For nearly two weeks, nationwide protests have ensued in Nigeria, after the killing of a young man by SARS, a unit of the police force known for its police brutality.
(Tobi Oshinnaike / Unsplash)
For resources on how to support the victim of SARS, please notice the list at the bottom of the article. If you would like to contribute to our list of resources, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Though police brutality has filled American headlines throughout this year, police force abuse is not exclusive to the US.
For nearly two weeks, nationwide protests have ensued in Nigeria, after the killing of a young man by SARS, a unit of the police force known for its police brutality, violence and abuse.
The protests became deadly on Tuesday, Oct. 20 when eyewitnesses said SARS officers fired at peaceful protesters gathered at Lekki toll gate in Lagos, killing several people.
Since then, the movement has garnered international attention. Here’s what you should know:
What is SARS?
SARS stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit within the Nigerian police force. It was designed to handle violent crimes such as theft, armed robbery, kidnapping and carjacking. However, this unit has been known to abuse their power by extorting young people and commit extrajudicial killings, torture, violent and unwarranted searches and bribery.
Police brutality in Nigeria is rooted in colonialism, and these colonialist structures are being protected and enforced by police and protecting the country’s ruling elite.
In a watchdog report from Amnesty International, SARS has been accused of human rights violations, such as the routine torturing and extorting of victims. A report from June documented 82 cases of murder, torture and extortion, sometimes even under the supervision of high-ranking officials. Amnesty also reported that no members of the unit have been prosecuted or face any consequences.
What is #EndSARS?
The #EndSARS movement was launched in 2017, and was originally formed to target the SARS and to call for improvement. Now, it is a broader call to change and reform police throughout the country.
Not all Nigerians disprove of SARS, though. In northeast Nigeria, SARS is seen as an effective force against the jihadist group Boko Haram, which is a fundamental Islamic group that rejects Western living that often uses terrorism.
Protesters are demanding reform and further protection from police, including independent oversight and better evaluations of officers. Protestors want accountability, and they want SARS officers to be investigated and prosecuted.
The #EndSARS protesters have started petitions for international sanctions against the Buhair’s administration.
What are the next steps?
Nigerian authorities have had a variety of responses on the #EndSARS movement. President Muhammadu Buhari agreed on a televised statement on Oct. 10 to disband SARS and commit to reforms, but has been silent since the broadcast. Some cabinet ministers and military officials have made statements that the politician of the protests are learning towards anarchy
A new unit has been created that will be trained under the international committee of the Red Cross. It is called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), and it is a team created to fill gaps left when police disbanded SARS on Oct. 11. However, many Nigerians want to disband SARS completely and for the government to enforce long term change.
The protests currently are also lacking centralized leadership, and the movement has been fracturing into different segments, such as focusing on police brutality or calling for a more fundamental change. The protests have also largely affected young adults and youth, politicizing and influencing how they feel about the future of the country’s leadership.
How you can help:
1. Stay informed
Knowledge is power. It’s hard to help a situation you don’t understand, and in the age of technology there’s no excuse for you to not be unaware.
2. Use your voice to amplify those in Nigeria
Share information on social media. American celebrities like Rihanna, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj have come out to publicly denounce SARS and its brutality. Regardless of how many followers you have, you have a platform to use to amplify Nigerian’s voices. Start conversations with your friends, family, roommates and loved ones, these conversations are the basis to instill change.
3. If you have the means to, donate
UF’s African Student Union is helping raise money through Cash App and Venmo to give food, water and legal aid to police brutality victims in Nigeria.
Cash App: $ASUFUNDRAISING
More resources can information can be found here
Michelle Holder is an Online and Print Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She is passionate about international affairs and travel. You can typically find her buried in a book or drinking expressos at local coffee shops. Contact her at email@example.com or find her on Twitter @michellecholder.