This month, the hashtag #ENDSARS has resurfaced as a trending topic on Twitter, once again highlighting that excessive police force is becoming a global issue. Young Nigerians have taken their demands to the streets to protest police brutality in Nigeria-starting with the abolition of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a division in the Nigerian police force developed in the early 90’s. Even still with the world watching, Tuesday October 20, 2020, the Nigerian Army reportedly opened fire onto a peaceful protest at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos moments after cutting the lights and mobile phone networks.
It is with bittersweet gratitude toward the democratization of social media for it has allowed citizens across the world to expose and witness the conditions of each other’s lives and government. Livestreams and images captured by protestors from this disturbing event have gained viral momentum on social media- music artist turned business mogul, Rihanna, used her platform to share her grievances on Instagram.
Reports of the injured and death toll have yet to be revealed
With over 40 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, a vaccine to end the global pandemic still unseen, and the blowback of a declining global economy uprooting millions of lives, police brutality remains a thriving enterprise.
Who is SARS?
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a special police unit created in 1992 to rival the rising levels of crime such as kidnappings and robberies in Nigeria. However, the unit quickly gained a controversial reputation for its inventory of human rights violations.
According to Amnesty International, SAR’ use of extrajudicial execution and torture “reveals a pattern of abuse of power by SARS officers and the consistent failure by the Nigerian authorities to bring perpetrators to justice. It highlights the deficiencies in Nigerian police accountability that contribute to, and exacerbate, these violations.”
Why Are People Protesting?
The protests were sparked by a video that surfaced online on October 3, allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in Delta state. The events that followed have a distinct mimicry of the George Floyd protests that erupted in May: An outcry on social media, a trending hashtag on Twitter, protests across the globe then, more police brutality. In response to the protestors demands to abolish SARS, the government announced on October 11 that the SARS unit would be disbanded. Yet its personnel will be integrated into other police units following “psychological tests,” and SARS will be replaced with a new Special Weapons and Tactical Team. There have been no steps taken to hold SARS officers accountable for their past abuses, or prosecution for those responsible for the recent crackdown on protesters.
How to Support the Movement
The movement to end police brutality in Nigeria is still going strong and needs as much support as it can get. Here are a few ways you can support the movement:
- Stay Informed
As with most movements that generate online, there can be a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation of facts so it is important to be accurately informed. Since the #EndSARS movement started online, the hashtags for the most part a good place to start ( please be aware of TW content) as well as this account from Global Citizen designated to keep us informed.
Crowdfunding efforts are some of the best methods to show your support when all else feels helpless. Show your support with one of these organizations sending food, blood and monetary funds to the young Nigerian movements.
3. Share Your Voice
If you’re unable to donate, lend your words to a Nigerian embassy to call out the atrocities. Instagram account @endsarsuk currently is sharing website links to Nigerian embassies across the world. Follow the account to get in direct contact.
For the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Washington D.C click here.