Here What’s Happening in Nigeria and Why #EndSARS Matters




These hashtag trends have grappled the Nigerian social media as the recent Police violence has caused enormous national demonstrations of torture, violence, and extra-judicial execution. Youth cited police harassment and bullying frequently in Nigeria is a concern because many people believe that the SARV crime-fighting methods have turned into their own criminal behaviour. The New York Times claims that SARS critics “believe that its faceless existence opened the way for violence, made it harder to detect and report rogue officers and made them act impunity.” 

The protests started last week following news that police killed a young man during a stop-and-search operation in the Delta State of Southern Nigeria. The Nigerian police denied SARS involvement in the death of a man.

What is SARS?

SARS was first founded in 1992 for the purpose of combating violent crime in Lagos, Nigeria’s capital. With a 15-member squad, it worked secretly and watched the streets in plain clothing and in unmarked buses.

Last weekend, the Nigerian Government announced that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Police Force of the country was to be dismantled. The unit is associated with police violence in the country and has been the subject of many demonstrations over the last few weeks.

Nigerian musicians have assisted demonstrators in Nigerian towns, including Lagos and Abuja plus towns from the Diaspora of Nigeria such as Atlanta, Berlin, New York and London, including Burna Child, WizKid and David O.

What Happened In Nigeria?

Last Sunday in London hundreds of fellow Nigerians were standing with a face shield, a protective mask and a waist pouch full of sanitizers. They were all holding pancakes, lifted out fingers and sang: “End Sars,” again and again.

The shout began in Nigeria when a video of the special anti-robbery, police force (SARS) came out and shot a man on the streets of Lagos. Although the date of the video and the name of the victim is unclear, Nigerians are not foreign to police brutality.

And still, this time something was different. Run-down and Falz the renown musicians, tweeted about it and called a pretest. The next day there were many young people shouting “End Sars” on the streets. Almost everybody had a storey of Sars officers attacking, extortion, sexual abuse or unfair arrest.

Soon American celebrities including P Diddy, Trey Songz and Viola Davis took the hashtag and tweeted it to them. The Nigerian actor John Boyega has used his social media page in the UK to support demonstrations. Before much of the western media, what these stars knew was that it was another version of the Black Live Matter movement.

Why the Protest was Important?

The American celebrities including P Diddy, Trey Songz and Viola Davis took the hashtag and tweeted it to them. The Nigerian actor John Boyega has used his social media page in the UK to support demonstrations. Before much of the western media, these stars knew it was another version of the Black Live Matter movement.

You could say that Nigerian police officers are black. How could this be a BLM problem? Think about police officers in New Zealand firing, maiming and murdering innocent white civilians. They had flashed phones because they were working in the software industry.  They were therefore thinking that they had to engage in fraud (all explanations used by Sars). 

Imagine if all these horrors happened in leafy Christchurch on film. Global uproar will arise in international sanctions. World leaders strictly condemned these actions.

The demonstrations continue in Nigeria every day. There’ll be one in London, too. The government has promised the SARS unit to be disbanded and replaced by a Swat team, but many people believe it is merely renamed, not resolved. The mistrust is justified. 

The Nigerian government vowed to dissolve Sars earlier. Demonstrators continue to demand concrete measures, including the release of all arrested demonstrators and the establishment of an independent agency to investigate police brutality.

There are; however, no leaders in the # EndSARS movement: as demonstrators reiterate, the will of a young Nigerian population has exploded organically spontaneously. Nobody knows what the campaign is going to lead to. Some say it’s an Arab Spring Nigerian version. People don’t want a spring. Spring is a fast passing season. They want a new generation-long Nigeria.

What is the Government Doing?

Since then, the government has outlawed protests in Abuja Capital, citing public security measures against Covid-19.

Human Rights Watch; however, has urged the government to uphold the freedom to demonstrate peacefully. The US Community for Rights has denounced the initial lethal police repression against the demonstrators, who said Amnesty International had left 10 people dead and hundreds wounded.

The Governor of the State of Lagos said that there were arrested and tried police officers allegedly opening fire on demonstrators. However, the National Commission for Human Rights in Nigeria will create its own independent panel.

The federal government has proposed the creation of judicial commissions to investigate past and new police brutality in all 36 states in order to address some of the demands of the demonstrators.

What Will Be the Future of SARS?

That’s the main thing. In Nigeria, the feeling is that police brutality and mismanagement of Nigerians is deeper than the police. However, claims of violence continued in 2017 after a previous wave of agitation. SARS was revamped in 2017. 

Agencies charging a number of SARS officers, most of whom have been working in other police offices. Demonstrators also want the government to resolve wider issues with the police in addition to providing compensation to victims of police brutality and equal remuneration to police officers, to reduce the possibility of financial harassment for civilians.

According to the demonstrators, the IGP Police’s new announcement will be the fourth time that the Nigerian Police Force’s SARS arm has been dismantled or restructured without an Executive Order, a Legislative Intervention and Judicial Enquiry Panel set up to prosecute SARS officers who have killed and harassed innocent Nigerians.