We are Nigerian students schooling in a lesser known part of the world called the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC). For those who have never visited, it is one of two states on the island of Cyprus, located in the Eastern Mediterranean, but for us it is our second home.
If you have been following the news, you might have heard Nigeria mentioned a few times recently, or saw a tweet from Nigeria pop up on your feed across social media and wondered what all the fuss was about. Or perhaps you haven’t heard anything yet.
What is going on in Nigeria?
Over the last week, young Nigerians all over the country and across the diaspora have come out to peacefully protest in their thousands, demanding an end to police brutality and the disbandment of SARS.
A brief background on SARS
SARS stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It is a unit of the Nigerian police force designed to handle violent crimes like kidnapping, armed robbery and theft. However, for years, SARS officers have been abusing their power, harassing civilians and extorting everyday Nigerians with impunity.
Over 92% of Nigerians between the ages of 18- 35 have had at least one negative encounter with SARS officers.
SARS abuses include:
- – Arbitrary and unlawful harassment, arrests or detention. For example, a young lady was harassed for simply having menstrual pads in her handbag.
- – Violent and unwarranted searches. This can include demanding phone passwords, and seeking access to personal, medical and other confidential information from Nigerian citizens, often at gunpoint.
- – Operating in unmarked cars and not wearing uniforms, making it difficult to identify who they are.
- – Arbitrarily targeting young Nigerians between the ages of 18- 35 who use smartphones, laptops, own or who drive a car, dress well, and who have tattoos, dreadlocks or piercings. Basically, all you need to be profiled by SARS as a criminal is to be seen with a smartphone.
- – Extortion, bribery and exorbitant bail fees, even though the Nigerian Constitution declares that bail is free. Not even foreigners and investors coming to Nigeria on business are insulated from this.
- – Sexual violence and assault. A recent well-known example occurred when SARS officials raided a nightclub and arrested all the ladies on account of “indecent dressing’ and then proceeded to rape them while demanded bribes to process their release at the same time.
- – Abductions and torture.
- – Extrajudicial killings.
- – There are examples of these abuses via clips from this Google link (Warning: graphic content).
Here is website keeping a running log of what is happening in Nigeria and the harassment the protesters are facing.
What is the #EndSars/ #SarsMustGo Movement?
Launched in 2017, the #EndSars/ #SarsMustGo Movement is a call to disband the SARS police unit due to its many abuses of power and lack of accountability.
On Sunday, 11 October 2020, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, Nigeria’s Head of Police, released a statement claiming they were dissolving SARS as a unit. So why haven’t the protests ended?
First, this is nothing new. In 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019 the same announcements were made, and nothing changed. These officials remained on the road, and continued to rape, beat, kidnap and steal from young Nigerians.
Second, there is to be no reckoning according to the plans this administration has. All former SARS officials will be redeployed to other existing departments. That is a gross insult to the very many Nigerians who have died at the hands of these criminals.
We demand a public inquiry, investigation and hearing into every death, and every act of brutality. If the police cannot hold itself to account, it does not deserve public trust and funding.
Thirdly, PEACEFUL protesters across the country have been brutalised by the police; arrested, tear-gassed, sprayed with water cannons, and beaten. Over 10 young Nigerians have lost their lives. Our protest has both been peaceful and respectful, and well within our constitutional rights.
We are not criminals. We are not hooligans. We are Nigerians who are FED UP and have decided we will do something about it. We inherited a broken system, but we want better for the generation after us.
Young people know that SARS is the rotten fruit of a diseased tree. We want restitution, changes in recruitment and robust reform. It is imperative there are transparent investigations into crimes committed by police officials.
We also want a psychological evaluation and retraining, by an independent body, of all disbanded SARS officers before they are redeployed.
We want an increase in police officers’ salaries, so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and properties of citizens.
How can you help?
1) Sign the petition alongside over 94,000 people to end SARS
2) Amplify the voices of over 200 million Nigerians in Nigeria and across the diaspora by retweeting, reposting and sharing this article with your friends to do the same.
3) Sign the petition to have the Nigerian Police Chief Mohammed Abubakar Adamu arrested by the International Criminal Court for Crimes Against Humanity. Over 160,000 people have already signed
4) Donate to the cause and fund the protests in Nigeria: https://donatebtc.feministcoalition2020.com/
Over NGN 12,316,800 ($24,600 approx.) has been raised to support at least 47 protests across Nigeria. We have had to swap to Bitcoin to prevent the authorities from stopping our funding.
5) Nigeria is part of the Commonwealth, so we are asking the British Parliament to raise the issue of police brutality in Nigeria, and specifically the deaths of innocent Nigerians and Commonwealth citizens at the hands of SARS officers. It is important and right for the House of Commons to spotlight such abuses. Please share this article with a British MP.
Thank you for your support and I send you my highest regards.
#ENDSARS #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #REFORMTHEPOLICE
#SARSMustEnd #EndSARS #EndPoliceBrutality
Main image, top, is adapted from an iconic photograph of activist Aisha Yesufu protesting to #End SARS in Abuja, Nigeria, 10 October 2020. The photographer’s identity is currently unknown.