What is #EndSars: Holding Nigerian Officials to Account

Published on 23 October 2020 at 23:59

EndSars is a movement to terminate the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria. A few weeks ago, the Nigerian government made a statement that SARS is being dissolved. But Nigerians continue to protest for police force reforms on the streets and through various social media platforms.

What is Sars?

SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) was formed by the Nigerian government in 1992 to curb high crime rate in the country. Over the years, this police unit became very controversial. Many youths were arrested for wearing expensive clothes, using costly phones. Most of them would end up behind bars, get tortured, and sometimes even get killed. The EndSars movement started in 2017 when activists started demanding the dissolution of the Sars police unit, but nothing was done about the annulment. This year, Amnesty International said it recorded approximately eight- two cases of Sars abuses over the past three years, including beatings, hangings, mock executions, sexual assault, and waterboarding. A disturbing video that surfaced online in the early days of October sparked the current protests. The footage shows two officers dragging two men from a hotel and shooting one of them outside. After a few days of Nigerians protesting, the Nigerian police force announced it was dissolving Sars and fired two officers, leading to cheers on the streets. However, demonstrators rejected the force’s plan to employ members of the unit in other jobs. Protesters also demanded the trial of the officers who had abused power while working in the SARS unit. These reasons led to the continuation of protests.

The Lekki blood bath.

In the early evening hours of Tuesday this week, protesters at the Lekki toll gate said streetlights were turned off. The crowd was singing the National anthem when Nigerian security officers opened fire on them. "All I heard was bullets-left, right, and center, "said a 37-year-old man who recorded a live Instagram video at the scene. Twelve people were confirmed dead according to a tally by Amnesty international, and hundreds left wounded after the Lekki incident."CCTV cameras at the Lekki toll gate where EndSars protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and the electricity was cut, a clear attempt to hide evidence,” Amnesty said in a statement compiled from witness reports.

Reactions to End Sars Around the World

Celebrities such as Cardi B, Beyonce, Trevor Noah and Kanye West have used their fame for the cause by using the #endsars on their various social media platforms. In a statement this Wednesday, US democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also commented on the EndSars movement. He said, “The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking to end corruption in their democracy.” Attention to the movement skyrocketed after Tuesday night when protesters and human rights groups confirmed that Nigerian soldiers opened fire on a peaceful demonstration at Lekki.

Remarks from President Buhari

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said there would be sweeping reforms in Nigeria and urged citizens to be patient. The government said it would work with human rights groups to investigate atrocities of the past, telling people to come forward if they had ever endured hostilities at the hands of a Nigerian officer. However, many Nigerians seem to have lost confidence in their government.  Bulama Bukarti, a Nigerian lawyer in London who represents police brutality victims, was quoted saying, "Leaders have promised police reform four times in the last four years.” “People are tired of lip service.”

In a speech this week, Buhari blamed Nigeria's unrest on criminals who have misled the initial well-intended protest. He said nothing about the Lekki shootings. Buhari said," To our neighbors in particular and members of the international community, many of  whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position." This unrest comes when Nigeria is battling the corona pandemic just like the rest of the world, as well as the Boko Haram Insurgency, which has frustrated the nation over the past years.

Complaints about #EndSARS on social media.

EndSars supporters have complained about Instagram labeling their posts and videos about the SARS protests as false information. Many Nigerians have openly condemned Mark Zuckerberg for choosing the side of the brutal police officers. However, Instagram made a clarification about flagging posts as false this Thursday. The company said, “Yesterday our systems were incorrectly flagging content in support of #EndSARS and marking posts as false. We are deeply sorry for this. The issue has now been resolved, and we apologize for letting our community down in such a time of need.”

The Way Forward.

In the year that marks Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary, the Nigerian people are peacefully demanding a proper democracy with reforms, especially in the police sector, and these reforms should be delivered to them. As the famous philosopher, Hobbes said, the sovereign is supposed to protect the people. It should not be a source of conflict. People worldwide should stand with Nigeria, sign petitions to end police brutality and pray for Nigeria

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