By Isaac Asabor
If there is any findings carried out in the recent time on how horrific the reign of impunity and terror has characterized the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), it is no doubt the one carried out by Amnesty International in June 2020. According to the human rights organization, which is committed to the investigation and exposure of facts, whenever and wherever abuses happen, the Nigerian authorities have failed to to rein in the notoriety of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), despite anti-torture legislation passed in 2017 and evidence that its officials have continued to use torture and other ill-treatment to execute, punish and extract information from suspects.
Ostensibly to reiterate its position, Amnesty International has in its statement on October 6, 2020, said that, “This is yet another lame attempt to rein in this unit of the Nigerian police which is notorious for the widespread torture and other ill-treatment of Nigerians. We have seen from bitter experience that past investigations into violations were either never carried out or marred by irregularities. To date, the Nigerian authorities have yet to show a genuine commitment to ending the lawless activities of SARS.
Owing to the alleged shooting of a young man in Ughelli, Delta state on Saturday, October 3, 2020, there are now renewed calls for an end to the operations of the police’ Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS).
As there seemed to be no end in sight to the barbarousness, Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), on Sunday banned operatives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), the Special Tactical Squad (STS) and Intelligence Response Team (IRT) from undertaking routine patrols as well as stop and search duties.
In the findings or rather the report, as at the period mentioned in the foregoing, Amnesty International have documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. The victims of the police unit, set up to fight violent crimes, are predominantly male between the ages of 18 and 35, from low-income backgrounds and vulnerable groups.
According to Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Nigerians are outraged by the impunity with which SARS perpetrates horrific human rights violations. He said, “The complete failure of Nigerian authorities to bring an end to the gross human rights violations perpetuated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad or to bring any SARS officer to justice is shocking and unacceptable. Nigerians are outraged by the systemic human rights violations perpetrated by the SARS with impunity.”
He continued, “The systemic use of torture and other ill treatment by SARS officers for police investigations and the continued existence of torture chambers within the Nigerian Police Force points to an absolute disregard for international human rights laws and standards.”
The human rights organization further explained that “Amnesty International’s investigation reveals a disturbing pattern of abuse of detainees in SARS custody despite the 2017 Anti-Torture Act. In many cases, Amnesty International bore witness to the scars, bruises, and dried blood on victims’ bodies. Many of them were subjected to beatings with sticks and machetes and denied medical care”.
As if the pall which the SARS has cast over the future of Nigerian youths is not enough, Mayo Clinic, an American nonprofit academic medical center currently based in three major locations: Rochester, Minnesota; Jacksonville, Florida; and Scottsdale, Arizona, focused on integrated patient care, education, and research has on its website ostensibly explained the consequence of another SARS, which is medical in nature, and has equally casts pall on humanity, which in this context include the future of Nigerian youths.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is not an exaggeration to say that Nigerian youths are caught in between two devastating SARS which are in this context seen as the security SARS and the medical SARS. Without any iota of exaggeration, the collective future of the Nigerian youths is already been threatened by the Covid-19 pandemic. To those that erroneously think that Nigeria is already free from the ravaging impact of Covid-19, they will no doubt be disenchanted with the latest report, as at the time of penning down this piece, by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which stated that “On the 6th of October 2020, 118 new confirmed cases were recorded in Nigeria. Till date, 59,583 cases have been confirmed, 51,308 cases have been discharged and 1,113 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
As contained in NCDC’s report, the 118 new cases are reported from 14 states with Lagos having 41 cases, Rivers (19), Osun (17), Nasarawa (13), Kaduna (5), Anambra (5), Edo (3), Ogun (3), Kwara (3), Ondo (3), Katsina (2), Niger (2), Plateau (1) and Akwa Ibom (1).
Medical experts are unanimous in their professional submission that there is a thin line that divides both contextual SARS. They have raised alert about the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which is a contagious and sometimes fatal respiratory illness. They have further explained that SARS first appeared in China in November 2002, and that within a few months, SARS spread worldwide, carried by unsuspecting travelers.
A report added that “SARS showed how quickly infection can spread in a highly mobile and interconnected world. On the other hand, a collaborative international effort allowed health experts to quickly contain the spread of the disease. There has been no known transmission of SARS anywhere in the world since 2004”.
At this juncture, it is expedient to offer explanation to any reader of this piece that sought an answer from this writer on why he is obsessively bothered about the dangers of the two SARS to the future or rather the collective wellbeing of Nigerian youths.
The answer to the foregoing possible question cannot be farfetched as the youths constitute the vision of a thriving society. This is because, a great deal of power lies behind the potential role of the youths as nation builders through political participation. Against this backdrop, it is apt to say that the quote credited to Benjamin Disraeli has said it all as it has it that “The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of posterity”.
In fact, the youth is the backbone of any nation. Youth can play an important role in the development of the society. As gathered, the youth play a key role in shaping the transformation of nations, and this has been the experience over the centuries; whether it is developed or an emerging economy.
Nigeria, with a population of over 180million people has an interesting demography of young people, who are energetic, vibrant and full of prospects to make impact in the nation. Currently the Nigerian youth within the age range of 18-35 years account for over the 65 % of the population of Africa’s largest economy.
Analyzed from the foregoing perspective, it is inadvisable for the authorities to leave Nigerian youths to the vagaries of the two SARS that have now collectively posed as dangers to their future.
At this juncture, anyone that is against the comparability of the two types of SARS that form the basis of the theme of this piece should ponder on the danger of what this writer in this piece dubbed medical SARS. The contextual medical SARS usually begins with flu-like signs and symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, headache and occasionally diarrhea. After about a week, signs and symptoms include dry cough and shortness of breath. Buttressing this view is the fact that Covid-19 and SARS are similar in many ways. For example, both are respiratory illnesses caused by coronaviruses and are believed to spread by respiratory droplets produced when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes, or by contact with contaminated objects or surfaces. They have similar stability in the air and on various surfaces that can lead to potentially serious illness, sometimes requiring oxygen or mechanical ventilation that have worsening symptoms. This is just the same way the encounter with SARS officials by any youth can make him or her to be bedridden or dead.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is pragmatic to appeal that just the same way health authorities should protect Nigerian youths from the devastating effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), who is already showing laudable concern over the siege which SARS officials have laid against Nigerian youths, should intensify efforts in ensuring that the youths are adequately protected from the hands of his men, who are invariably members of the Nigeria Police.
Be that as it may, it is salutary to ask again, “What hope for Nigerian Youths as they are caught in-between two SARS?”
Isaac Asabor is a Public Policy Analyst.