Ayyyeee…What’s Goodie Everyone so I have a lot of tea on this particular subject and it’s all about Nigeria and what is going on over there.
Thousands of Nigerians have been demonstrating for weeks against a notoriously brutal and corrupt police agency, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a show of popular anger, fueled by longstanding grievances over corruption and lack of accountability, that posed the biggest challenge to the government in Nigeria.
The demonstrations took a deadly turn as soldiers fired on crowds of protesters, inflaming Nigerians who were already concerned about police use of violence against the demonstrators.
Here is the basics of what is behind the protests and what they could mean for Nigeria, which at 206 million people is Africa’s most populous nation, is the epicenter of the continent’s economic, political and cultural trends.
What is SARS???
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad was created in 1984 in response to an epidemic of violent crime including robberies, carjackings and kidnappings. While it was credited with having reduced brazen lawlessness in its initial years, the police unit was later accused of evolving into the same problem it had been designed to stop; a criminal enterprise that acts with impunity.
In June, Amnesty International issued a report that it said had documented at least 82 cases of torture, bad treatment and extrajudicial executions by SARS officers between January 2017 and May 2020. The victims, Amnesty said, were predominantly men aged 18 to 25, from low income backgrounds and vulnerable groups. The Nigerian government’s failure to address this problem, Amnesty said, showed “an absolute disregard for international human rights laws and standards.”
The critics include Fulani Kwajafa, the former police commissioner who founded SARS. In an interview with the BBC, he disavowed what it had become, saying the unit had been “turned into banditry.”
Why did anti-SARS protest break out???
It all started with an October 3rd video that appeared to show the unprovoked killing of a man by black clad SARS officers in Ughelli, a town in southern Delta state. Nigerian officials said the video, which was widely shared over social media, was fake and arrested the person who took it inciting even more anger.
Demonstrations erupted in Lagos, the nation’s biggest city, and elsewhere around the country, driven by calls from people many of them young demanding that the government dismantle SARS.
The decentralized movement has coalesced on social media, where people are using the hashtag #EndSARS and sharing images of police brutality. The hashtag has spread internationally, with prominent actors and sports figures from across Africa to Europe and the United States sharing the posts.
What is the government doing to address the issues pertaining to SARS and the protest???
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, noticing that the protests were serious and spreading, agreed on October 12 to disband SARS, calling his decision “only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reform in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people.”
But the response did not sit well with protesters especially after Mr. Buhari’s subordinates said SARS officers would be redeployed elsewhere in Nigeria’s police system. People who have been demanding that officers be fired and that the most brutal among them be prosecuted say that the government’s is an attempt to paper over a problem, not to fix it.
Clashes between protesters and the police have grown increasingly violent as of recently.
The anger of the protesters have only increased especially after the deadly suppression of a peaceful demonstration in Lagos on Tuesday, compounded by a 24 hour curfew decree and the deployment of Nigeria’s military forces to stop further demonstrations.
The powerful role in the protests played by young Nigerians and their use of social media to share grievances could turn the movement into a much broader crisis for the government. Half the country’s population is under the age of 19.
The movement is absolutely similar to demonstrations in the United States this year amid the outcry over police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But there are important difference to note. That the Nigerian protesters are not demanding a defunding of the police if anything, he said, they want more resources devoted to helping improve policing in their country.
Police brutality isn’t the only issue fueling the anti government sentiment. Nigeria’s stagnant economy, which relies heavily on oil exports that were crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, has become a major issue.
Anger over suspected misuse of government funds during the pandemic has also become an element of popular anger. In one case that received widespread publicity, the Bureau of Public Procurement data showed the Health Ministry had spent $96,000 on 1,808 ordinary face masks about $53 each.
Complaints about government corruption are a longstanding grievance. The country is regarded as highly vulnerable to corruption, ranking in the bottom fourth of an annual 180 country best to worst list by Transparency International.