A new wave of anti-police brutality protests began in Nigeria in early October, where Nigerian youth took to the streets of major towns and cities across 21 states of the country, demonstrating to #endSARS. SARS or Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) ig a unit of the Nigerian Police Force that often operates anonymously in plain clothing.
Now, the protests are becoming increasingly violent, with Amnesty Internation reporting as of October 15, at least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured during the ongoing nationwide protests. This number grew when yesterday, October 21, witnesses in Lagos reported gunmen opened fire on a crowd of over 1,000 people who were reportedly kneeling in peace after a curfew was imposed to end the protests which have been growing in intensity. Amnesty International's Nigeria spokesman Isa Sanusi told AFP news that “People were killed at the (Lekki) tollgate by security forces,” in reference to the protest site, and has confirmed that the rights group is investigating how many people lost their lives.
Police brutality is happening all across the globe, and the oppression and disenfranchisement of citizens across Nigeria is no exception. Below, we're explaining why exactly the people of Nigeria are protesting to #endSARS, and what you can do to aid the fight.
What is SARS?
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was put into effect in 1992 and was responsible for gaining control of violent crime taking place in Lagos. The operation was created as a team of 15 who travelled in unmarked vehicles with officers not required to wear nametags or uniforms. According to the New York Times, SARS anonymity was reportedly a vital part of taking down the gangs in Lagos during this period.
Unfortunately, with anonymity is a lack of accountability, which left room for rogue officers to abuse, torture and even kill victims without being correctly identified and answering for their impunity. Amnesty International has reported that the organisation documented more than 82 cases of abuse and extrajudicial killings by SARS officers from January 2017 to this May. Alongside these reports are cases of innocent victims being targeted, terrorised and killed by SARS officers without any justice.
Why are people protesting?
Last week as the #endSARS protests gained recognition, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari made an announcement promising that the Nigerian government would dismantle SARS. Unfortunately, it would seem his announcement came too late, with the TIMES reporting "The outrage now is not just about police brutality alone—it’s a result of years of people being undermined by the system. The government has not acknowledged that grievance." writer and political analyst Gimba Kakanda wrote.
"The people have been waiting for a channel to let out what they are feeling. Now is an opportunity for them to protest police brutality and also express disappointment in a system that has never cared about them. There have been years of bad governance, nepotism, and widespread corruption, and the government has refused to acknowledge these concerns." Kakanda continued.
What can you do to help?
Share information across social media accounts from reputable sources. Be aware and sensitive to trigger warnings and graphic content, it is important to spread the message without causing excess trauma.
Image credit: @feminist.co