FOR residents of Anambra State, the fear of Awkuzu Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, in Oyi local government area, located at kilometer
38 along the Enugu –Onitsha expressway in the state is the beginning of wisdom. Those who had had encounter with operatives of Awkuzu SARS always had sad stories to tell. At Awkuzu SARS, there are five freighting cells and the level of the suspect’s offence depended on the cell he or she would be detained in.
At Awkuzu SARS, nobody prays to be detained in Cell 5 as spending a night there is the beginning of the person’s last journey to the great beyond.
Reporters based in Anambra State were often treated to parade of suspected kidnappers, armed robbers, 419ers and internet fraudsters and sometimes, 50 or more suspects could be paraded at a time.
While the briefing by SARS operatives would almost convince reporters that those being paraded committed the offences they were accused of, the denial by some of them tended to rubbish the claim by SARS operatives as they would swear and also convince reporters of their innocence. The worrisome situation in Awkuzu SARS is that the tendency of one coming out from there alive was remote.
Often times, people were arrested and taken to SARS on trumped up charges and while the relations of such people would be making frantic efforts to ensure that they were granted bail, operatives of SARS would have killed them.
At Awkuzu, the cells were always filled to capacity with suspects which, was perhaps, why there was the common story that SARS operatives intermittently kill some detainees to decongest the cells.
That was what happened in January 2013 when 35 dead bodies were discovered floating on Ezu River on the boundary between Anambra and Enugu states.
After several years of investigation by some human rights organizations, it was proved that SARS operatives at Awkuzu were responsible for dumping the bodies in the river after killing them because their grave in their office could not take all of them.
It was also common for operatives of Awkuzu SARS to travel to any part of the country to fish out suspects and bring them to Anambra State.
For instance, during the era of rampant kidnappings in the state, a particular suspected kidnapper was convinced by SARS operatives that he would be released unconditionally if he took them to the hideouts of other suspected kidnappers, only for him to be killed and buried beside the SARS office on return from the journey.
There are other terrible stories from Awkuzu SARS. Between 2012 and 2016, hundreds of innocent youths were tortured, dehumanized and extra judicially executed.