SARS men said I was stupid for demanding their ID – Bearded engineer assaulted by suspected policemen

An engineer, Tochi Nwawuba-Oleru, recently posted a video of the moment he was being harassed by gunmen who claimed to be policemen attached...

An engineer, Tochi Nwawuba-Oleru, recently posted a video of the moment he was being harassed by gunmen who claimed to be policemen attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. He speaks with GBENRO ADEOYE about how he was allegedly assaulted and robbed by the men

You posted a video on Instagram of how you were being harassed by suspected Special Anti-Robbery Squad officers, how did it happen?

It happened on Saturday night (November 2, 2019) along Lekki-Epe Expressway. I was returning from work and going to Ajah. Suddenly I saw a bus behind me and then it overtook my car and blocked me. Then five guys came down with guns. So I parked. They asked to me wind down and I did so. I kept thinking: ‘What is going on?’ I asked if there was a problem but they asked me to get down.


I said why should I get down? You didn’t buy my car for me, so why would you order me to get down from my car when I have done nothing wrong.  They said I was being stubborn and one of them brought out pepper spray and threatened to use it on me. I told them they would do no such thing. I said, “If you ask me for my papers, I will give you my papers; if you ask for my ID, I will give it to you. You cannot just order me to get from my car.”

You described them as policemen attached to SARS in your post. How did you know that? Were they in uniform?

They were in mufti. It was dark; it happened between 8pm and 9pm. They said they were SARS officers and that I was trying to prove that I had rights and could speak English very well. Eventually I had to get down but I left my phone in the car. One of them said if I got close to him, he would slap me across the face because he had asked me to get down and I refused.

Did they show you their ID?

I asked for it, and they said I was very stupid for asking for their ID. One of them cocked his gun and said he would shoot and “waste” me. He told one of them to go away and allow him to “waste” me. They wore black T-shirts and were all armed. I had never experienced anything like that in my life.

Then one of them said if I cooperated with them, he would not allow the other guy to waste me. He said I must have heard about SARS and should already be aware of what they could do. I said ok, I am cooperating. So I went to my car and brought out my ID and complimentary card. I said this is my ID, I am an engineer and going home from work.

What happened after that?

I gave them to one of them and he threw them away. As I was about to pick them up, one of them kicked me and I fell on the ground. Then one brought out handcuffs and I was handcuffed to their vehicle.

READ ALSO: Real theft in Nigeria happens in the executive, not parliament — Odinkalu

All along, what did they say was your offence?

Nothing! They didn’t say I did anything wrong. They said I was a ‘Yahoo boy’ because of my beard. They said I could not be an engineer and have the kind of beard I have. One guy said I should open my car and he was searching everywhere. He found my phone and asked me to unlock it. I didn’t know them so why would I unlock my phone for them? What if my nude photos were in my phone or my girlfriends’ or any personal stuff I didn’t want to share with anyone? You can’t just ask people to unlock their phones. These were people that didn’t show me any ID to prove they were SARS officers as they claimed.

So I insisted that I was not going to unlock it. Things happen in this country. They could send files from people’s phones to theirs and start blackmailing them so people must be very careful.

Was all this happening along the expressway?

Yes, you know it was on Lagos Island; everybody was minding their business. People were just driving past us. Nobody stopped to find out what was going on. I felt ashamed of myself and kept thinking that people might think I was being treated like that because I was a criminal.

You said in your post that they demanded N200,000 but eventually collected N50,000 from you; if you were not guilty, why would you give them money?

Yes, they said I should cooperate and give them N200,000. The 50,000 they collected, I was not the one that gave it to them. It was while they were searching my car that they found the money. I was supposed to give the money to workers at the site of a project I am handling.

I had to borrow money from a friend to pay those guys. I wanted to call my family but they didn’t allow me to make any call. They said if I was not a ‘Yahoo boy’, where did I get the N50,000 from? They also asked me unlock my Apple laptop. As they were trying to take my laptop, they broke its screen. It was after they took the money that they removed the handcuffs. As I was just driving home, I was just thinking of so many things.

What kind of things?

I just got tired of this country. I’m from Imo State. I graduated from the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, where I studied civil engineering. Instead of sitting at home, I would go out to sites to seek contracts. That’s how I have been helping myself. Now because of my beard, they said I was a ‘Yahoo boy’. I’m not.

So who took the short clip that you posted online?

They gave me my phone to unlock and we were arguing over that. I was telling them that I was not going to do it. Then a guy pulled over; the guy was waiting for someone who was crossing the road to meet him. When he saw that the SARS guys were coming to meet him, he sped off.

That was when I used the opportunity to record. In the video, you would see that the guy was getting close. I quickly stopped videoing so that they would not smash my phone down. I did it in such a way that they wouldn’t know.

Have you reported the matter to the police?

My brother, I didn’t report to the police. They are all the same; I don’t know who is who. I don’t know if I would be reporting to the same people and they could plant something on me or kill me to silence me.

Because I was very upset the following day, Sunday, I posted the video online. I felt terrible and embarrassed that night.

When they threatened to kill you, did they look like they could do it?

The guy cocked the gun and looked like he would shoot. They looked really mean. My family and I prayed when I narrated my experience to them. My Apple laptop screen is broken and I was told it would cost me N50,000 to fix it. Honestly, I feel cheated.

Do you think you can get justice?

I wish I could identify them but the place was really dark. Till now, I am still traumatised. I don’t think I will get justice. It is a shame. I want people to know they should be careful and make sure they fight for their rights. If I had one or two people with me, I would have stood my ground.

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