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#EndSARS Trends As SARS Operatives Assault, Extort Software Developer, Toni Astro

Operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) are in the news again for allegedly assaulting and extorting Nigerians.

On Saturday, September 28, 2019, a software developer, Toni Astro revealed how SARS operatives arrested him in Lagos and extorted him by forcing him to withdraw some of the money in his bank account.

Sharing his ordeal on Twitter, Astro narrated how the officers tagged him a yahoo boy because he introduced himself to them as a software developer.

About getting to ketu, two men in police like uniform stopped the bike, and told me to get down. I immediately did with the mindset that the bike guy did something wrong.

“They asked for my phone and I unlocked it and gave them. They told the bike guy to end the trip and go. So they gave me my phone to pay the guy from the mobile app. After 20 seconds they said I’m going with them to the station. And I was like what station?

“Next thing they pointed guns at my leg, telling me to enter another bike they stopped and go with them to their station. I entered and one of the men asked for a million naira and he’d let me go”.

He went on narrate how the officers asked him to give them N1m to release him as they insisted that he’s a yahoo boy.

“And I’m like 1 million?? Where would I get that from. I told him I’m no what you think. I’m a software developer at this company. He said everything na yahoo yahoo still. He physically harassed me on the bike still. To every onlooker on the street, I was a criminal or some sort.

“We got to the station, if I remember well ogudu area H command. We walked in to the extreme back of the station. More like some messed up rooms or something.

“They collected my bike which contained my laptop, watch charger, phone chargers and office jotters. As soon as they saw the laptop, the other policemen there said you’re the one spoiling the economy. They told me to open it and immediately I did”.

About 4 other policemen were there, making a total of 6. Next thing was slaps and punch, here and there. All I could hear was confess you’re and internet frauster or not? I kept saying I’m not a fraudster, I’m a developer for a company and all.

“These guys took off my hoodie, and dragged me to the cell, locked me up with no proof or evidence that I was what they claimed me to be. I asked that I make calls, and they said that would be after I write my statement. One of them came to me and asked that I pay 500k.

“So they went through my emails and saw my account balance, next thing was you’d go to the bank to withdraw every dime in this account now and pay us. Money I worked for ?? What did I do?

“I already told them my dad was sick, and I was on my way home to help out . I told them 80% of the money was for dads treatment and the rest for my transport to work everyday. I explained the whole case to them. They said they don’t care about his health. I must pay them.

“They requested I bring half of the money in my account for them, stating (man must chop). I just wanted to leave there, and I didn’t want it to be dark. It was about 5pm already. I then asked if I could just transfer instead of going to the bank to withdraw.

I left, went straight to the station to get the money. It was late, I couldn’t tell anyone to lend me a phone when I looked all battered. I got to the ATM, I couldn’t even think straight to get the correct pin. I got the money and took the bike back to the station.

As soon as I got back, they took me back to the cell and counted the money. Then they said you can check all your things if they’re complete. All that was in my head was remote job isn’t it. I have to leave this country at the end.

I packed all my things, collected my watch and left the station at about 6pm. I’m home and safe now, but today still feels like a dream. I was physically harassed for no reason and paying someone or a group of people for no reason out of the money I worked for.

Prominent Nigerian tech founders have reacted to the assault and are calling for the end of agency with the hashtag #EndSARS on Twitter. 

Bosun Tijani of CcHub, Jason Njoku of iROKO Tv, Seni Sulyman of Andela, Victor Asemota of Alta Global Ventures, Mark Essien of Hotels.ng and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (formerly of Andela and Flutterwave) are just a few of the stalwarts of the Nigerian tech ecosystem who are now vehemently speaking against the SARS menace. 

Indeed, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to sponsor the fight against the continued abuse of innocent Nigerians by corrupt police officers who have no business wearing the uniform or the badge. 

As a matter of fact, the iROKO Tv boss has already donated NGN 10 Mn to the campaign as other donations are flying in. Also, the #EndSARS hashtag is currently trending on Twitter as many more disturbing accounts of SARS brutality and extortion continue to emerge.

They are all calling for decisive action to be taken against corrupt Nigerian police officers whose stock in trade is to stop, harass, and extort young Nigerians who look like they clean up good, and most especially when they are carrying a backpack that has a laptop in it. 

In today’s Nigeria, when a SARS officer sees a laptop on a young Nigerian male who doesn’t look like he picks up scrap metal for a living, it’s basically the same as when the DEA finds 4 pounds of coke in someone’s bag during a drug bust.

To them, any young Nigerian who has a laptop and doesn’t look like a beggar is an internet fraudster who has millions of naira in their bank account — millions which they want a share of.

They pick up just about anyone. At one minute you are in a taxi headed somewhere, next thing you are in handcuffs being slapped around and threatened by SARS officers. After which the corrupt officers would ask for a huge sum of money before letting go of the victim.

There’s been so many such cases and lots of complaints from people who have suffered the harrowing ordeal. Both the Inspector General of Police and the government have been urged to act to end SARS or reform it, but neither institution seems to be concerned.

Nothing is being done as thousands of gainfully employed Nigerian youths continue to be assaulted and extorted by corrupt police officers who are preying upon a misguided idea of the average Nigerian youth as a dishonest person who is all up for cutting corners and ripping people off over the internet.

And that’s because, at the moment, Nigeria’s tech ecosystem is not only voicing out against it but also uniting to fight it. At least, it’s the first time resources are actually being mobilized to combat the menace and it looks like SARS has finally pushed everyone to that “enough is enough” point.

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Written by PH

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