Ariel Go Jr
Nigeria has found it impossible to create a sense of national cohesion due to systemic abuses of power which have afflicted its citizens. Protests have erupted across the entire country recently, calling for the disbandment of the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, which many have accused of brutality against the people. The call to #EndSars is underway, and protesters are insistent on holding SARS and the Nigerian government accountable.
According to BBC News, Fulani Kwajafa formed SARS in 1984 to combat an increase in armed robbery and crime. However, the police unit has been accused of corruption, rape, torture, and extrajudicial execution. Mr. Fulani has expressed his disappointment in the direction that the police unit has taken and is in full support of the group’s disbandment. “I always tell my wife that I was sad [that] what I created with good purpose and direction has been turned into banditry.” He accuses the agency of brutality, claiming that greed drives the motives of the officers.
Nationwide protests in opposition to police brutality transpired on October 8 following the emergence of a video earlier in the month revealing police officers from SARS shooting a young man in the country’s southern Delta State during a stop-and-search operation. Led mostly by youth, these demonstrations have called upon the government, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, to address this urgent issue. According to The Guardian, President Buhari responded on Oct. 11 by promising to disband SARS as a first step toward thorough police reform, the fourth time he had made this commitment. Protesters are unconvinced and aware of the government’s inability to keep their promises, so they will continue to protest until they see actual change.
The #EndSARS Movement was exacerbated on Oct. 20 due to the deaths of 12 people across two locations, Alausa and Lekki, both of which are suburbs of the city Lagos, when the Nigerian army opened fire on unarmed protestors. Various videos and reports have circulated on social media showing crowds gathered at the Lekki toll gate, where #EndSARS protesters had camped for around two weeks. Protestors reported that other soldiers barricaded the protest site before the shooting, and that a few moments before, government officials removed CCTV cameras from the location and cut the electricity in an effort to hide evidence. Amnesty International reports that at least 56 people have died since the start of the protests.
By streaming the #EndSARS protests on social media, the movement has received worldwide attention. Celebrities, including renowned singer Beyoncé, professional soccer players Mesut Ozil and Marcus Rashford, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey have all publicly voiced their support for the protesters in Nigeria and expectations for governmental action. Solidarity protests are taking place in London as well as in Pretoria, South Africa, and Kenya.
According to Deutsche Welle, the Nigerian government imposed a 24-hour curfew on the city of Lagos, which soon extended to other cities, arguing that it was necessary to maintain coronavirus measures and reduce the violence from the protests. The Vanguard Nigeria reports that despite the increasing violence, Nigerian protestors remain adamant in defying the curfew and facing off with security forces until their five core demands, including justice for the families of victims of police brutality and the establishment of an independent body that oversees the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct, are met. Their goals have expanded beyond police brutality and are now concerned with Nigeria’s history of corruption and decentralized government.