What is #EndSARS about and How Can You Help?
Published October 16, 2020. Last update October 23, 2020.
Nigerians have taken to the streets and social media in an effort to put an end to police brutality perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), to get justice for the victims of police brutality, and to demand police reform.
What is SARS?
SARS is a controversial police unit that has been held responsible for gross human rights violations. Amnesty International documented at least 82 cases of torture, extrajudicial killings, extortion and rape by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. Most of the victims are male youth from low-income backgrounds between the ages of 18-35.
Amnesty International also reports that SARS has subjected victims held in custody to “mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions and sexual violence.” All this despite the fact that Nigeria criminalized torture in 2017. Worse yet, such cases are rarely investigated and no SARS officers have been convicted for those reported.
What is #EndSARS About?
The impetus for the #EndSARS movement was a video of officers allegedly killing a man that went viral and soon after, the hashtag #EndSARS appeared on social media, and protests in the streets followed. As of October 13, 2020, Amnesty International reported that Nigerian police have killed 10 people since the protests began.
President Muhammadu Buhari's Response to #EndSARS
In response to the global outcry against the police brutality, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, announced on October 11, 2020 that SARS will be disbanded, but people are not buying it given the government announced that a new unit, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), will be established to replace SARS, as well as the fact that the government reported that SARS officers would be redeployed to other units.
Nigerians want real action and far-reaching reforms that will put an end to human rights violations perpetrated by the Nigerian police. Help Nigerians get justice and put an end to police brutality.
How can you help?
Educate yourself on the movement- there are tons of articles and discussions online that will give more insight into the #EndSARS movement, some of which are linked in this article. Read up and learn what is going on.
Amplify Nigerian voices- share this article to raise awareness of the issue.
Sign a petition- there are a number of petitions going around that aim to get justice for SARS' victims and that demand police reform. We signed one calling for "for the visa restrictions of all Nigerian public office holders and high ranking police officers as well as a suspension of funding by US government agencies for police reforms if these indiscriminate acts are not addressed."
Check on your Nigerian friends- let them know they are not alone in their fight for justice.
Peaceful #EndSARS Protests Get Bloody
According to Amnesty International, between October 8 and October 21, 2020 "at least 56 people have died across the country since the protest began, with about 38 killed on Tuesday [October 20, 2020] alone. Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters. In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests."
The President's Crackdown on #EndSARS
On Thursday October 22, 2020 President Buhari addressed the nation and demanded that the protests stop, instead urging the people to work with the government "in finding solutions". He added, “For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated." The president however did not mention the bloody Tuedsay protests which resulted on global criticsm, including from the United Nations.
Response to Crackdown on #EndSARS
In response, the Feminist Coalition, a not-for-profit organization that has been at the forefront of the #EndSARS movement, urged people to stay home and observe the curfews in their respective sates. In a statement posted on Twitter, the coalition said it condemned "every form" of violence that had occurred, saying that young Nigerians "need to stay alive to pursue our dreams... Our priority is always the welfare and safety on the Nigerian youth." It added: "Following the president's address, we hereby encourage all young Nigerians to stay safe, stay home, and obey mandated curfew in your state." In the same statement the group also announced that they would no longer be accepting donations, to the dismay of many Nigerians who felt that the statement was a sign that the movement was over. Yet still, many thanked the coalition for their contributions to the the campaign.
What did EndSARS Achieve?
On the surface, it appears that most of the five demands of the movement have been met: some protesters have been released from police custody, the government has set up panels to investigate allegations of police brutality, the president announced new salaries for police and medical and psychological assessments of police moving forward and SARS has been disbanded. Only time will tell if these commitments will result in the real change Nigerians seek.
Also important to note is that little traction has been gained in getting justice for victims of police brutality and their families, the government appears to still have plans to replace SARS with SWAT, and SARS police may still be deployed to other police units.
Perhaps some of the most significant outcomes of the #EndSARS movement is the political awakening of Nigerians at home and abroad and the global support they rallied, which has given the government a run for their money. Nigeria's government will certainly have to tread carefully moving forward.
More Ways to Help
The protests have drastically subsided but there are still ways you can support Nigerians' efforts to end police brutality, get justice for SARS victims and acheive police reform:
5. Email President Muhammadu Buhari and Attorney General Abubakar Malami to demand the reform of the police in Nigeria and the prosecution of police officers accused of police brutality and violence. Amnesty international has made it so that it takes less than a minute for you to do so here.
6. Donate to Diasporans Against SARS, a fund created by Nigerians living outside the country to support to the fight against SARS and catalyze change. Donations go to fund grassroots organizations, medical supplies for protesters and organizations that are helping activists. They are also sharing records of of they are disbursing the donations on their Instagram page.
7. Donate to Assata Collective, a fund for queer Nigerians who have been impacted by SARS and the protests. They too are trying to be transparent about where donations go without putting recipients at risk.