“Every 5 in the morning they wake us up to carry the corpses that they killed at night”
FOR the residents of Anambra state, the fear of the Awkuzu Special Anti-Theft Squad, SARS, in the local government area of Oyi, located at kilometer
38 along the Enugu-Onitsha highway in the state is the beginning of wisdom. Those who had encountered Awkuzu SARS agents always had sad stories to tell. In Awkuzu SARS, there are five load cells and the suspect’s crime level depends on the cell in which he would be held. In Awkuzu SARS, no one prays to be detained in cell 5, as spending a night there is the beginning of a person’s last journey to the afterlife.
Reporters based in the state of Anambra were often invited to a parade of suspected kidnappers, armed robbers, 419ers and internet scammers, and sometimes 50 or more suspects could parade at once. While the briefing by SARS agents would almost convince journalists that those being exhibited committed the crimes for which they were accused, denial by some of them tended to dismiss the claim of SARS agents, as they would swear and also to convince journalists of their innocence. The worrying situation in Awkuzu SARS is that the tendency for someone to get out of there alive was remote. People were often arrested and brought to SARS on trumped-up charges, and while such people’s relatives were making frantic efforts to ensure that they were granted bail, they were reportedly killed by SARS agents.
In Awkuzu, the cells were always packed to the brim with suspects, which is perhaps why the common story was told that some detainees were intermittently killed by SARS agents to decongest the cells. That is what happened in January 2013 when 35 bodies were discovered floating in the Ezu River on the border between Anambra and Enugu states. After several years of investigation by some human rights organizations, it was proved that SARS operatives in Awkuzu were responsible for dumping the bodies into the river after killing them because their grave in their office could not carry them all.
It was also common for Awkuzu SARS agents to travel anywhere in the country to fish for suspects and bring them to Anambra state. For example, during the era of rampant kidnappings in the state, SARS agents convinced a particular suspected kidnapper that he would be unconditionally released if he took them to the hideouts of other suspected kidnappers, only to be killed and buried together. to the SARS Office upon return from the trip.
There are other terrible Awkuzu SARS stories. Between 2012 and 2016, hundreds of innocent young people were tortured, dehumanized and extrajudicially executed. For example, if one was a young man living in Anambra State and had not had an encounter with Awkuzu SARS, then one is exceptionally lucky. Awkuzu SARS officers often rounded up people and threw them into SARS cells and only those whose relatives could pay a lot of money left the scene alive. Sometimes people were detained simply for walking on the road or even sitting comfortably in their homes at the time SARS raided their surroundings.
Before the creation of the Anti-Cult Unit in the state, SARS agents always attacked various communities at night and arrested young people on the grounds that they belonged to cultured groups. Those whose relatives could not pay N40000 and more rotted inside the cells.
Indeed, Awkuzu SARS had gained such notoriety that it attracted the attention of Amnesty International in 2014 and 2016, during which time the international human rights organization described it as the site of human rights violations, particularly in regards to torture, cruelty, inhuman cruelty. or degrading treatment and extrajudicial executions. Some businessmen in Anambra state even threatened their alleged business partners with SARS and the result was the indefinite disappearance of such partners, especially if their business transactions deteriorated.
There was this case that is still fresh in the minds of the Anambra people. Some years ago a certain Iloanya Chijioke attended a child dedication service organized by one of his friends in Ajali in the Orumba Norte local government area. During the ceremony, SARS officers from Awkuzu stormed the scene and arrested most of the young people present. Information of the arrests immediately reached Chijioke’s parents, they visited the SARS facilities and spoke with their son who was in custody, but they could not secure his release. According to his parents, since his arrest on November 29, 2012, Chijioke has not returned home and it is unclear whether he is dead or alive. Iloanya said that even when she handed over the sum of N1.5 million to SARS through a human rights activist to make sure her son was released, nothing came out.
Those who narrowly escaped being killed in Awkuzu SARS claim that they were sometimes forced to drink their urine to survive on a daily basis. Another SARS victim said he went to bury him in Nnewi and, on his way back to Awka, he was arrested in Abagana for Awkuzu SARS. “I was traded with someone, obviously a criminal, and I was parading as the alleged suspect for days,” he said. He added that he would have been killed, had it not been for the help of a policeman who established his innocence.
One of the six Madonna University students arrested in January 2019 and detained for six months for speaking out against management also recounted his experience at Awkuzu SARS. Akwuzu was an amazing place. They don’t allow anyone to visit us. Even if your parents bring you food, they will eat it. I almost died there.
“I only drank about five packets of water in sachets during the week I was there before they took us to prison. Where we slept was where we urinated; that’s where we ate and that’s where we bathed. The whole floor was sticky from the blood that had dried, and we slept on that same floor, ”he said.
Another victim recounted her experience: “Every morning at 5 in the morning they wake us up to carry the bodies that they killed the night before. Once Awkuzu SARS takes you, forget about life. “
Awkuzu SARS was also involved in communal land disputes where they took sides depending on which side paid the most. In Nkwele Ezunaka, two villages were involved in a land dispute and SARS was recently invited to intervene. However, the group that invited them later regretted having done so since the action of the operatives showed that their opponents had bought the SARS: