WHAT’S HAPPENING IN NIGERIA? #EndSARS

A demonstrator protests against Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos on October 17 [Temilade Adelaja/Reuters]
A demonstrator protests against SARS, Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Lagos on October 17 [Temilade Adelaja/Reuters]

The Nigeria Police was first established in 1820. Over a century later, the northern and southern police forces merged into the first national police force— the Nigeria Police Force. Later, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly known as SARS, was created in order to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes.

However, since their creation, SARS abuses its power through unlawful arresting, harassing, kidnapping, theft, murdering, raping, extorting the very citizens they should be protecting. They go about profiling youth with nicer cars and clothes or are in possession of an iPhone by assuming that they partake in fraud and engage in crime to get their nice things. They accuse these people of being “online fraudsters” or of cybercrime because they own electronics and then demand excessive bail fees to let them go. They have been known to stop people, go through their phone, and force them to withdraw money from the ATM while threatening to beat/kill them.

Philomena Celestine, 25, had experienced the brutality of SARS first hand. In 2018, she and her family had been travelling home from her university graduation ceremony when their car was pulled over by SARS officers who forced her two brothers out. She recalled, “My four-year-old niece was in the vehicle but they cocked their guns at our car and drove my brothers into the bush where they harassed them for over 30 minutes, and accused them of being cybercriminals. They could see my graduation gown but that did not deter them. My sister was trembling and crying in fear.”

Activists in Nigeria have been protesting to #EndSARS for a while now. Since 2017, protests have been building momentum across Nigeria. These protests have resulted in the Nigerian government announcing that it would disband the unit. But this is the fourth time it has said this, and the other three times had not been executed in a way sufficient enough to deem it better than before. Restrucutring the unit, changing its name, and redeploying its officers to other units is not engough. Reform must translate into accountability and justice.

An article from the site Aljazeera says:

“In 2006 and 2008, presidential committees proposed recommendations for reforming the Nigeria Police.

In 2009, the Nigerian minister of justice and attorney general of the federation convened a National Committee on Torture to examine allegations of torture and unlawful killings but made little headway. In October 2010, the then Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, allocated 71 billion naira ($196m) for police reforms.

In 2016, the inspector general of the Nigeria Police Force announced broad reforms to correct SARS units’ use of excessive force and failure to follow due process.”

The amount in cases of unlawful killings and police brutality are growing and yet, not a single SARS officer has been found responsible for torture, ill-treatment of detainees or unlawful killing.

To help #EndSARS

  • Learn about the situation and educate others about the situation in Nigeria
  • Use the hashtags #EndSARS (this hashtag had been created in 2017 and has since caused the government to reevaluate SARS multiple times)
  • Be an ally to your friends who might be experiencing turmoil because of the events going on in Nigeria, whether it be by protesting or just being there for them!
  • Be aware of the things happening in Nigeria!!

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