I have had four horrifying experiences with SARS, and I still quiver whenever I remember them. On one occasion, I had just arrived at the Ikeja Airport and was heading to my dad’s office at Computer Village to surprise him, as nobody knew I had returned. My taxi was stopped by shabbily dressed louts who were waving guns around like wands. I thought they were robbers.
They dragged out and ransacked my bags right in the middle of the road while questioning me. I fit into the profile of people they usually harass: I had dreadlocks, was expensively dressed, and oozed money, especially since I had two iPhones and a laptop. After about ten minutes of haggling, they let me go when I told them my dad was very popular in Ikeja and one phone call was all I needed.
A second incidence took place in Ikeja again. That day, I was taking my mum’s phone for repair. They queried me about having two expensive phones and asked for receipts for the phones. Eventually, they let me go when they heard the name of the estate where I live; it is an exclusive area, so they figured I could afford the phones after all.
Another time, I was accosted in the early hours of the day on my way to the radio station where I worked. I showed them the identification they demanded. I even asked them to tune in to the radio station as proof but that didn’t stop them from detaining me for over five hours. My manager had to come and vouch for me and was even extorted before I was released.
On the fourth occasion, SARS officials rounded up some friends into a van. On seeing this, my friends and I insisted we would join them. When the officials saw people voluntarily marching into their van, they had to let the guys go. They could have taken them to God-knows-where and killed them.