’SARS is why I left Nigeria and came to South Africa’
Cape Town - Nigerian expats living in Cape Town are planning to take to the streets once again this week in protest of the heavy- handed special police force known as the Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The Nigerian government has committed to disbanding the police unit, after a special presidential directive was issued. This has not tempered the emotions of Nigerians at home or abroad, traumatised by years of unabated violence, brutality and extortion at the hands of SARS cops.
The Nigerian Community Western Cape (NCWC), a non-profit organisation representing Nigerian residents in the province, confirmed that they would stage a march to Parliament tomorrow at 11am. This follows the initial protest to Parliament that took place last Wednesday.
“The protest on Monday is where we will hand in our memorandum,” said NCWC public relations officer Ebiere Joseph-Akwunwa.
“The reason being that at the protest we did on Wednesday, we did not hand in the document because so much had happened to the youth, having heard that their colleagues were being shot in Nigeria with police firing on them.”
One of the protesters, who spoke on condition of anonymity, detailed how he was extorted by SARS operatives in 2006. He said he was a trainee broker working for a firm listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and had just been accepted for an academic masters programme in London when an encounter with SARS changed his life for the worse.
Now living in Parklands, the Nigerian man fought back tears as he described being stopped at random in Magogo Estate, Nigeria, and bundled into a bus with other strangers and driven away by SARS officers.
“Along the way they terrorised us on that bus and said we were fraudsters and armed robbers ... I sat there and just kept quiet,” he said. “We were taken to like a small shack at the back of a police station ... I had my bank passbook with me which had my last withdrawal and bank balance written in it, I had 650000 Naira (about R27000) there,” he added. The man pleaded with the SARS officers to not empty his bank account because the money was from his dad’s pension which was meant to pay for his studies in London.
“I was beaten, the group of men hit me, kicked me and then one of them took out his pistol and pointed it at my head.”
He said he knew his life was in danger so he agreed to take them to his bank and was able to withdraw 150000 Naira after which they let him go. He said that this incident was “80% of the reason why I left Nigeria and came to South Africa”.
“I was traumatised and even when I gave up my job, left Lagos and returned to my home town of Benin City. My life was never the same because I lived in fear.”
Nigerians who have first-hand experience of the brutality meted out by SARS have been encouraged to join the protest this week.