As America grapples with its criminal justice system, protests against police brutality have been underway in Nigeria. The main target of these protests had been the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS.
“From what I have read, SARS was originally created as a unit that would combat armed robbery as an anti-robbery squad in Nigeria in the 1990s,” said history teacher Victoria Flam. “One aspect of this group is that they would travel in plainclothes and unmarked vehicles which made them more successful in the beginning but now are a problem. As time went on there were many instances of abuse by SARS members including torture, kidnapping, violence and sexual assault.”
One instance that sparked protests occurred in early October, when SARS dragged two individuals out of a hotel in Lagos State and shot one of them. A video of this violence circulated on the media, prompting many to take a stand against SARS.
As a result of the consistent protests against SARS, the organization was disbanded on Oct. 11, 2020. However, the officers were reassigned to a different police force. Protesters were angered by what they believed to be a lack of true reform, and the movement has since expanded to tackle police brutality and oppression as a whole.
“I think that it is interesting to note (and this may be the history teacher in me) that Nigeria is a fairly new democracy,” continued Flam. “The country was ruled by the military until 1999. It was during that time that SARS was created. After 1999, Nigeria has been governed by a democracy which has many similarities to the US system. However, Nigeria is a fairly new democracy — and to see many protesting against injustice and change in the government is really interesting.”
Shortly after SARS was disbanded, on Oct. 20, 2020, the military shot at peaceful EndSARS protesters in an event now referred to as the Lekki Toll Gate massacre. Amnesty International stated that at least 12 people were killed, and hundreds were severely injured.
The struggle for democracy and justice is one being fought across the globe, and although protesters have seen some success, more reform is needed.
As students at Masuk have discovered, especially after the Black Lives Matter protests over these past few months, social media has an impact in terms of getting people’s attention.
“Some similarities have been drawn between the Endsars movement and BLM or police reform movement in the US. There are some similarities in that both movements are protesting what they view as violence and corruption. There is also the similarity that many young people are stepping forward to protest for change within their communities and social media has added another effective way to protest and bring attention to a cause,” added Flam.
Whether it be educating, fundraising or otherwise promoting causes, some motivated activists are able to raise awareness through the media. However, social media certainly does not have the power to eradicate injustice in totality.
“Only time will tell if they are able to maintain public pressure on the Nigerian Government to continue to make substantial change,” finished Flam.