Nigeria protests over police brutality in the SARS police unit

Nigeria’s government disbands the notorious police unit (SARS) that has instigated social unrest with allegations of abuse of authority and extrajudicial killings.

The spate of protests was sparked by a string of online graphic footage where people shared their experiences at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). 

In a unique display of the Nigerian tech community championing for social justice, a popular #EndSARS Protest movement has exploded online.

Several companies even going ahead to donate money to the protests. As one of the country’s most socially conscious companies, Flutterwave the payment solution company internally raised over #2 million from staff.

The EndSARS Fund then went online raising over #25 million and is being disbursed by the Feminist Coalition. Other companies are Cowrywise, Piggyvest, Softcom, and Bundle Africa.

The movement has gained international traction prompting the attention of leading figures such as Marcus Rashford and British-Nigerian actor John Boyega known for his role in Star Wars. Most of the protestors throning the streets are the youth in their 20s and 30s who have never protested before but are expressing their previous encounters with the now-disbanded nefarious security force.

A statement by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari marked the disbandment of The Special Anti-Robbery Squad within the Nigerian Police Force with immediate effect. The country’s Inspector General Mohammed Adamu who initially dismissed any prospect of the unit being disbanded announced that the officers would be reassigned to other units. Opinions vary as to whether the dissolution of the new unit will bring an end to police brutality in the country.

The new wave of protests and agitation that have marked the Nigerian streets are being attributed has been attributed to the failure of social services, corruption, and a general mistrust of the police force.

Thus far two people have lost their lives in Lagos as the protests across the country reached a fever pitch. In a sign of new reform, 37 members of the disbanded Squad are lined for dismissal while 24 will be prosecuted. The recommendations were part of the report of the Presidential Panel focussed on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad set up in 2018 by the Federal Government.

A presidential panel had also investigated human rights allegations violations, abuse of office, and other allegations lodged against SARS and ended with a call for their restructuring. It also stressed the need to replace the unit members with professional and capable members of the disbanded outfit. He further gave a call for the government to fund its vital agencies while offering proper accommodation.

According to Amnesty International, ten people have lost their lives in the protests across Nigeria, where scores more are injured as rioters sparred with police. Security forces have had to resort to the use of tear gas, live ammunition, and the use of water cannons. Other solidarity protests took place in London, Toronto, and Washington. In response, the government has disbanded SARs and replacing them with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT). Given the death toll attributed to the protests, many believe that the heavy-handed policing is yet to go away.

Unique collaboration

No protest movement across Nigeria has ever enjoyed this level of coordination before. Diaspora communities have worked together to hold protests in Germany, the UK, and Canada. Most of the participants are volunteers who give their time and services. The protests have attracted emergency medical teams, legal practitioners offering their service pro bono, and mental health workers -  all available for the protests.

Other medical services on standby are physiotherapists and emergency ambulances. Businesses working in the catering sector are offering snacks, meals, and water to the protestors as part of their contribution to the social case. 

Ph: Santos Akhilele Aburime /