There are too many stories to tell about SARS and their brutalization of young Nigerians. Here is my own story.
I was right in front of my house when I got picked up.
It was one of those lazy days and we were playing games on the street. We had put a pole at one end, you know street soccer? That’s what we were engaged in. It was a Sunday and even though it was on the street, Sunday is usually a less busy day and when cars approached or even passersby came, we eased the ball and let them pass. We were not disturbing anybody; we were just having fun. Nobody in the neighbourhood complained.
This was at about 4 or 5pm and by the way I live at Surulere.
Ok, so we were playing when I saw boys running.
Ha, what is going on? They said, awon were yen tun ti de, o! Meaning those mad men have come again! By mad men, I knew it was SARS.
I turned and I saw them in their van; they had mounted a road block some streets away and maybe they were on their way back to their station or maybe someone had told them there were boys on our street that they could harass, they sha came for us.
Tell me, when something is chasing you, where do you run to? Isn’t it into your house? That’s where I ran to, I went straight to the front of our gate and waited for them to patrol and leave, because really, we were not being a nuisance, we were just playing ball and there’s no law against that!
I didn’t know there were men in plain clothes among them, so when one man approached me, I didn’t run because my eyes were focused on the ones in black. That was how he came to me, “jacked” my by my shorts and said I should follow him!
I began to shout for my mum who was inside the house, I called out because I didn’t know where I was being taken to and I needed to let someone in my house know I was being taken.
They had arrested four others; two I recognized as playing ball with me on the street, the others, I didn’t know them.
My mother came out, she saw what was going on and began to beg the men as they dragged me and the others to their van.
I was asking them, what is my offence? What have I done? They didn’t answer but they were just shouting at us, calling us criminals and dragging us away. At this time, too, a few older people had come out and were asking them, what did they do? Where are you taking them? They didn’t answer and in fact threatened to shoot anyone that followed them to the van.
I looked back and saw my mother crying and begging, she didn’t stop following us.
One of the officers was really shouting, “I will waste you, I will waste you and nothing will happen, do you hear me? Obey before complain or I will waste you!”
And I had no doubt he would do just that and nothing would happen!
No, it wasn’t me he was saying that to, he was shouting at another guy they were dragging away and that one too was resisting, telling them he had done nothing and he wouldn’t follow them to the van.
Eventually, there were 9 of us that day that they drove to their station; when we got there, they told us to write statement that were were criminals!
I didn’t go to school, too much, but I knew this was trouble!
How can you ask me to write statement that I am a criminal? Even if I was one, would I write something and implicate myself?
I told them I couldn’t write that o! I told myself, they will kill me naa ni, rather than me write that I am a criminal!
I didn’t have any phone on me because, like I said, I was playing ball, so no phone but the others had phones on them and after they searched us; they were just beating me and asking me to produce my phone. I said I didn’t have any phone! They said they got reports, intelligence report that I had defrauded someone! I said, “Never! I have never defrauded anyone. They should produce the person!
After I ‘chopped’ a few slaps, they left me to deal with the others!
Long story short, we were marched into one dungeon; that’s the way I will describe it. It was a big space but there were already too many people in the space. We were stripped to our pants and some people were not even wearing pants or boxers, so if they removed your trousers or shorts like in my own case, if you had no underwear, you will remain naked!
We had to squat and we were lined row by row with no space to lie down or even adjust to a comfortable position; the air was terrible; from people pissing on themselves or shitting themselves after they had been beaten or many people from not even taking their baths; and because there was no breeze, the place was extra, extra hot!
There were a few people lying dead on the floor beside us and the police men were just crossing over them as if it is a normal thing!
There was a man, I didn’t know if it was torture they tortured him or maybe it was hunger, the man just collapsed where we all squatting. When he collapsed, he disturbed the formation for the rest of us. I told you they packed us like sardines in that space; we squatted with our arms around our legs…I was like that for three days; we were given like 30 minutes or so to stand up and stretch, then we would go back to that position!
I was in that position for three days before my mother came to bail me; she paid N120k to them at the station before they released me.
Why did it take so long?
Where would my mother get N50k not to talk of N120k? She had to go borrow money.
Not everyone can afford that kind of money to give to police for a crime they did not commit. And ask yourself, so even if I truly committed the crime, so N120k would get me off? Then I better go and commit the crime and know that I can pay my way out!
What I am saying in effect is this, the government must #endsars because too many innocent youth are jailed for nothing!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)