Nigerians across the world are unapologetically calling for the disbandment of the country’s notorious police anti robbery unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has long been accused of extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings.
The specialised unit was set up in 1992 by the Commissioner for Police to curb a spate of armed robberies across the west African country.
By 2009, SARS had become a large and powerful unit, and its focus expanded beyond armed robbers to internet fraudsters. It had also become largely uncontrolled as its members were allowed to carry guns, drive unmarked cars and operate without badges or uniform.
The unit become notorious for extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings and rape consequently in 2016 a campaign was launched calling for the unit to be disbanded.
The campaign became widespread and drew some attention. Within three years the unit had been reformed, overhauled, decentralised and disbanded about three or four times, without success.
Over the past three weeks, Nigerians are back on the streets calling for the disbandment of the unit and it has gained traction through social media platform.
Here are 7 things you need to know about the protests
1.Protest led by young people
Since the beginning of the first protests started this year against the infamous police squad, it has been led mostly by young Nigerians.
The protesters have gathered in the front of the House of Assembly in Lagos State to demand the end of the unit. Within days thousands of protesters had gathered in 100 cities around the world, with the #EndSARS trending globally.
2.No longer just about SARS
Although the central issue of the protests has been the disbandment of SARS, the protest have now become far more complex as they are calling for wider reforms of the police.
According to Damilola Agbalajobi on the Conversation, the protests are no longer just about the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, they’re a result of pent-up anger over the dehumanising policies of government, maladministration, injustice, hunger as well as high energy and fuel prices.
Agbalajobi said the cumulative effect of these have roll into one henceforth the protesters have refused to end their action.
Nigeria’s security forces have reportedly shot dead demonstrators protesting against police brutality in Lagos, according to several witnesses, as authorities imposed a curfew and promised an investigation.
4. The world join protests
The world has joined and has shown solidarity to the movement. According to reports, renowned Nollywood actor, Yul Edochie, who has played a vocal role in the protest has called for President Muhammadu Buhari to step down.
Yul Edochie was joined by international football star, Ighalo, who expressed great disappointment in the Nigerian government after the shooting of protesters at Lekki Toll-Gate.
5.Calls for Buhari to step down and Curfew
President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected for a second four-year term last year, defeating his main rival, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar's People's Democratic Party (PDP).
The former vice president however rejected the result alleging that they had been tempered with. The west African country is again at a cross roads as the #EndSARS protests gain traction.
Widespread reports claim that the protesters have since called for Buhari’s head with local celebs including Davido leading the charge.
The protesters are alleging that Buhari has failed the Nation, therefore, he should step down and allow a listening and caring person to take over.
6.Support and Solidarity
The widespread protests have been supported by various organisations among which are Amnesty International who have been consistent in documenting the widespread human right violations in the west African country.
According to the group, “Nigerian authorities must go beyond lip service to ensure there is real reform within the Nigeria Police Force with an emphasis on SARS.”
The human rights watchdog further added that “the reforms must translate into holding police officers suspected of torture to account, ending torture, unlawful detention, extortion, extrajudicial execution and other human rights violations that SARS officers have been known for across Nigeria.”
7.Social Media reaction
The hashtags EndSARS and EndPoliceBrutalityInNigeriaNow were trending this week.
The #EndSARS has been trending globally since the beginning of the protests earlier this month. South African celebs and Tweeps were constantly showing their solidarity with their Nigerian counterparts.
Here are some of the messages that have been posted on Twitter over the past few weeks.
This is just pure evil! Real life torture. If you can sit there and watch these videos & still not feel like your voice & platform is needed then I don’t know for you. #EndSARS #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeraNOW https://t.co/cI25ZUw6GB— Not3s (@Not3sofficial) October 21, 2020
#JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica #JusticeForAfrica 💔![CDATA]>🙏![CDATA]>🏾— #OwnYourThrone👑 (@Boity) October 21, 2020