Nigeria: #EndSARS movement avoids pitfalls of ‘leadership’
Five days after Nigeria celebrated its 60th independence anniversary, an event that is shaping up to be the biggest since Nigeria returned to democracy hit the scene: a leaderless protest against police brutality galvanised by mostly gen Z (youth in their 20s) and a feminist coalition.
The police in question are members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS for short. The squad was set up in 1992 as a way to push-back a rise in violent crime. But over the years, the unit has been accused of becoming the very groups it was meant to stop.
SARS has long been on the radar of civilians and NGOs for its mistreatment of the very people it’s meant to be protecting.
In June this year, Amnesty International released a report entitled Time to end Impunity that listed 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by the unit between January 2017 and May 2020.
The protest has since spread to at least a third of the nation’s states including the commercial hub of Lagos, the nation’s capital of Abuja and the oil hub of Rivers.
And, just maybe, the campaign is pushing ordinary citizens to hold police more accountable.
NIGERIA: TIME TO END IMPUNITY: TORTURE AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY SPECIAL ANTI-ROBBERY SQUAD (SARS)
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria police tasked with fighting violent crimes such as robbery and kidnapping, continues to commit torture and other human rights violations while discharging their law enforcement duties. The report documents cases of extortion, torture and ill treatment by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. It reveals a pattern of abuse of power by SARS officers and the consistent failure by the Nigerian authorities to bring perpetrators to justice. It highlights the deficiencies in Nigerian police accountability that contribute to, and exacerbate, these violations.