The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigerian Police force has received tremendous backlash from aggrieved youths in the country through
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigerian Police force has received tremendous backlash from aggrieved youths in the country through the #EndSARS protest which started on twitter after a suspected fraudster was robbed of his SUV and killed by SARS officials in Ughelli, Delta State.
SARS which was setup in 1991 to counter criminal activities in the country following the atrocities of Shina Rambo, an infamous armed robber who terrorized the country has over the years become a nightmare not only to armed robbers but also to harmless Nigerian youths.
There has been cases of unjust treatments of youths who were profiled as criminals by SARS because of elements of their physical appearance like dreadlocks, piercings, tattoos, as well as indications of wealth like expensive cars, laptops, and iPhones. Many Nigerian youths and even young adults have complained about the involvement of SARS in kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, extortion, unlawful arrest and detention of innocent youths.
The #EndSARS social movement was first announced through twitter by Naira Marley, a Nigerian Singer but was later cancelled after the Nigerian Police Force made it known through their twitter account and an instagram live session with the singer that “the voices and complaints of the public on unprofessional conducts by some SARS operatives have been heard very loudly and clearly.”
However, on the 4th of October, various Nigerians came out to briefly protest and hear Aisha Yesufu address the injustice of the police force. On the 7th of October, Nigerian Rapper, Falz the bahd guy; Singer, Runtown, and other celebrities stepped out for the #EndSARS protest in Lagos State saying that they needed actions not empty words from the government. This major act was the beginning of the recognized protest. More celebrities like Banky W, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Aisha Yesufu, a socio-political activist showed maximum support for the protest both online and physically.
The #EndSARS protest soon became a movement that was taken very seriously by majority of the Nigerian population. For a while, it received crowd funding and financial support from flutterwave but this support was short lived after the Central Bank of Nigeria summoned the company based on allegations that it was sponsoring a terrorist movement in the country.
The shutdown of flutterwave did not prevent the protest from getting donations as another organization called the feminist coalition was able to raise over 31 million crowd fund to keep funding the protest, before its account was also blocked making it’s bitcoin account the other source of donations from well-wishers. As the protest gained more recognition home and abroad, more support through feeding, security, and medical care were made available to the peaceful protesters amidst the attacks they faced from the police force.
President Muhammadu Buhari eventually broke his silence and addressed the public through twitter, promising to bring erring SARS personnels to justice, he also appealed for patience and calmness from Nigerian youths in their protest. This online address was not accepted by youths who considered it a reflection of the President’s nonchalance about the welfare of his citizens who wanted actions and not promises.
The protest continued receiving acceptance within and outside the country. Wizkid, a Nigerian singer currently in America; Dice Ailes, a Canadian Celebrity; and Yungsix, a Rapper in Los Angeles all organized protests in their various locations to support #EndSARS which was now gradually transitioning into #EndPoliceBrutality movement.
Many dignitaries like Pastor Sam Adeyemi, Pastor E.A Adeboye, Apostle Suleiman, South African politician, Mmusi Maimane; Singer, Femi Kuti; Bishop T.D Jakes, Governor Jide Sanwoolu of Lagos State; Governor Wike of Rivers State and some other Governors spoke out to show their support.
International celebrities like American Rapper, Lil Baby; Singer, Trey Song; Rapper, Chance; Singer, Big Bagg, Sean Don, Estelle, Kanye West, Nasty CSA all lent their voices in the online protest. President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter, Zara Buhari; and Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo’s daughter, Kiki Osibanjo also spoke out in support of an end to police brutality.
Unfortunately, the Northern part of the country seemed to be excluded from the police brutality as youths in states like Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, and Zamfara rallied in support of SARS, leading to the emergence of another movement called #Pro-SARS, a movement which was short lived after receiving a lot of backlash from other youths who referred to Northern Nigeria as a home to illiterates in the country.
The intensity of the #EndSARS protest seemed to finally payoff as the Inspector general of police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the disbandment of SARS. He released a statement which indicated five actions that surrounded the dissolvment of the unit. According to him, “the unit was dissolved nationwide, SARS officials will be redeployed to other units, there will be a new policy arrangement to tackle armed robbery, there will be a citizen engagement forum and a team setup to investigate crimes against citizens.”
President Buhari also addressed the country through a recorded speech he read to the press, stating that “the disbandment of SARS was only the first step in their commitment to extensive police reforms”. The disbandment of the unit further led to the setup of a new police outfit, known as Special Weapon And Tactics Team, SWAT to fill in the gaps arising from the dissolution of the defunct SARS.
The news of the new police unit was met with agony as many youths complained that the government only carried out a change of name and SARS officials who were deployed to other units could still harrass harmless youths. This made them demand 5 actions from the government in order for the protest to end, which they called #5for5.
The suspicions of the people about the government not standing by their words were confirmed when few days after the announcement, some SARS officials were still seen operating on the road, harassing and shooting at peaceful protesters and even breaking into homes to arrest innocent youths.
As a result of these occurrences, the protest continued more intensely, with prayer walks and candle night services held in remembrance of all victims of police brutality. The founder of twitter, Jack also showed his support for the online protest by designing a special symbol for #EndSARS tweets.
However, the protest was becoming a discomfort to the working class and middle aged who lamented about the crass behavior of protesters blocking the roads and causing terrible traffics. Consequently, harmed thugs who many think were sent by the government were seen at the protest ground terrorizing and harassing peaceful protesters leading to more loss of lives and damaged properties.
The government has taken some actions to reform the police force. So far, there has been visitations and compensation of victims and families of police brutality, and the demotion and firing of guilty SARS officials like Abayomj Shogunle and Dolapo Badmus.
The most heart wrenching occurrence was the recent mass shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters at Lekki toll gate around 7pm, on the 20th of October. The shooting was done in a bid to disperse protesters who were violating the 4pm curfew the State Government had just put in place.
Nigerian youths are currently protesting until their 5 demands are met by the government. Despite the increasing violence these peaceful protesters have faced and are still facing in the hands of the Police force, they have remained resilient. There can only be hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel and the government will not continue to let its youths down.
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