On Thursday 8th October, a protest emerged in the commercial capital of the country, Lagos calling for the end of the Federal Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), known to be one of the 14 units in the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department set up in 1992 with the aim of detaining, investigating and prosecuting malefactors involved in armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of crime. Over the years the main aim and objective behind the establishment of the squad have shifted and it has become a unit synonymous with oppression. The squad has endlessly extorted, harassed, brutalized, and killed Nigerians with documentation and experience being shared over the years and more being told. Since the first protest which started on the 8th of October, more protests have held and are still holding across major cities and states in the country and in some prominent cities across the world.
Millennials, activists, and prominent figures are the forerunner of this movement demanding the total erasure of the Anti Robbery Squad. Three days into the nonstop protest (on Sunday 11th October) news circulated about the dissolving of the unit, a cycle which has been going on since 2017 and only serves as a ruse to make protesters back down.
After a fortnight, the #endsars protest reached new heights. In that time, there have been casualties as the authorities fought back channeling violence and thugs. Protesters were also unlawfully arrested and detained in different cities across the country. Unheard stories have also surfaced- the shocking revelation of Akwuzu SARS commander James Nwafor who is allegedly responsible for the killing of 20-year-old Chijoke Iloanya- he is also believed to be responsible for kidnapping, torturing, and mass murder of accused criminals in Anambra in the South Eastern region of the country.
With this, the End SARS movement still continues and goes from strength to strength with young people calling out the system for its failure to protect its citizens. The End SARS movement/protest has a common goal which aims to end police brutality and reform policing. As the protests took, and Nigerian youths across the country and in the diaspora fought the fight, I spoke to a couple on why they view the movement as important and their overall experience(s).
Fabia Harry, 29- Port Harcourt
I have had an experience with (SARS) during my university days. One fateful night I and my friends were returning from a night out when they caught up with us, we were queried and detained overnight. The End SARS movement/protest is crucial to me because I have young friends and relatives who aren’t involved in anything illegal but have had run-ins with the squad because they look “a certain way” when in most cases these SARS operatives look even worse if you ask me. I feel uncomfortable, scared, and unsafe whenever I see a SARS official. I do not believe they have control over their emotions and the weapons they carry”
“I have never attended a protest before in my life, the whole demonstration was very peaceful. Before the protest held on Tuesday 13th, October at the River State Government house, a ban was already placed a day before on any form of protest. This move only agitated young people and the protest was held either way getting approval by the Governor as he had been outspoken in his support of the disbandment of SARS and in the reforming of the Nigerian Police Force.
Daniel Asaya, 29 – Nigerian in Disapora (London)
Well as someone living in the diaspora, issues faced by Nigerians back home would always be of high importance to me because although I no longer reside there, I have friends and family members who do. Also, as an openly gay Nigerian myself, taking part in the EndSARS protest was close to home as I’ve heard stories from my Queer siblings in Nigeria of the harassment and torture they’ve experienced simply because of their expression or perceived sexuality. So yes, whether it’s on the streets of Lagos or in front of the Nigeria High Commission in London, we will march, protest and chat till ALL Nigerians no longer have to live in fear.
Kayode Ani, 21 – Enugu
The end SARS is important to me because it is about Liberation.
Liberation from police brutality, liberation from the fear of and terror of the state-enforced by the police. It is also about being free from homophobic targeting of the cishetronormativity. In Nigeria, young people are always targeted, from dressing to perceived wealth, for also being queer and the end sars movement marks the biggest revolt in the country against that system of violence, as an openly gay in a country where queer people who have non conforming gender expression are targeted for being effeminate, from the way they talk, walk and carry their body, there is so much oppression being faced just for existing in public. So this protest/movement is about confronting and challenging this brutality. Some people had a problem with my protest banner, about 4 people made disagreeable comments against it, but I know what I was fighting for, the protest drew a large turnout, protesters marched from the state CID office to the state House and also to the state House of Assembly. The protest was powerful, it gave me hope, it also gave me a glance of how we can organize against state violence and oppression”.
Anonymous, 21- Ibadan
As a young person, this fight is important to me because the younger generation has suffered for too long, fighting now gives the future generation hope not to go through the same oppression we are currently experiencing, the protest was a tranquil one, I was more of a helping hand at the protest, I assisted in sharing food and water to the protesters. It was a peaceful and violence-free demonstration.
Theophilus Ebube, 20- Benin
The end SARS protest is more than just a fight against a rogue unit of the Nigerian Police Force, it is also a movement to protect my future, an opportunity for me to lend my voice and fight against the system that has robbed me of cash once or twice in the medium of policemen, I am fighting against the fear of exercising a fundamental human right, right to movement which prior till now has been a problem because your own death may be waiting for you on the road from the guns of uniformed officers. The protest held across Benin city grew each passing day, from a relatively small number of people to thousands of people, because like protests in other parts of the country, it has slowly built hope and people who have been directly and indirectly affected by the SARS menace. The protests were orderly, tables turned a bit when armed thugs came our way but even at that we held our peaceful grounds as we recognized that you cannot fight fire with fire, we cannot turn monsters while fighting monsters.
Judith Caleb, 28- Kaduna
The movement is crucial to me, as someone living in Kaduna SARS officers in the city where located at Gtb Barnawa, a place in Kaduna. The protests was held at this particular place as an intentional motive, we wanted to send a message to the SARS official that we are not scared of them, we are tired of the brutality and killing, even though the whole demonstration was a peaceful three of our protesters were arrested but later released. For ones I actually believe that things are really going to change, young people are out here speaking up, the system has failed us over and over again everyone is tired there’s so much suffering going on, and the end SARS movement is just the beginning of it. There’s still a lot to come, there’s going to be an end to bad governance.
Bolaji Akinwande is a music and culture writer/fashion enthusiast based in Lagos. He finds therapy in music and tweets @Rrrrrrrrboi