At least three people have been left with gunshot injuries after an altercation between youth of Oria community in Delta State and police officers suspected to be members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
A 59-minute video of the incident posted on social media, showed some youth arguing loudly with three policemen carrying AK-47 assault rifles and dressed in the black T-shirts SARs operatives are known for wearing.
The police officers were standing beside a black police pick-up van with “No 2 SARs Special Anti-Robbery Squad” printed on its side. Soon, the video captured an argument between a police officer and some youth behind the van. One of the youth could be heard shouting: “e no fit shot” in pidgin repeatedly.
Another youth stepped between the police officer, who had half-raised his gun to a shooting position at the time, and the young man. The intervener seemed to try to stop the police officer from shooting the screaming youth. As the police officer moved backwards, some youth moved towards him.
Suddenly, a gunshot was heard and smoke, apparently from the gun could be seen. Four gunshots followed the first one.
“E shoot am, e shoot am?” said the screaming youth. As the youth and the other police officers rushed towards were the gunshot was heard, the same youth added, “hold am, hold am.”
Other gunshots soon followed and the video went black, but loud confused voices could still be heard as the shooting continued.
Ezekiel Egboge, who was involved in the incident, told PREMIUM TIMES that trouble started when he was flagged down by the police officers as he drove to the funeral in his friend’s Honda Crosstour saloon car
“They (the police) stopped us at the road. I was in the car with my brother. As we were trying to park out of the road. They saw that we were young boys and they wanted to claim money from us. They started cracking their guns to put fear in us. We said why are you cracking guns. We are not armed robbers. Suddenly one of them left the front of the car and started dragging my door. I told him to stop dragging the door because if he broke anything in the car he will pay for it. As I was coming down, he gave me a slap,” he said during a telephone chat.
He said after he was slapped, he alighted from the vehicle and accosted the police officer for slapping him. An argument then ensued, which attracted passers-by. He said some of the passers-by rushed to their community to inform youth that they were being harassed by the police.
“The youth from the town came and one of the SARS officers was asking why the youth came and we told him that they are our people and while we were arguing with them they shot one of the boys that came on his leg.”
Mr. Egboge said another youth who confronted the police officers on why he shot the first youth was also shot. He said a third youth was also hit by pellet from a pump-action handgun.
Mr. Egboge said after the incident they went to the nearby Ebu police station to lodge a complaint. But to his surprise, the SARS operatives followed them there, shot into the air and dispensed tear gas on a crowd that gathered at the police station.
He said the police officers at the station told them the SARS operatives were not from the station and they cannot say where they came from.
Eric Adede, who claimed to have recorded the video, told PREMIUM TIMES that he received a car from his brother who was in the car pulled over by SARS operatives who demanded a bribe of N500,000.
He said after the video was posted on social media the State commissioner of police had invited them to a meeting on Monday in the state capital, Asaba. He said the commissioner also asked those who suffered gunshot injuries to be at the meeting as they learnt that the SARS operatives claimed they did not shoot anyone.
However, the Public Relations Officer of the Delta State Police Command, Andrew Aniamaka told PREMIUM TIMES during a telephone chat that he was unaware of the incident.
“No such information has come to me,” he said.
“A mother that has so many children does not say never. But having said that, the conduct you describe as having come from members of our own SARS cannot be the SARS that I know. But it suffices to say that I’m not aware,” he added.