Nigeria Police Force's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)

The  Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is in the eye of the storm again. Students of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic in Owo (RUGIPO) in Ondo State are calling for the disbandment of the outfit, following the death of their final year Accounting colleague, Seun Ogunmola, in a road crash.

The late Seun and his classmate, Deborah Iyanuoluwa, allegedly had the accident while being pursued by SARS operatives in Owo town. They sustained multiple injuries after the Toyota Matrix saloon car they were driving crashed near Owo Technical College. They were said to have been mistaken for Internet fraudsters by the SARS operatives.

Seun died on Sunday at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owo, 11 days after the accident. CAMPUSLIFE gathered that the student gave up the ghost few hours after his leg was operated upon.

According to eyewitnesses, the students lost control of the car. After the accident, the officers reportedly abandoned them and fled the scene. The victims were rushed to the FMC by passersby.

It was learnt that the car belonged to the president of the off-campus hostel where the late Seun stayed.

CAMPUSLIFE could not confirm Deborah’s  condition as at press time. A close friend, who did not want her name in print, said she had been transferred to a private hospital in her Okitipupa hometown in Ondo State on her parents’ instructions after being confirmed to have been pregnant.

She is said to be the late Seun’s girlfriend. According to the late Seun’s friend, Dada Samuel, his condition worsened when the injury on his left leg affected the right one, warranting a surgery.

His friends and family members, CAMPUSLIFE learnt, sought help from the public to pay the N300,000 demanded by the hospital for the surgery.

Dada said the late Seun underwent the surgery last Friday to prevent the amputation of his legs. His classmates, he said, were already contributing money for another surgery when he died.

The news of Seun’s death sparked a protest. Students trooped to the highway to demand the SARS’ disbandment.

The protesters described SARS as “official killer squad”, while chanting anti-police songs.

They demonstrated in front of the school’s main gate, with placards bearing inscriptions, such as “END SARS”, “Human rights abuses thrive in Nigeria”, “Police must fish out the killer-SARS”, “Nigeria now has official killer squad in the Police Force”, “Justice for the late Seun Ogunmola and Deborah Iyanuoluwa”, and “IGP must stop SARS before they kill all of us”, among others.

The protesters barricaded the highway leading to the institution for hours.

The students condemned a statement credited to the Area Commander in Owo, Friday Eboka, an Assistant Commission of Police (ACP), alleging that there was no proof that those who chased the victims were SARS operatives.

Eboka, in a meeting with students’ representatives on Sunday, asked them to provide “authentic evidence” to show SARS operatives’ involvement in the incident. The police chief  promised to investigate the matter and implored students to set up a committee that would serve as intermediary between them and the police during the probe.

The protesters alleged that the police were yet to visit the victims’ families, describing the police action as irresponsible.

It was gathered that an officer of the Students’ Affairs Department, Mr Nelson Oloko, stopped the protesters from taking the demonstration to the police division in the town to prevent it from being hijacked by hoodlums.

Oloko praised the students for their peaceful conduct, urging them to exercise restraint while demanding justice for their late colleague. The students insisted they wanted an end to SARS operation in the town.

The protesters, in response to Oloko’s address, said they did not want SARS operatives to visit the campus and their hostels around the school. They said there could be a clash between them  if any SARS officer was found around their hostels.

The students said the protest was to express their grievances against SARS because of the circumstance of Seun’s death.

CAMPUSLIFE gathered that the school paid the N110,000 balance of the N300,000 charged for the late Seun’s surgery. His friends and family members contributed N190,000. It could not be ascertained if the school contributed to Deborah’s treatment.

A protester, Peter Ademulegun, said: “The actions of SARS operatives are abnormal. They usually come to our hostels to harass us and call us criminals. They were mandated to go after armed robbers, but they come to students’ hostels to arrest us on the excuse that they are looking for Yahoo Yahoo boys (Internet fraudsters).”

The victims’ class representative, Femi Odipe, said the late Seun had multiple fractures on his leg while Deborah sustained bruises on her head and arm.

He said: “It is tragic to hear that Seun, my bosom friend and a course mate, is dead. I was expecting he would recuperate faster after the successful surgery on Friday. The doctor asked us to make a payment of N300,000 only for his surgery, which we tried to gather from every source and we were able to make the payment last week.

“After the surgery, I visited him and I personally spoke to him. He showed signs of recovery, until Sunday afternoon when I got a call that Seun could not breathe properly and was placed on oxygen cylinder. He gave up the ghost this afternoon and the body has been taken to the mortuary.”

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr Femi Joseph, could not be reached for comment.

CAMPUSLIFE gathered that the late Seun will be buried in his Igbara-Odo hometown in Ekiti State. There will also be a candlelight procession on the campus in his honour.

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