19 OCTOBER, 2020 / PROBITASREPORT
End Special Anti-Robbery Squad (End SARS) or #EndSARS is a social movement against police brutality in Nigeria. The slogan calls for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a controversial unit of the Nigerian Police Force with a long record of abuses. The protests started in 2017 as a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ENDSARS to demand the Nigerian Government eliminate the force. After experiencing a revitalization in October 2020, mass demonstrations were occurring throughout Nigeria in major cities, and the hashtag had 28 million tweets. Nigerians have shared both stories and video evidence of how members of SARS engaged in kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, humiliation, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings, and extortion in Nigeria. SARS officers have been alleged to profile youths based on fashion choices, mount illegal road blocks & searches, conduct unwarranted temperature checks, arrest without warrant, rape women, and extort young Nigerians for driving exotic vehicles and using iPhones.
Resurgence of EndSARS
On Saturday 3 October 2020, a video started trending on social media showing a SARS police officer shoot a young Nigerian in front of Wetland Hotel, Ughelli, Delta State. It was alleged that the police officers took away the young man’s vehicle – a Lexus SUV.The trending video caused public outcry on social media, especially on twitter, with the #ENDSARS hashtag attending.
On Thursday 8 October 2020, nation-wide protests on ENDSARS started after weeks of outcry and anger with videos and pictures showing police brutality, harassment and extortion in Nigeria. The protests were led predominantly by young Nigerians in different cities alongside many activists and celebrities.Nigeria Police Force disrupted the protests in some cities, throwing teargas and shooting at unarmed peaceful protesters as seen in Abuja and Osun, this led to the death of Jimoh Isiaq in Ogbomoso, Oyo State. By Wednesday, 14 October 2020, the End SARS protests were still ongoing with young people in different parts of Nigeria intensifying their calls for reforms and accountability in police operations.
On Sunday, 11 October 2020, the protestors put up five demands to be met by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The demands which were signed by ‘A Nigerian Youth’ asks for immediate release of all arrested during the protests as well as justice and compensation for all who died through police brutality in Nigeria. They also demanded that an independent body be set up within 10 days to investigate and prosecute all reports of police misconduct. The protestors also asked for psychological evaluation and retraining of SARS operatives before they are deployed to any other police unit. Lastly, they asked for adequate remuneration for Nigerian police.
Nigerian Government response
In response to the public outcry on the police brutality, the Inspector-General of Nigeria Police banned the FSARS, Special Tactical Squad (STS), Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Anti-Cultism Squad and other tactical units from mounting of roadblocks, checkpoints, stop and search and other routine and patrols. Similar bans had been announced multiple times over the previous four years, causing citizens of Nigeria to question whether the bans would actually be upheld. There were further reports of SARS officers involved in killings across the country.
As this was the fourth time that the Nigerian government called for a ban on SARS activity,protesters insisted on scrapping the notorious police unit.
Timeline of Events
On Friday, 9 October 2020, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Femi Hamzat addressed the protesters and acknowledged that police officers do not have the right to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens based on their appearance or on items in their possession. He condemned police brutality and promised that the Lagos government will take action necessary to end it.The deputy governor also stated that four years previously, he had been harassed by SARS police who were not in uniform.
On Friday, 9 October 2020, the Lagos State House of Assembly held an emergency parliamentary sitting to deliberate the petition of the EndSARS protesters. The parliamentarians made a seven-point resolution, as follows: Nigeria’s Senate and House of Assembly should probe FSARS, the Police Commissioner should protect protesters, molestation of youths should be stopped, institution of public inquiry on the extrajudicial killings by Senate President and the House of Representatives Speaker, proscription of SARS and its replacement by a new unit with a clear code of conduct, and sanction of illegalities.
On Sunday, 11 October 2020, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu announced the “dissolution” of SARS. Many Nigerians within the movement criticized the announcement, however, pointing out that similar promises had been made in earlier years and that the government’s plan was to reassign SARS officers to other police departments rather than eliminate them from the force entirely. The protests continue despite the “dissolution” as many do not believe the pronouncement.
On Monday, 12 October 2020, the Governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, urged protestors to believe that SARS has been disbanded On Monday, 12 October, 2020 the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike announced that the End SARS protests are disallowed in Rivers State. He banned all forms of protests in Rivers State.On Monday, 12 October 2020, the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde barred Police from engaging with the protestors in order to avert further casualties from the pandemic.
On Tuesday, 13 October 2020, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa the Governor of Delta State said that the #EndSARS protest is a result of failed leadership. The Governor also announced the constitution of a five-member Police Complaints Committee with two representatives from youth organizations. The Governor had earlier appealed to the police to desist from harassing the protesters as people were free to express grievances in a democratic dispensation.On Tuesday, 13 October 2020, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Police Force, Frank Mba, announced the setting up of a Special Weapon and Tactics Team (SWAT) to replace SARS. The new outfit, which is expected to take off within the next 7 days, will undergo psychological and medical evaluation to determine their fitness.
On Tuesday, 13 October 2020, the Governor of Lagos State promised to set up a two hundred million naira (N200m) fund for residents of the State who have been victims of police brutality. He met with President Muhammadu Buhari to present the demands of the protesters in Lagos State. A video surfaced from this meeting showing the President chuckle as the Governor Sanwo-Olu talked about his state’s compensation fund for victims. The President’s actions met a lot of negative criticism from Nigerians.
On Tuesday, 13 October 2020, a press release signed by Femi Adesina the Presidential spokesperson, indicate that the Nigerian Government has agreed to the five demands of the End SARS protestors. The agreement was reached at a meeting organized by the Office of the Inspector General of Police and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was attended by stakeholders which include officials of Ministry of Police Affairs and Police Service Commission, representatives of Civil Society organizations and activists from the entertainment industry and #EndSARS movement.
On Thursday, 15 October 2020, the prohibition of demonstrations in the Federal Capital Territory Security Committee was announced. The decision was taken at a meeting which held on Wednesday, 14 October 2020 and which was chaired by FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello. The announcement recognized the rights of citizens to gather and demonstrate however, it went on to point out that the EndSARS protests were unruly, caused discomfort to people, violated COVID-19 protocols and should be discontinued in view of the fact that Government had met the demands of the protesters. Nigerians thought this absurd since there had been elections in Ondo and Edo along with massive rallies in preceding weeks. Buhari’s daughter had also had her wedding ceremony . At the peak of the pandemic, Abba Kyari, late Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria, was buried without adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.
On Friday, 16 October 2020, A hacking group called Anonymous Friday hacked the Twitter account of the National Broadcasting Commission and posted a message which stated “We #Anonymous will continue supporting Nigerians” in a support for the ongoing protests.