The #EndSARS Movement and Why You Should Care

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately or even looked out your window, you might have noticed the #EndSARS protests taking place in London, Manchester, Southampton, Bristol, Aberdeen, Birmingham, Reading and Luton. If you’re not sure why the protests are taking place and why they are so crucial, this article will provide some clarity by giving you a quick but comprehensive breakdown.

 

What is SARS?

SARS stands for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. SARS was a unit in the Nigeria Police Force established in 1992 to deal with crimes associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling and firearms. However, as of October 11, it has been disbanded due to nationwide and international protests. (1)

 

The Controversy: Police Brutality 

Over the years, SARS has been heavily steeped in controversy due to its corruption and crimes committed against innocent Nigerian citizens in the form of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, extortion, torture, kidnapping, rape, blackmail, invasion of privacy, illegal organ trade and more. Instead of protecting the people of Nigeria, SARS has a documented history of abusing its power. The youths behind the #EndSARS movement reported harassment, bribery, theft and kidnappings by SARS officers, who criminalised young people for ‘dressing like’ prostitutes and branded them ‘internet scammers’ because they owned smartphones, laptops or nice cars. (1)

In 2020, Amnesty International’s Nigeria: Time to End Impunity report documented 82 cases between January 2017 and May 2020 of extrajudicial killings, extortion and torture methods carried out by SARS, such as ‘hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions, and sexual violence’. (2)

 

What Sparked the Protests?

On October 3, a viral tweet by Chinyelugo (@AfricaOfficial2) went out stating, ‘SARS just shot a young boy dead’. Hours later, video recordings along with the hashtag #EndSARS began trending. The videos documented the graphic scene of a young man’s lifeless body abandoned on the roadside as officers were seen stealing his Lexus SUV.

 

The Lekki Massacre

On the night of October 20, members of the Nigerian Armed Forces opened fire on a peaceful #EndSARS protest at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria. It is estimated that at least 12 people were killed as forces shut down the lights and fired live ammunition at the crowd. A day after the incident, the governor of Lagos State initially denied any loss of life, but later admitted in an interview with CNN that two people were killed. However, Amnesty International reports that at least 12 protesters died in what is described as ‘extrajudicial executions’. (3)

 

What’s Next?

SARS was officially disbanded on October 11 and replaced with SWAT (the Special Weapons and Tactics unit). Protesters have created the #5for5 Scorecard denoting their five core demands from the government:

  1. Release arrested protesters

  2. Ensure justice and compensation for the families of victims

  3. Establish an independent body to oversee prosecution of officers (within 10 days of October 19)

  4. Carry out psychological evaluations of disbanded officers before deployment 

  5. Increase police salaries

So far, the government has done little to comply with the demands of the protestors. If you would like to help the #EndSARS movement, you can visit the @EndSARSUK Twitter account and spread awareness via social media.

 

References:

(1) https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a34485605/what-is-endsars/

(2) https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/9505/2020/en/ 

(3) https://www.gq.com/story/endsars-protests-police-brutality-nigeria