female youth corper was picked up by SARS official in place of her boyfriend who they were looking for. By the time neigbours mobilised to the station, she had be raped, it caused an outcry but it was a little too late as she was later found dead after telling on her rape ordeal. The police refused to release her body.
That incident sparked what’s today known as the #ENDASARS protest. Repressed trauma spilled out, bottled anger against a unit that had gone rogue mostly in the south, and defied efforts at reform, spiralled into the agitation you see today.
On the first day of the protest, a bystander- a mechanic, who was watching the surging crowd of protesters was caught by a stray bullet. The fire under the kiln of the protest was kindled some more, a young man was falsely arrested and beaten till he suffered brain damage. When his mother went to the police station to request to see her son, she was slapped across the face and booted out. People got even angrier.
Because the resentment was building up, people became bolder and shared their stories. A father narrated how he was asked to swim in a pool of several dead bodies to retrieve the corpse of his son. He had paid up to N3Million, but the son still died in detention. No case, no trial. A wife mourned her husband, sisters mourned their brothers whose crimes were mostly owning a laptop, keeping dreads or having tattoos.
The claim that Yahoo Boys started or are leading the #ENDSARS clamour is a mischievous misinformation. Unless of course, you consider me one.
As a matter of fact, Yahoo Boys have policemen on their payroll. They mostly get harassed only when they fail to ‘settle’ or when they are accosted by other units. That said, Yahoo Yahoo is an internet crime, you don’t combat it by standing on the road & harassing young people. That’s what the EFCC is for, and no one is saying #ENDEFCC.
This is a classic case of giving a dog a bad name to hang it. Don’t fall for it.
One of the protests I was in a chant went up denouncing ‘PDP’, ‘APC’, ‘SARS’ & ‘YAHOO BOYS’, and on Twitter where most of the information on this cause is spread, we constantly remind ourselves that we are not in solidarity with Yahoo Boys and actually hope the EFCC round them up for giving us a bad name.
The youth corper who died was not a 419, she was detained when her boyfriend couldn’t be found. Why were they looking for the young man? Land issues. Someone with deeper pockets had threatened to deal with him over a land dispute and when they couldn’t find him, they took his girlfriend. She never came back.
Whilst SARS atrocities are mostly in the south, police unprofessionalism and brutality is a nationwide challenge. As proof, 17 lives have been lost while protesting for an end to police brutality.
I beg you, be on the right side of posterity. Do not leave words that will come back to haunt you. This is a digital age. Leave the right footprints online.
Don’t just take my word for it, you may not have been a victim of police brutality but many of us have & our stories have been told several times. The world is only just listening now.
Let it be said that police brutality is not getting worst, it is only getting televised. It has always been there.
One day I’d share my story how commonsense helped my friend & I survive some officers who planted a bullet in our car, setting us up for a trap at the next stop but God saved us. Barely.
Please, find and listen to people share their stories.
Last night we lit candles in honor and remembrance of the dead.
May we live to see a new Nigeria free from bad policing.
Patrick Odey is a legal practitioner and associate at Pelumi Olajengbesi & Co., Law Corridor. He writes from Abuja, Nigeria.