Nigerian protesters refuse to disband their protests against police brutality. The activists and campaigners have marched daily for a week demanding true action against a system that produces corrupt and violent officers. Anit-police brutality protests have continued to persist despite authorities agreeing to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The specialized police unit has a history of perpetrating violence against the very people it was created to protect. SARS has been accused of torture, robbery, kidnapping, extrajudicial murder, extortion, and other crimes.
What Was The Catalyst For The Protests?
The protests began after the alleged murder of a young man at the hands of SARS officers in early October. The after disbanding the SARS unit, a new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team was created. Renaming units does not equate to police reform. Nigerian police officers are underpaid, corruption is often encouraged, and there are no resources or power allocated to any steps toward real systemic change.
President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the dissolution of SARS is “only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reform.” Hopefully, these words will be followed by actions as rampant police corruption and brutality has plagued the country for decades.
Why Are Citizens Still Protesting?
Citizens are still protesting because this is not the first time a police unit has been accused of acting as a government-backed violent criminal organization. Previous units similar to SARS have been disbanded in the past. The problem seems to be systemic, and not the isolated group of bad actors like the government wishes to portray to the world.
The Nigerian government has stated that it will free protestors who have been detained. At the same time, 10 people have already died at the hands of police while protesting. If the Nigerian army steps in to quell the protests, the violence could increase exponentially.
Gaining Attention Around The World
Kanye West, Trey Songz, John Boyega are among the growing number of celebrities around the world who have begun to speak out against the police brutality in Nigeria. The hashtag being used is #EndSARS and can be seen on every large social media platform. Since the government has appeared to lack the political conviction necessary to force systemic change, it is likely to continue to be an evolving story about injustice and brutality.