A tech community in Lagos, Nigeria staged a peaceful protest against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a branch of the Nigerian police responsible for tackling violent crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping and murder. SARS has been in the news for its violent activities across Nigeria, especially in Lagos state, the country’s commercial hub.
Many social media users have recounted their ordeals with SARS, detailing how they were harassed because they walked around with laptops and iPhones. The campaign titled #StopRobbingUs was launched in September after Akinmolayan Oluwatoni, a software developer tweeted about being harassed by officers of SARS in Lagos state.
In his tweets, the victim, Oluwatoni narrated how SARS officers stopped him while on his way and accused him of being an internet fraudster for carrying a laptop and an iPhone, without evidence. Despite showing them an ID card of where he worked, he was illegally taken to a police station and asked to pay the sum of a million naira as bail but eventually settled for fifteen thousand naira.
“Next thing was slaps and punch, here and there. All I could hear was ‘confess you’re an internet fraudster or not’ I kept saying I am not a fraudster, I am a developer for a company and all,” he had tweeted after the incidence.
Bala Elkana, spokesman from Lagos state told CNN that all four policemen involved in the case have been identified and reprimanded.
“As soon as we received the complaint, we commenced an investigation on the matter. We got four of the officers involved arrested, they are in custody and are now being subjected to internal disciplinary proceedings. We also recovered the N15,000 they extorted from him,” he said.
Tech entrepreneurs Iyin Aboyeji and Jason Njoku, CEO of Iroko TV are speaking up against the inhumane acts of SARS. Rather than protect the people are fight robbery, they engage themselves in intimidating innocent citizens of the country.
Bosun Tijani, the founder of co-creation Hub said the campaign against SARS intimidation hopes to make the culprits in uniform to face the music.
“Your basic work tool is your laptop and most technology people would have a smartphone as well. So, if the police use that as an excuse to extort and harass, the we have a serious problem in the country. What we are doing is coming out as an industry to shine a light on the fact that our colleagues and staff are being harassed on a daily basis, and that it has to stop. The campaign is about calling on those who are responsible to take action,” he said.
There had been protests in the past calling for the government to end SARS, following numerous ordeals recounted on social media. While the government is yet to take action, tech founders in Nigeria have used crowdfunding to raise up to 13.8 million naira to finance lawsuits and support existing initiatives fighting police brutality.
“Citizens have the right to move about without being harassed or molested by anybody. If there is any member of the tech association that has suffered any form of harassment, they should step forward and we will investigate. We are determined to bring an end to this impunity,” Elkana told CNN.