Disband Or Reform? #ENDSARSNOW
SARS is a unit in the Nigerian police force and stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Few people have pleasant things to say about SARS. "SARS is one of the Nigeria Police Force units that is saddled with the responsibility of fighting crime in the society; specifically, robbery and kidnapping. We examined the impact in two ways: positive and negative impact. From the positive point of view, SARS has reduced robbery and kidnapping to an extent, but unfortunately, people now use them as bodyguards to intimidate, suppress, and harass other people. From our findings, SARS tortures people mercilessly, extort, beat, kill, and jail people who are not forthcoming with their demands. We also discovered that most of them lack orientation on human relation, which is a big gap the Nigeria Police Force need to cover by re-orienting them." (Ogbette, Afamefuna & Idam, Macben & Olumide, Kareem. (2018). An Overview of the Impact of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria. Vol8. 180-187. 10.5296/ijhrs.v8i4.13846).
The officers of this widely feared police unit profiles young people largely based on how they dress, create illegal roadblocks stop and search, illegal arrests, rape women, shakedown Nigerian youths for money for driving luxury vehicles, using iPhones down, torturing, abusing and even killing those who resist. Amnesty International says it documented over 82 cases of abuse and extrajudicial killings by SARS officers from January 2017 to this May. Many of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 35.
While some claimed victory as the Nigerian Police Force announced it has dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad on Sunday, October 11, 2020, others noted they had made similar promises in recent years and the government planned to reassign SARS officers rather than eliminate them entirely. The government has claimed before that it planned to shut down the unit, but its officers are still on the streets. The government has continued to repress protests with lethal force despite the announcement.
With protests breaking out across Nigeria and in expatriate Nigerian communities around the world. Demonstrations in shows of solidarity have been held across the Nigerian diaspora in cities like Atlanta, Berlin, and London. In New York on Sunday, young protesters gathered in front of the Nigerian Consulate General in Midtown to share their own stories of police brutality while in Nigeria and to demand action from the Nigerian government.
Ms. Adams, a 25-year-old graduate student at Boston University, played a big role in organizing the event with other activists she met on Twitter. The #EndSARS hashtag on Twitter has grabbed global attention, resonating particularly in the United States and all across Nigeria. The Nigerian protests have been embraced by Nigerian celebrities like Davido, Timi Dakolo and also by top American stars like Cardi B Chance the Rapper, and many others.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise came a day after his government announced that it would disband the widely feared Police unit SARS. “The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms,” The president said in a televised statement, speaking out for the first time since protests started last week. “We also ensure that all we bring those responsible for misconduct to justice.”
The #ENDSARS protesters put together their demands articulately in the picture below:
2020 has been a very eventful year and still is, In the light of the end SARS movement, that picked up momentum on social media and is now going strong on Nigerian national television. When I got ready to write this article, I found that Nigerian youths are hell-bent on pressuring the government to disband SARS. I also found that a significant number of people apart from our law-makers prefer that this unit is reformed instead. What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment below. Stay blessed.