“#WarOnSars is a very big issue ooo. Imagine having ex-convicts as criteria for joining the force 🤦♂️ 🤦♂️ 🤦♂️🤦♂️. Little wonder the killings have been with no remorse. An EX-convict imagine ahhh. WE ARE FUCKED #EndSarsNow #EndSARSBrutality”
The above is a caption accompanying an image posted on Twitter. The image appears like a screenshot of an undisclosed website informing readers that to apply for the 2020/2021 SARS (Special Anti Corruption Squad) recruitment candidate must be an ex-convict. The tweet published October 3rd has garnered 282 Retweets, 470 Likes.
Meanwhile, in another screenshot received by Dubawa through WhatsApp at 2:14 pm on Sunday 4th, October, the link to the website(Recruitmentdesk.com.ng) was captured. This screenshot is different from the first as the requirements are listed differently, while the first made use of the bulleted list, the other made use of the numbered list; however, they both communicate the same idea. The image also appeared here.
How true is this claim?
Dubawa traced this screenshot to the said website, Recruitmentdesk.com.ng, which, according to its Editor and Content Manager, Samuel Ortyom, shares different recruitment updates from various sources including Federal Government jobs to help keep Nigerians informed and employed.
The article was published October 5th in the middle of the Twitter heat. Recall that we received the screenshot via WhatsApp on 4th October, a Sunday. On the website, it was written that “Candidate must NOT be an ex-convict” which is in contradiction with the viral claim but suggests that the Sunday article was deleted, edited, and republished on Monday. For further clarification, an email was sent to Recruitmentdesk.com.ng but Dubawa is yet to get a response.
After attempts to reach Frank Mba, the Police Public Relations Officer, through phone calls proved futile, he finally responded to Dubawa’s text message seeking to verify the viral claim. He said, “does that make sense to u at all? Have u ever heard of SARS recruitment? Is SARS an independent body separate from the NPF and thus capable of recruiting for itself? Must we waste Precious time and scarce resources in giving primacy to every lie, fabrication, and fake news out there?”
Mr Mba dispelled the viral claim on the ground that its inferences don’t add up. He pointed out that the SARS is a unit of the Nigerian Police Force, not independent, hence, can not recruit for itself. So, this can only mean one thing; that the viral recruitment list was made up.
Why we think the scheme surfaced
The recent activities of the Special Anti Robbery Squad have sparked controversy across Nigeria. Coming shortly after the October 1st Independence day celebration is an influx of tweets suggesting the Special Anti Robbery Squad brutality, including the harassment and extortion of the Nigerian youth. This video by BBC Pidgin further confirms the social media claims.
This is not the first time Nigerians have cried out about the atrocities this unit of the Nigerian Police Force has committed. The anti-robbery squad has continually been accused of illicit shooting, harassment, and extortion of young boys on the road and in their homes.
Nigerians are currently protesting the unpleasant actions of the SARS across the country and consequent to the SARS actions, Nigerians have called for the scrapping of the police unit and have also threatened to protest if their demands are not met. In addition to this, hashtags such as #EndSARS, #EndSARSBrutality, and #EndSarsNow are already trending on Twitter. A Twitter Page, @sars_watch, tracking the activities of the SARS across the country has also emerged.
Further, Nigerian celebrities including Wizkid, Yemi Alade have urged the government to be swift in its response to the human rights violations exhibited by the SARS. Tacha and Naira Marley have called for Nigerians to come out in protest against SARS’ brutality. Buhari who has remained silent has been tagged as insensitive to Nigerians’ ordeals. The former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has also condemned the actions of the Police unit. For example, human rights activists such as Aisha and Seggalinks have also let loose their emotions on this matter.
HOW HAS THE GOVERNMENT RESPONDED
As Nigerians relentlessly clamour for the proscription of the SARS and await positive actions from the government, Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo expressed anger at the activities of police officers who harass, assault, and sometimes kill innocent Nigerians. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, just before Osinbanjo’s statement was released, banned some police units including FSARS from operating on the roads. The following are important points from the statement published by the Nigeria Police Force on its Twitter Page.
- The IGP has banned the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), including the Special Tactical Squad (STS), Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Anti-Cultism Squad and other Tactical Squads operating at the Federal, Zonal and Command levels, from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties.
- Members of the special squad have been banned from the following: Stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks.
- These officials can no longer embark on patrols or tactical assignments in mufti; they must always appear in official police uniforms.
- They no longer have the authority to invade citizens’ privacy, particularly, through the search of mobile phones, laptops, and other smart devices.
- They are to concentrate and respond only to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crimes when the need arises.
The Police force has also published phone numbers and social media handles through which the citizens can now report cases of abuse. However, despite this, Nigerians are not convinced as they still receive updates on the activities of these perpetrators. Citizens believe that the ban is just to douse the tension at the moment and that nothing will be done to put an end to the continuous show of cruelty by SARS officials.
According to Amnesty Nigeria, this is the 5th time Nigerian authorities have promised to reform SARS and till date, the oppressive actions of SARS keep occurring. However, there is no evidence that this branch of the Nigeria Police Force is designed to recruit ex-convicts.