Earlier this year, we saw the global movement that began from the US over the racial killing of George Floyd and many others. #BlackLiveMatter flooded social media and people everywhere joined the movement screaming for an end to social and racial injustice against Black people.
Who would have thought that the next global hashtag would come from Nigeria, with Nigerians calling for an end to police brutality, extortion and murder of Nigerian citizens by the SARS Police unit made of people who look just like them?
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a branch of the Nigeria Police Force under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) founded in 1992 by former police commissioner Simeon Danladi Midenda. This special unit was created with the best of intentions to protect Nigerians from highway robbers and kidnappers. Their mandate was to deal with crimes associated with armed robbery, car snatching, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and crimes associated with firearms.
However SARS over the years, have grown to become the worst nightmare of Nigerians especially the youth because of their incessant, unfounded and illegal arrests, imprisonments and even killings of Nigerians without probable cause.
One may argue that it’s not possible for officers tasked with the duty to protect the people to be the ones killing them. “These people killed must have committed some hard crimes” you may be thinking right now. Well, here’s a tiny list of the many victims who have been killed by the SARS:
- Tiamiyu Kazeem was a footballer
- Chijioke Iloanya was attending a child dedication
- Ifeoma Abugu was planning her wedding
- Kolade Johnson was watching football at a viewing center
- Anita Akapson just returned from studies abroad
- Linda Igwetu was a Nigerian Youth Corps member
- Haruna was a 21-year old final years student at Edo state University Ekpoma, he was visiting a friend’s hostel at school when SARS raided the hotel and killed him.
These victims are just a handful of the people killed by SARS. Several victims who lived to share their ordeals have narrated how they were extorted, beaten and maltreated to no end. Their ATM cards were taken, bank pins collected forcefully and cash withdrawn with no one held accountable.
These happenings have brought so much pain and anguish to so many Nigerian families who have in one way or the other (directly or indirectly) been victims of highly corrupt policing that has lost its purpose.
Over the years, the activities of the trigger-happy law enforcement agents have gone unchecked, but in recent years, with thousands of video proofs, mouth to mouth recounts and social media postings of these illegal activities, a social movement began on the “streets of Nigerian twitter” to abolish SARS. Not ban or reform, but a total abolishment.
On Thursday 8th October 2020, nationwide protests on #EndSARS began after recent killings. These protests were led predominantly by young Nigerians in different cities with activists and celebrities joining in across the country and also in diaspora. Frontliners include activist Segun Awosanya (segalink), Debo Adebayo (Mr Macaroni), Folarin Falana (Falz) and many others.
Foreign celebrities including Trey Songz, Chance The Rapper, Estelle, City Girls, and many more have come out to lend their voices to the cause. The international media have also stepped in to fill the void left by the Nigerian mainstream media who have failed to rise up to the occasion and give the protests the major coverage it deserves.
In all of these, it’s been silence and apathy from the Nigerian government save for a flurry of late tweets posted on President Muhammadu Buhari’s Twitter page at night, Friday 9th of October stating that he “met again with the IGP tonight. Our determination to reform the police should never be in doubt. I am being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the Police are fully accountable to the people.”
Nigerians wasted no time in expressing their displeasure at the president’s remarks and seeming lack of care and willingness to scrap the SARS unit.
At an Owode End SARS protest in Ogbomoso Saturday, a young protester was shot at by the Police and this was caught on an Instagram Live video. There are unconfirmed reports that one person has died with another severely injured from the Ogbomoso protest, with police shootings being reported at other protests across the country.
Who do you report to when the Police officers meant to protect you are the ones robbing, extorting, harassing and killing you? Where will this all take the Nigerian people? How will these current protests end? Will Pres. Buhari do what is right or will he keep pushing the “reform SARS” rhetoric that his administration has been pushing for years without results?
This is no longer business as usual. The world is now watching and we use this medium to call on the Nigerian government to do right by the people they’ve been called to SERVE. It’s never too late to do what is right.
Written by the Editorial team. Glazia stands in solidarity with the Nigerian people in the call to #EndSARS and police brutality. We ask that all infringing police officers be brought to face the full brunt of the law.
PHOTO CREDIT – Twitter.