Protesting In Nigeria Against the Police Brutality of SARS
By: Kylie Hapuarachchi
Since 1984, SARS has been controlling much of Nigeria, and using their power to take advantage of the people. After years of abuse, a movement led by the youth of Nigeria has come forward to call to the injustices they have faced.
When SARS, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, was first implemented it was to help with the constant robberies, kidnappings, and carjackings that were occuring. In the more recent years SARS has been notorious for consisting of reckless officers that are not held accountable for their actions.
Amnesty International has documented that SARS has been connected with 82 tortures or ill treatment of some kind. Their victims consist of men from ages 18-25 that come from low-income backgrounds.
With the Nigerian government barely acknowledging the claims of Amnesty International, it has been concurred that the government has no care for the human rights of their country.
In the recent year there have been more outbursts of youth-led protests because of a video of an unarmed, unprovoking black man that was murdered by SARS officials. The person who took the video was arrested because Nigerian officials claimed it was fake.
The arrest of this man resulted in an uproar of anger, inciting protests on October 8 in Lagos State, Nigeria. The protestors were met with aggression as officials used tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds.
Citizens of Nigeria were protecting themselves so that they could take their human rights back, which were stolen by SARS. The citizens wanted to feel safe in a community where the police were supposed to be there to protect and not harm.
After 3 days of constant protests the government announced that they would disband SARS. However, they had mentioned that the members of this notorious section would be distributed amongst the other divisions upon psychological evaluations. SARS would no longer be called Special Anti-Robbery Squad but become a new division known as, Special Weapons and Tactical Team.
There was no word about the crimes the officers had committed and there were no repercussions for their ruthless acts according to the government.
On October 20 2020, Nigerian Army vehicles left Bonny Camp, a military base that is approximately seven minutes away from the toll gate. When the vehicles arrived at the Lekki Toll Gate, the officers fired rounds at the peaceful protestors of the #EndSARS movement.
Prior to the massacre, all electricity had been shut off and the CCTV cameras had been dismantled. After the dust settled, at least 39 people were killed and a hundred or so were injured.
The government is trying to understand what had happened the night of the massacre, as do most citizens. Questions emerged: Who gave the orders to aggressively attack peaceful protestors? Why was the electricity cut off minutes prior to the killings? Why were the CCTV cameras dismantled at the site of the killings?
It has been stated that many people are still missing from that day and that many died due to the fact that the military had blocked any ambulance to get to the wounded. This day of fighting for simple human rights led to a death of innocent people that wanted change.
Nigerian officials tried to cover up what had happened that night. Without evidence it is all hearsay, which is why they could have done all the things to hide the events of that night. One thing that was not considered was the evidence from the protestors themselves.
Amnesty International has been watching the protests and has seen the footage recorded by protesters from the night of the massacre. They understand that an injustice has occurred far greater than thought to be.
Citizens are pleading with the government to allow them to protest and understand the brutality of their police force. They want them to hold their officers accountable for their actions of harm and murder.
Nigerian civilians want to live in harmony, to continue their lives knowing that they have the right to live, and that this right will not be taken away by power-hungry officials.