Working Hard or Hardly Working? The Failure of Nigeria’s SARS Police Force
By: Sara Adus
Thousands of young people filed into the streets of Lagos, Nigeria to protest police brutality. For the international community, Nigeria’s long-standing conflicts are nothing new. The country has been ravaged by political and systematic corruption for decades. As a new generation of Nigerian hopefuls emerges, necessary changes are being demanded, specifically the end of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad(SARS).
The creation of the unit was in hopes of addressing the spike in kidnappings and robberies in 1992. Under Deputy Inspector of Police, Anthony Ogbizi, it was meant to be a branch of Nigeria’s already established Criminal Intelligence Department. In the nearly thirty years since its introduction, the specialized group has been accused of extortion, blackmail, and torture. This has caused an overwhelming number of citizens to question its effectiveness and true intentions.
Following the killing of a young man by members of the special unit, the country erupted. On October 8th, 2020, nationwide protests began in response to allegations of police brutality. Young people took to the streets to demand the disbandment of the collective and an official inquiry into accusations. Many of these accusations are from young men who report being frequently targeted. Men 16-24 make up the largest demographic of those imprisoned by the squad and are at the forefront of the movement. They alleged that the unit’s efforts to combat robbery have instead profiled workers and nearly anyone with newer technology.
Amidst the chaos, the protests have gained a significant following and earned the hashtag, #endSARS. Numerous celebrities and organizations have condemned the ongoing police brutality in support of protestors. After just over a week under pressure, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and promised significant changes to policing. Part of which includes his creation of a new sector of specialized police, a Special Weapons and Tactics team. This decision has incited more protests as many believe it would only fill the role and continue the cycle of violence.
The skepticism of young people has maintained the movement and fueled the protests despite the government’s efforts to rectify the situation. While the government reports have agreed with the protestors, at least ten people have been killed by police at protests. Video evidence and autopsies have surfaced confirming that live ammunition, tear gas, and water cannons have been used by police. Nevertheless, many are willing to risk their lives because the safety of the Nigerian public is dependent on real reformative actions by the government.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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