#BounceExclusive: Lagos SARs Becomes 'Mobile' Business Centre
Ordinarily, it is supposed to be a symbol of law and order.
They used to be crack detectives of the Nigeria Police Force who conduct their affairs with finesse and professional dexterity, unlocking the key to several knotty criminal cases with scientific precision.
But all those accolades have momentarily evaporated.
As you step into one of the expansive structures tucked within the Lagos State Police Command headquarters at Muiz Banire Street in Ikeja, there is an air of uncertainty hanging loosely over your shoulder.
Welcome to the torture chambers for operatives of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] of the Command, where extra-ordinary and weird practices allegedly reign supreme.
The Police special unit, which is charged with the responsibility of countering armed robbery, has turned into a robbers den.
Operatives of the unit are getting richer through their brutality.
Bounce News investigations showed that the operatives treat suspects as commodities with price tags and justice is forgotten.
Several people who have the misfortune of being guests at the SARS operational base recounted their horrific experiences to our correspondent.
August 11 would remain a day to remember for 58-year-old businessman, Chris Onwubuke.
It was a Friday morning when he was leaving for his work place when the incident occurred.
The detectives were said to have gone on a search for one Baba Ejima at Likosi-Mosimi, in the Sagamu area of Ogun State.
Onwubuke said the policemen accosted him at a mechanic workshop after his phone rang, alleging that he was the suspect they were looking for.
He said, "Two SARS officials came in a vehicle; one wielding a gun and the other with tear gas and handcuffs. They drove me to their office and took my car along. I asked them my offence, but they didn't tell me. They asked why my phone rang and I told them that it might be a mix-up.
"When we got to their office in Ikeja, they said I was involved in a robbery. I was shocked. They asked if I was Chukwudi - Baba Ejima - I said no. They asked if I had a brother with the name Chukwudi, but I said no. They also asked if I worked in Warf (Lagos), I said no. They later said Chukwudi duped somebody.
"There was a man that came to their office. I later knew his name as Israel. I have never met him before that day. The officers asked him if he knew me; he said no. Israel told me that he was arrested and spent almost one week in their custody."
He said he was locked up in a cell until 2pm on Saturday, adding that he enquired to know his offence again, but was asked to look for a surety and pay N300,000 for bail.
"My relatives begged them and after negotiations, they collected N100,000. They seized my phone and asked me to come for it on Monday. They have tarnished my image".
Onwubuke said the Officer in-Charge of SARS summoned the operatives that carried out the act when he reported back on Monday.
"The OC SARS was angry. They gave me N50,000, claiming that was what they collected from me. I insisted it was N100,000. The OC SARS said they must pay all the money. He begged me and promised to deal with them.
A driver also suffered a similar fate in the hands of the operatives on the afternoon of Friday, September 15.
The driver, who prefers to remain anonymous because his vehicle is still with the police, said he was compelled to part with N50,000 after he was wrongly arrested and detained by operatives of SARs.
He said he was lured by one of the operatives called Tunji, who called and pretended that he had some goods to carry.
The driver told our correspondent that after arriving at the spot where the officer said the goods were, four policemen, who were in mufti forced themselves into the vehicle and ordered him to drive to the SARs office in Ikeja.
He said: “When we got to their office, they told me, I was arrested in connection with a robbery case involving one Festus, who was at large”.
"I told them the last time I saw Festus was some months ago and could not have been involved in any activity with him.
The driver explained that he was locked up in a cell until Monday, adding that he enquired to know his offence again, but was asked by the IPO in charge of the case, Osas Majiyagbe, to look for a surety and pay N200,000 for bail.
"My relatives begged them and after negotiations, they collected N50,000.
While Onwubuke and the driver were lucky and were able to raise money for their release, one pathetic case is that of one Jamiu Odulami who was arrested in July and has remained in detention.
Odunlami, who is a carpenter, was picked up at NTA area of Abeokuta in Ogun State over a case of phone theft in Lagos.
All efforts to secure his bail failed due to the suspect’s mother inability to get the two hundred thousand bail fee which the SARS team has refused to slash down.
Is the Lagos SARS office really a satanic den where the absurd holds sway as being alleged?
Olarinde Famous-Cole, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and spokesman of the Lagos Police command would not be drawn into such a conclusion.
But he simply pleaded for any of the victims to come forward to his office and share their experiences with him to enable the police investigate and fish out those involved.
“I cannot comment on those allegations without investigations. Please tell the man from whom N50,000 was allegedly taken as bribe and all others with complaints to come to my office so that we can investigate and find out those involved. Tell him to come to the PPRO’s office to see me. I would be waiting to see him”, he said.
Hmmm... there cannot be smoke without fire!
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