By Ibanga Isine
Many years ago, I got under the butts of the brutality of one of the world’s worse police unit #endSARS in Port Harcourt, the River State capital.
I had closed from work so drained and decided to take a nap as soon as I got home.
Mind you, that home was a product of goodwill from my colleague and very close friend, Soni Daniel, who the sprit has given very beautiful names to call him.
Today, the sprit has insisted I call him Uduang Ewa. Uduang Ewa means dog excreta.
Uduang Ewa Obong, who was the first to be deployed to Port Harcourt by our employer then – The Punch Newspaper, had left for further studies in the UK and left the house with everything he had for me.
Please don’t ever think of calling Soni by any other name except his real name. I am the only one who can call him all sorts of names.
That was the house I lived in D-Line, Port Harcourr, when I had the baptism of beatings from the dreaded SARS operatives. I have been beaten many times by security operatives in the course of my job but this was a class act.
I had done a Special Report for Sunday Punch about how SARS operatives killed a promising young man for driving against the flow of traffic and after committing the crime, also fled driving against traffic.
The Sunday Punch editor in his editorial judgement designated the report as one of the cover stories, cropped the picture of the then Police Commissioner, Balla Usman and inserted it into the main picture on the page, which was the corpse of the young man I took on the BMH mortuary slab.
I didnt know The CP, who had spoken to me on the story and confirmed the arrest of the killer cops , would feel so angry about the treatment of his picture and the forceful manner I told the story of the brutal killing of the youth.
The story was published on Sunday mind you, and on Monday, SARS operatives mounted a checkpoint close to my house and unlike me who is not a night crawler, I woke up from the evening nap I had at about 6pm and decided to go grab some food in a nearby restaurant.
I invited a young neighbour and Akwa Ibom boy to join me to eat and we passed the police team without any issue except that they blew the siren on their van briefly and flashed us the headlamp.
We had a beautiful meal and took away the big bottle of Eva water that I couldn’t finish and we hit the road back home – the distance was less than 150 metres.
As I got close to the sons of Lucifer, one of them barked, “Stop there. Who are you, where are you coming from, where are you going, what is your name, what is your logo,” and other chain of questions that could take your breath away.
I was momentarily confused because I had passed these guys less than an hour before and they saw where I ate from their checkpoint.
Calmly, I tried to answer a few of their questions and told them I am a journalist.
Perhaps, they really needed the confirmation and so they kicked the young man, who was in my company and ordered him to run home.
I was about to follow the guy when all of them corked their guns, released the safety catches and pointed the nuzzles at me. Five AK 47 assault rifles were pointed menacingly at me.
The team leader ordered me to kneel down. You know I am a tall guy and those beasts had something they had planned for me and to serve it hot hot as young people would say, my back must be in the best position to receive some sense.
I obeyed but hardly had I got on my knees on hard tar, the five policemen brought out horse whips and started flogging me with satanic relish.
I had never been flogged in my life like that. My father was a no-nonsense school teacher and could flog for a living but didn’t ever got close to the SARS guys.
My back peeled and my nerves twitched as those guys flogged me mercilessly and to their satisfaction before they asked me to run.
I refused to run. The idea is when SARS asked a victim to run, they may be planning to execute him on the excuse he was trying to escape.
So, I walked quietly away and made some calls immediately. I first called the then PPRO, who was my sister, Rita Abe. She didn’t pick my call. I later realised she lived at the exact spot I was brutalised and perhaps, supervised my humiliation.
I called the then spokesperson of the 2 Brigade, Col Sagir Musa and told him what had just happened.
Musa asked me to wait for him and before 10 minutes, he had arrived with some soldiers and proceeded to talk to my tormentors.
They confirmed they had dealt with one notorious troublemaker in the neighbourhood and I was that troublemaker.
Col. Musa got the policemen arrested and evacuated me to hospital under the care of Aham, the then Bureau Chief of Thisday Newspaper.
I was hospitalised for three days and on discharge was taken home by Aham and the beautiful wife, who nursed me for days.
Then Governor Rotimi Amaechi called for the prosecution of the SARS operatives, the NUJ in the state boycotted all police programmes for weeks but I refused to go and testify against the operatives who were sent to brutalise me. Maybe I will soon.
I am telling this long story to share my #endSARS experience and to appreciate Col. MUSA who is celebrating his birthday today.
I also want to appreciate Aham for being a true friend and brother.
Happy birthday Col. Sagir Musa. May God bless you exceedingly today and always.
endSARS, #endPolicebrutality,#Reformthepolice #Reformthegovernmentnow.
Ibanga is a Journalist, Media Manager, and Rights Activist
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