The South-South Editor of The Nation newspaper, Mr Shola O’Neil, was last Monday brutalised by men of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) around Okada in Edo state.
O’Neil, who was returning to Warri from Lagos, was in a commercial vehicle, a Toyota Corolla, when the vehicle was stopped after the Okada Junction along the Benin Shagamu Expressway by men of F-SARS.
The Nation regional editor shared his experience in a series of tweets on his official twitter handle.
He said, “Let me tell you my sad SARS experience on Sunday afternoon somewhere around Okada in Edo state.”
“Was on my way to WARRI from Lagos. Just after Okada junction we met this SARS team from Okada. They operated from a red Mercedes Benz C-Class wagon. Number plate covered with yellow/black cellophane They stopped the Toyota Corolla I was riding in.”
“There’s a student of Afe Babalola in d front seat. He had a laptop but no purchase receipt. They asked everybody to disembark and started searching us one after d other. They took my MacBook and phones. One of them, the youngest, asked me to unlock my phone, I did.”
“Before then he asked the young man what he does for a living and then said he as a student of AfeBabalola. He asked him for his ID, got it. Then he went on about how impressed he’s about student because he (SARS guys) is an OND holder. They then took laptops to their Benz.”
“I unlocked my phone and gave it to him, after a minute or so he started walking away with d phone. I said, ‘Oga if are u done with my phone?’ Because I wasn’t comfy with him going thru my phone where I can’t see what he’s doing. That really got him angry.”
“He shouted who I was to tell him how to do his job. You see, as I journo I’ve seen and experience d antics of policemen on d road. So when he ranted about me teaching him his job, I explained that it was better he did what he was doing where I could see him & answer questions.”
“He became livid and unleashed multiple slaps on my face. I was dazed – very dazed. Oga what is my crime? But his colleagues closed in and joined in the beating. One one them just finished checking the engine of a car and he cleaned his oily palm on my shirt.”
“One broke a tree branch and unleashed it on my head. I had saddle bag with me and was using it to fend off the blow. The OND holder removed the safety catch of his rifle and ask for space to fire me bcos his colleagues were all over me. At that point one gentleman stepped in…”
He said no, ‘U can’t just shoot him; over what?” At that point my face was swollen & there was blood in my eyes. D driver of the car (FocusRide) & passengers were begging them not to shoot. Somehow calm was restored. D sars team leader asked me to get back inside d car and sit down.
“They went away with my phones & MacBook along with the youths hp & phones While they were deciding my fate, d OND holder who started it all came to d car & told me how lucky I was that it wasn’t dark he said “I for fire u just now & nothing go happen, u go turn another robber’.”
“I said nothing, but sat waiting for their next move About 20mins later they called for me to unlock my laptop. I did They only saw news features that I was working on & other files relating to my job. D drunken team leader then asked me why I didn’t tell them I was a pressman.”
“I said first, they neither gave me d chance to explain, nor ask for identification. He mumbled his apologies that it was a misunderstanding, went on about how gunmen terrorized d stretch of road. Then returned my items along with those of other passengers and wished me safe journey.”