22nd July 2021
The streets of Nigeria have recently been filled with the sight of banners in the air, the voices of thousands of protestors, and the sound of gunfire.
The EndSARS campaign is gathering momentum. It’s all over social media. Celebrities including Joe Biden, Beyonce and footballer Odion Ighalo are showing their support for the campaign and pressure is being put on our world leaders to intervene. But what is SARS, what are the protests all about and what can you do to help?
Demonstrations began in Lagos earlier this month after a video emerged of a man being shot at the hands of police group SARS. The government have cracked down on protests with extreme violence, with several shootings being reported by witnesses. Amnesty International are looking into ‘credible but disturbing evidence‘ of at least 12 fatalities and a number of injuries. The Nigerian military have dismissed such claims as ‘fake news’.
Nigeria’s ‘Special Anti Robbery Squad’, or SARS are a branch of the police force. Founded in 1992 to combat robbery and terrorism, the group have since built up a reputation for killings, beatings and the use of torture, illegal under Nigerian law.
The government have disbanded the group in response to the protests, and have asked demonstrators to clear the streets after fulfilling their demand. With a better track record, the Nigerian government might have been listened to, but protestors are used to a government who turn a blind eye. SARS have been broken up and renamed multiple times over the past few years, and it seems clear to protestors that the new group, the ‘Special Weapons and Tactics Team’ are simply a repackaged version of their brutal predecessors.
It is this distrust which so many Nigerians feel towards their government which is leading them to take to the streets. With soaring youth unemployment, poverty and a corrupt government with extensive powers to whom the Nigerian people don’t seem to matter, Nigeria’s so-called ‘democracy’ is failing its citizens, and they have had enough. What such a violent response to such a peaceful protest has highlighted is where the priorities of the government lie: in the protection of the regime, not the people.
‘They will keep killing if we don’t talk about this’, Ighalo says as he urges the UK government to stand against the brutality of the his government. Several petitions can be found online if you wish to show your solidarity with the Nigerian people.
End the violence, end the corruption, #EndSARS.