As #EndSARS fades, Osun policemen continue life of extortion, harassment

By Jamiu Ganiyu

 

More than a year after the nationwide #EndSARS public demonstration which occurred across major cities and states of the federation, where citizens mostly youths protested against police brutality particularly the excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), some officers of the Osun police command have continued unabatedly the life of extortion and harassment of residents.

 

SARS, a now-disbanded police tactical unit notorious for cruelty against citizens, general issues of police brutality, including unlawful arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings, was at centre of the agitations, the protest became a platform for demanding the government’s decisive action against insecurity, corruption, economic woes, and general maladministration blamed for the suffering of the majority of Nigerians and lack of opportunities for the youth.

 

While the public demonstration and attendants’ public engagement from critical local and international civil society organizations lasted, the government took some bold steps at addressing some of the concerns that were raised by the protesters, part of it was the composition of #EndSARS panels across most states of the federation where issues of police brutality are being addressed while compensations were awarded to victims and families of the affected individuals.

 

At the moment when some #EndSARS panel were just turning in their reports to their respective states government which has continued to raise another dust, there seems to be no end to the culture of extortion and harassment of citizens and lawful residents by men of the Nigeria Police Force who are being paid from the same taxpayers.

 

In recent times, there have been different reports from residents of Osun who have suffered one form of harassment or another from police officers who swore to protect and serve. Some of the affected victims spoke exclusively with this medium. As a media organization, we hold the public the duty to bring these sad experiences to the public for critical interventions from civil society organizations, government across all levels, and top police hierarchies in charge of reforms.

 

Just like the usual practices of the disbanded SARS personnel, these police officers move around using the popular commercial bus, popularly known as Korope, and dressed in musty to carry out their nefarious activities.

 

On this fateful day, Saheed (not real name) is a Manager of a popular filling station in Osogbo, he was driving in his car and parked along Ring Road to make some phone calls, while on the call, he saw some individuals whose identity was later known to be police officers because they were not on uniform, they asked him to step out of his car, he was asked to open his car booth which he complied, they checked his phone. Having realized there was nothing that could be linked to any criminal acts on him; two of the officers entered his car and asked him to drive to their station for further interogation. He was asked to sit on the bare floor when they got to the station while they began another search of his car and mobile phone. He was asked to write a statement that he is a fraudster, a yahoo yahoo guy and cultist but he didn’t write any of it, he only wrote where he work and how the police officers picked him up in the statement. After many of his pleas failed, he expressed readiness to pay for his release because he was not allowed to make any call or inform relatives of his ordeal, he wanted to transfer one hundred thousand out of around one hundred and six thousand he had in his account but they insisted on him paying in cash. He then asked for permission to call one of his colleagues who arranged the cash for him in his office and one of the police officers accompany him to collect the money before he was released.

 

It took the effort of some highly connected individuals that he reported the matter to before the money was recovered and returned to him.

 

In another related development, through a live video posted on facebook of Olori Esther Adebisi Kujembola, which was monitored by this medium, she reported how these police officers molested and harassed one of his brothers he sent on an errand. She said her brother whose name was later revealed as Mubarak was sent to market, while the young man was going; he was reportedly stopped by some policemen who searched him and checked his phone before they took the young man to the state CID. He was said to have been beaten and was asked to confess to sins he never committed.

 

While Mubarak was sharing his personal experience, he said “I was stopped while on a commercial motorcycle, the police officers asked for the receipt of the goods I was carrying, I told them that they should let us go to our house to furnish them with the receipt, while we were going, they turned back, took me to the station and parked under the tree, they asked me to get down from their vehicle, they said they would go to my house and search it. I was instructed to enter their minibus again, they told me nobody can prove stubborn here, and they later dropped me at LAMECO junction.”

 

He also corroborated that the officers perpetrating this havoc are in musty and also uses the popular mini commercial bus, Korope.

 

It will be recalled that on December 3rd, 2021, one sergeant Moses Samuel of Nigeria Police Force, killed a rig operator at the Ota-Efun area of Osogbo because the rig truck driven by the colleague of the deceased developed a fault at the area and after efforts to repair it proved futile, the driver attempted to make a detour back to the office when the engine went off.

 

According to Vanguard Newspaper, an eyewitness disclosed that some policemen in a commercial minibus known as Korope were allegedly chasing suspected internet fraudsters along Osogbo-Ikirun road when they stumbled on the rig truck which they felt aided the getaway of the suspected fraudsters.

 

Confirming the continuous harassment of citizens by the officers of Nigeria Police despite spirited efforts by civil society organizations, Comrade Ayo Ologun, who is one of the leaders of the coalition of civil society organizations against police brutality and member of the Osun EndSARS panel, disclosed that more than five officers of the police command in Osun have been court marshaled and dismissed through their complaints and agitations, he assured that they would not stop until a lasting solution is provided.

 

He opined that the last October public demonstration against police brutality by the Nigerian youths was the very first time the youths spoke loudly in unison and made government across levels know that power belongs to the people.

 

Speaking further on the EndSARS movement, Ologun said, the agitations provided families of some of the victims of police brutality to get closure on their pains through payments and punishment of the perpetrators.

 

The social commentator expressed the likelihood of another public demonstration against police brutality in Osun as he noted that it is becoming unavoidable especially with recent happenings in the state.

 

He told osun.life that civil society through the police watch movement will and are planning a mass action against the brutality of the police on the people if it does not stop as soon as possible

 

Several efforts were made to speak with the State Police Public Relations Officer, Yemisi Opatola, but her line was not connecting as at the time of filing this report.

 

osun.life however spoke with the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Mrs. Abiodun Ige, she promised to reach out to the State Commissioner of Police to bring these reports among others to his notice so he can promptly act on it.

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