By Sophie Guo & Lauren Goulette
What is SARS?
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was a branch of the Nigerian Police Force created in 1992 to deal with widespread armed robbery crimes. They intended to combat crimes such as motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, and abuse of firearms. However, the group quickly gained controversy as ties to extrajudicial killings, torture, and police brutality were made clear. In 2015, following the appointment of a new Inspector General of Police (IGP), attempts were made to address the corruption of SARS. As a result, the Complaint Response Unit (CRU) was established, and SARS was split into two separate units for organizational purposes. Nevertheless, these reforms failed to create significant change. According to Amnesty International, eight out of the nine police officers they interviewed were unaware of these reforms. The same trend occurred when Amnesty International researchers visited SARS units in Abuja and Enugu in the summer of 2016. The sheer negligence of these police authorities for policy statements has become increasingly worrisome. SARS’ purpose was to decrease dangerous measures in Nigeria—but instead, they abused their power and fueled terror throughout the country.
How has SARS affected Nigerian People?
Instead of protecting the people, SARS has harassed, murdered, tortured, profiled, kidnapped, unlawfully detained, and arrested citizens on the streets of Nigeria. The horror doesn’t stop there: there have been reports of unauthorized home invasion, rape, blackmail, extortion, and even pollution of bodies of waters from human remains being illegally disposed of. These issues have been covered up unlawfully. As Amnesty International stated in an October 21st report, SARS “makes a mockery of preventive anti-torture and assault laws.”
How has SARS responded to the protests?
On October 7, Nigerians began protesting on the streets of the West African country to abolish the SARS department. These protests lasted over a span of two weeks, eventually gaining nationwide attention. On October 20, a massacre took place at the Lekki Toll Gate where several peaceful demonstrators were shot in the streets by Nigerian Armed Forces. According to Amnesty International, Nigerian authorities allegedly removed nearby CCTV cameras and shut off electricity to the toll gate shortly before the shooting in an attempt to prevent the filming of evidence. Videos and live streams from the event display protestors sitting down with locked arms, singing the Nigerian anthem as they are shot ruthlessly. Seun Bakare, a program manager at Amnesty International, stated, “More than 50 people have been killed in different parts of the country since the protest started.” For several days, across the capital of Abuja, rapid and intermittent gunshots from protests could be heard in several other sectors of the city districts.
What should we take away from this?
SARS has been infiltrating innocent Nigerians for decades. People have gone to the streets to peacefully protest, met with violence and government faculty unresponsive to the SARS situation.
In December 2017, Segun Awosanya, a Nigerian realtor and human rights activist, sparked the advocacy campaign to demand a call for justice from the brutality and abuse of power formed by SARS. Many activists have been taking to social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter with the #EndSARS and #EndSWAT in Nigeria trending. By the middle of December 2017, Nigerian citizens took to the streets to peacefully protest in Abuja.
On October 11, the Nigerian Police Force announced they would be removing SARS in response to the protests of Nigerian people.
Despite this, there is still a major problem: police brutality in Nigeria disproportionately affects minors, those living above the poverty line, low-income groups, and LGBTQ+ communities. Queer individuals have been harassed, beaten, humiliated, and threatened for their identities. Situations like these are rarely reported or brought to light.
You can help. Through spreading awareness, amplifying voices, sharing resources, and donating to organizations, you can make a difference. Share what’s happening in Nigeria with your family, friends, and all those around you.
Resources And Ways To Help
Links & Resources Provided By: https://endsars.carrd.co/
Diasporans Against SARS: https://www.gofundme.com/f/4ppyfs-diasporans-against-sars
Assata Collective: https://www.instagram.com/p/CGU5vmAJCie/
EndSARS Response Unit: https://linktr.ee/endsarsresponseunit
Protest Safety Information: https://endsars.carrd.co/#protestinfo
Internet Safety: https://endsars.carrd.co/#internetsafety
Medical Help: https://twitter.com/endsarshealth
Police Brutality: https://policebrutality.formpl.us/form/1642896001
SARS Incidents: https://endsars.com/
SOCIAL MEDIA TO FOLLOW
Biafra Digest TV
Sophie Guo is a high school senior and writer living in Bedford, New York. She is highly passionate about journalism, communications, and social activism. She currently serves as a Debate Agent for the Northeast State of Junior State of America (JSA), and she is a Board Member for various other youth organizations. Through Zenerations, she hopes to spread awareness on various societal issues and build a platform where everyone can feel loved and accepted.
My name is Lauren Goulette and I am a 15-year old high school sophomore from the Minneapolis area. I like to write poetry, paint, and do all kinds of creative things. By using my voice, I intend on spreading information through poetry and writing. I’m a member of my school’s Student Council and an ambassador for Her Coalition’s student OFOC organization.