How SARS got my attention and accused me of armed robbery – Nigerian University graduate tells a shocking story

Posted by on Oct 31, 2020, Under: News

How SARS got my attention and accused me of armed robbery – Nigerian University graduate tells a shocking story

Anthony Onuagbara, a marketing graduate at Anambra State University (now Chukwuemek Odumegwu Ojukwu University), Uli, talks about his experience in the hands of men with SARS.

He tells OLUFEMI OLANIA how members of the disbanded special anti-robbery squad forced him to lose his right eye after allegedly beating him and charged with armed robbery in court.

In 2012, you were in the squadron. Where were you assigned to the main post?

I was assigned to the office of Secretary of State Ekiti in Ado-Ekiti for my main job. I studied marketing at Anambra State University (now Chukwuemek Odumegwu Ojukwu University).

Do you remember how you were mistreated by the police in the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Unit?

It happened in August 2012. I was at home in the Adebayo Ado-Ekiti area. It happened at about 8 pm. A member of the body who lived with me in the same complex came home with a prostitute. After about five minutes, the girl left the house in anger and insulted the corpse. I asked him what happened and he told me that he took a prostitute in the Fajuyi area and took her home without negotiating a price. But he said that when they returned home, the woman insisted on collecting around 2000 AD, but she could not afford it as a member of the body. He said that the woman got angry and ran out of the house. He returned to his room, and I went to bed. I was in bed when armed policemen came and broke down our doors.

Why would they do that?

The woman went and told them that she had been sexually assaulted. We later found out that they were regular clients of the prostitute, so she lied against a member of the body that remained in the same pen with me. Those who came were with the Anti-Robbery Task Force and they started beating everyone. They didn’t even ask about the man who was dealing with a prostitute. I and others were beaten there. One of them hit me in the right eye with a rifle butt. I began to feel pain, but the beating did not stop.

What crime are you accused of committing?

They said that some of us raped this woman and, without even asking who did it, attacked us and beat us mercilessly. I thought I was dying that night, but God saved me.

What happened next?

We were taken to the police station and spent four nights there.

Have you been taken to the hospital for treatment?

What is the treatment? You don’t know these people at all. But no matter how terrible the team is, there is still a good person among them. One of them bought me medicine and it was the only medicine I was given.

We were then taken to the then police commissar and I told him that I was a member of this body and that I had been mistreated by his people.

The police commissioner was confused; I think he was cute, but he wanted to make sure you were innocent. He asked me to swear by the Bible, and I swore. I told him that one of the men with SARS bought me a medicine and I showed him the medicines. It was then that he decided that I was not lying. I showed him a man with SARS who bought me medicine.

What happened next?

Before that OC SARS (officer in charge) took out some weapon and put it in front of me. Then he photographed me with the weapon. He took out pistols, knives and other things and said that they found these weapons with us.

So in the end we were brought to trial – I think in the magistrates’ court around Fajuya. We are charged with armed robbery; It was then that I realized that some cops are worse than the devil himself. You beat me up, you hurt my eye and still called me an armed robber. It was terrible.

How did the armed robbery case go?

One of the members of the organization, a lawyer, helped us a lot. He has a lawyer who is a senior lawyer from Nigeria to defend us. The case was discussed, and later we were acquitted when the judge saw inconsistencies in their requirements.

What happened after you were acquitted?

I wrote a petition against the police. At that time, the Inspector General of Police sent several police officers to my home in Adebayo, where I was then living. The case attracted public attention and sympathy because I was a member of the organization. The cops brought OC SARS to my house. I saw how they tortured the SARS men who came to our house and asked me if I could identify them. They arrived in three vans. They pulled out OC SARS and suffered injuries all over their body; they must have tortured him. Whoever brought them in asked me if the cops beat me, and I said yes.

How did everything go?

I was afraid. I saw OC SARS being beaten and knew that if they let him go, he could kill me, so I left my house and lost interest in everything. I didn’t want to be killed. I received nothing more from the police.

Was the National Youth Corps involved?

That’s what pissed me off. NYSC did nothing. Some of the corpse members said they would stop the swoon parade because of my case. They said NYSC should have supported me, but left me to my fate.

What happened to your right eye when the cop hit you?

The eye is completely blind. I do not see anything. When I close my left eye, I cannot see anything. I was horrified with this, and whenever I saw myself in the mirror, I always cried. I cried for many reasons: first, I suddenly lost an eye, not because I had committed a crime, but because people oppressed me. In addition, the eye reminds me of what I went through then. But thank God I’m alive.

One of my friends came from overseas and was told that I had retired due to poor eyesight. He took me to the hospital and they gave me an artificial eye. I can remove the artificial eye and put it back on. It’s better now, because if you don’t get close to me, you won’t notice that I can’t see with it. After the accident, I was treated at Ekiti State University Hospital.

What are you doing now?

I worked with the Anambra State Government for a while, but now I am in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, learning skills from one of my brothers.

Have you been during the #EndSARS protest?

I was not there. I was in Abidjan during the protests.

Would you join the protest if you were in Nigeria?

I would not join the protest, but I would share the story of how SARS tore my eye out and still indicted me in court as an armed robber. It was God who saved me; if the court believed it would be my end. He’s just a fool who won’t argue that SARS should be disbanded. The woman told them about the accident because she was their girlfriend and they came, beat us severely and cut out my right eye. I know that God will definitely fight for me even if I don’t get justice from people and government agencies.