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.
According to a trend on his twitter account, his only offense was asking his phone should not be tampered with in his absence, a comment that fetched him a heavy blow from an official, who already collected his phones and workstation.
“I 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 University in the front seat. He had a laptop but no purchase receipt.
They asked everybody to disembark and started searching us one after the 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 he said he is a student of Afe Babalola. He asked him for his ID, got it. Then he went on about how impressed he’s about students because he (SARS guys) is an OND holder. They then took laptop to their Benz.
unlocked my phone and gave it to him. After a minute or so he started
walking away with d phone. I said ‘Oga are you done with my phone?’
because I wasn’t comfortable with him going through my phone where I
can’t see what he’s doing.
This 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 experienced the antics of policemen on the roads. 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 and 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 of 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 a saddle bag with me and was using it to fend off the blows. The OND holder removed the safety catch of his rifle and asked for space to fire me because his colleagues were all over me. At that point one gentleman stepped in…
“He said no, ‘you can’t just shoot him; over what?’ At that point my face was swollen and there was blood in my eyes.
The driver of the car (FocusRide) and passengers were begging them not to shoot. Somehow calm was restored. The SARS team leader asked me to get back inside the car and sit down
“They went away with my phones and MacBook along with the youth laptop and phones. While they were deciding my fate, the OND holder who started it all came to the car and told me how lucky I was that it wasn’t dark. He said ‘I for fire you just now and nothing go happen, u go turn another robber’.
“I said nothing but sat waiting for their next move. About 20 minutes later, they called for me to unlock my laptop. I did
They only saw news features that I was working on and other files relating to my job. The drunken team leader then asked me why I didn’t tell them I was a pressman.
“I said first, they neither gave me the chance to explain nor asked for identification. He mumbled his apologies that it was a misunderstanding, went on about how gunmen terrorised the stretch of the road. Then returned my items along with those of other passengers and wished me safe journey,” he narrated.