When #Nigeria Tried to Break Nigerians: The #EndSARS Protests
The #EndSARS movement is a social movement to end police brutality in Nigeria. The movement calls specifically for the total disbandment of the government organised group the “Special Anti-Robbery Squad” (SARS), an overzealous unit of the Nigerian police force, notorious for its violence and abuses toward civilians. Put forward by the Nigerian government, the basis of the creation of SARS was to tackle the increase of crime amongst Nigerian youths. However their violent, combative and corrupt approach has done anything but decrease crime, in fact, crime has been encouraged by SARS and Nigeria has seen an alarming increase in crime amongst youth since the inception of SARS. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad have a long list of transgressions piling against them: kidnappings, rape, theft, extortion and extrajudicial killings are prevalent amongst the crimes committed by the unit.
For the past few weeks, civil unrest amongst Nigerian youth spread throughout the country. Civilians took to the streets in peaceful protest, demanding to be heard, demanding for the complete disbandment of SARS. The protestors specifically outlined that these things must be seen to: the creation of a body whose responsibility it would be to oversee police misconduct and corruption, the psychological evaluation and retraining of the police force, an increase in police salary, justice and compensation for families who’ve lost people due to SARS officers and the immediate release of arrested protestors. Nigerians are only demanding their right to a completely reformed Nigerian Police Force,
Protests led by young people in Abuja, Lagos, Osun and throughout the country have been met with even more violence by SARS. Young people who simply want their human rights met, who stand firm but peacefully and unarmed, have been attacked with teargas, shot at and unlawfully arrested, all sanctioned by the very government that should be committed to protecting them. To give a specific number of fatalities during these protests is difficult, but social media is flooded with the bodies of young Nigerians whose lives have been clawed away from them in the fight for a better and safer life.
Interestingly enough, the government has long promised the disbandment of SARS, however this has been promised for years and yet the second there’s a whisper of civil unrest - Nigeria deploys SARS officers as a first choice in “handling” civilians. Since the protests, the government has made yet another promise of SARS and Police Force reform - apologies have been made by government officials, but words are no longer enough for the public. Nigerians want to see a #betterNigeria, and until they receive something concrete, protests are not likely to end any time soon.