SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) are a special unit within the Nigerian police force.
SARS’ duty was meant to be the protection of Nigerian citizens, given their creation was intended to combat armed robbery. They have instead been attacking, torturing and bullying innocent civilians. These threats have been particularly prolific towards the Nigerian youth, many of whom are profiled for having simple non-conventional luxuries. These include possessions such as nice clothes and cars, iPhones, tattoos and dreadlocks, SARS falsely assuming that such are the result of partaking in fraudulent crime.
Horror stories of SARS’ treatment involve youths being stopped by the unit for no good reason, having their phones rifled through, and (ironically) being forced to withdraw cash from ATMs whilst being threatened with beatings, or even death. A recent Amnesty International report documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial execution committed by SARS over the past three and a half years, and stated that the Nigerian authorities have failed to prosecute a single officer for any such crime. This police unit, backed by the Nigerian government, is literally committing the crimes they were designed to help prevent. President Buhari has come under particular criticism for his lack of action with regards to SARS. Some find this of little surprise, however, given his previous labelling of the Nigerian youth as “lazy“, and his preference of a conservative conventional Nigerian lifestyle for civilians.
In early October, Nigerian youth protests against SARS began to gather significant momentum, despite violent pushback from SARS. Many Nigerian artists have also been seen to take part in the protests, namely Wizkid, Davido, Runtown, Burna Boy, Don Jazzy and Falz.
END SARS!!!!! WE NO WANT AGAIN!!! pic.twitter.com/z3jnrnH56l
— Davido (@davido) October 10, 2020
As a result of these protests, alongside global outcry regarding this blatant police brutality, the SARS unit has since been officially dissolved by President Buhari. This does not mean the end of police brutality in Nigeria by any means, however. It is largely understood that the officers that belonged within SARS will simply be redistributed and reemployed within other forces, and continue their violent ways there. These officers are responsible for a number of atrocities, and as such many are calling for them not to be reemployed, and to be held accountable for their past crimes against Nigerian civilians.
— Wizkid (@wizkidayo) October 11, 2020
What can I do to help?
Whilst SARS has been disbanded, it is important that we continue to show our support for the Nigerian youth and civilians, who still remain in danger under the current governance operating in Nigeria. Police brutality within the Nigerian force shall inevitably continue unless significant reform occurs. Make your stance of strength and support known, and continue to push media attention towards this injustice by using #ENDSARS #ENDSWAT #NewNigeria.