It is time for change and Nigerians have come together to demand it. This time we are standing together to protest against SARS. That is the ‘’Special Anti-robbery Squad’’.
SARS is a unit of the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department in Nigeria. When it was enacted by Mr. Fulani Kwajafa in 1984, his intention was to ensure ‘‘No incident with members of the public.’’ To elaborate, the official purpose of the agency was to investigate, detain, and prosecute crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, and other serious crimes.
However, today in 2020, SARS has adopted a rather merciless mantra against the public. The agency has been accused of heinous crimes against members of the public and the list of their victims is just as long as the crimes they have committed. This includes; murder, rape, extortion, police brutality, kidnapping, torture, extrajudicial killings, and more unutterable acts too grim to mention.
What differentiates these officers from general police officers is the fact that they can disguise as civilians, consequently, they do not need to wear a uniform that identifies their role, and they can drive unlicensed cars for their duties. Many argue that this makes it easier for them to abuse their power, and intimidate citizens without any consequences.
SARS agents tend to target the youth population. In 2009 many complaints by students in Nigerian universities complained publicly that are targeted for their full beards, dreadlocks, fashionable garments, or gadgets that SARS often associated with the perpetrators of cultism and internet fraud. Over time, the number of SARS operatives kept growing, their prejudices against Nigerian youths became more glaring, and they felt the impact. There were reports of SARS officials forcibly extorting N200,000 ( approximately $500 ) and more from civilians, or they physically abuse youths at night.
All you have to do is type in ‘#EndSars’ online and thousands of stories from victims both young and old, private citizens and the retired will crop up, many of which detailing harrowing experiences from their encounters with SARS and never getting the justice they deserve.
Some would ascertain that this is the “#EndSars” movement which started online which has now evolved to physical demonstrations is so important, because everyone has a story or knows someone with a SARS story. It seems like it is an evil in the society that people have always known about for years before the invention of social media, yet they could not fight it.
But with the birth of social media means the atrocities committed by SARS in the dark have been brought to light.
Now we fight…
Nigerian youths have decided they will not take the oppression of SARS anymore. In the most populous country in Africa, millions of Nigerian youths have poured out to demand for systemic reforms. Without pinpointing the main leader or an oracle of this movement, Nigerian youths have simultaneously coordinated protests in Lagos, Jos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu, Anambra, Canada, New York, Paris, London, and more locations in the world. Notably, in the conscious spirit of demanding for their human rights, the world has witnessed Nigerian youths from all over the world come together to sustain this fight against the oppressor. In a decentralized structure they; fundraise for food for on-ground protesters, deploy medical personnel, conduct legal aid for arrested protesters, donate funds for the families of victims of SARS, launched a media house to disseminate information about ‘END SARS’, even provided phone charging points and lavatories on protest grounds. One particular group – Feminist Coalition ( @feminist_co on Twitter) has been praised online for its effectiveness and transparency in raising money and deploying the funds to necessary protest groups in Nigeria in the past week.
Nigerian youths all over the world are protesting against SARS and demanding the Nigerian government to make executive orders to stop SARS operations. Yet, after 11 days into these protests, Nigerian youths have still not had ALL their demands met by the Nigerian Government. So what do they do? They continue to protest.
Some of their demands include;
1.) Immediate release of arrested protesters.
2.) Justice and compensation for families of victims.
3.) Independent body to oversee the prosecution of officers ( within ten days).
4.) A State of the Nation address by the President of Nigeria.
5.) Immediate suspension of all officers indicted in various panels whilst prosecution commences.
The story is still being written, but we aim to tell it as truthfully as possible so history may be kind to us when it’s told to future generations.
We honor the lives of those that have been lost during this fight to End Sars and we hope their deaths will not be in vain.
To support the movement from anywhere in the world: educate yourself on the movement, retweet/share the hashtag and content online and donate to reliable sources sustaining the movement.
Written by Ife Sarumi and Philip Oke.