#EndSARS has become one of the leading trending topics on Nigerian social media accounts, especially Twitter. If you have been online for the past month, there is no way you could have missed the posts urging the government to end SARS. But what is #EndSARS all about and how can it affect the nation? Find out right now!
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1. What is SARS?
SARS is a Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a special police unit that was introduced in the early 1990s as a way to battle armed robbery, kidnapping, firearm crimes, carjacking, and cattle theft. To prevent the criminals from recognizing them as a police unit, the members of SARS went out on their duties wearing regular clothes, driving unmarked cars, but with firearms in their possession.
Initially, SARS units have been rather successful in combatting street crimes, but over the years, the department started drawing a lot of criticism. Civilians reported being profiled by undercover SARS members despite not doing anything wrong or even intending to do it. Another common complaint about SARS concerned the fact that some SARS members specifically targeted citizens with nice cars, phone, or clothes to extort bribes, harass, and even kidnap them. There were reports about SARS units robbing, raping, beating, or even killing innocent citizens just because they refused to cooperate, looked different from other people, or voiced their unhappiness with the actions of the unit.
2. The protests
The protests against SARS brutality are nothing new: the first-ever reported #EndSARS protests took place in 2017 after the many crimes of SARS were once again discovered. After a series of peaceful and organized protests around Nigeria, the participants of the protests were called criminals by a high-ranked Nigerian Police Force member, and while several senators called for the complete dissolution of SARS, no real action was taken.
In early October 2020, the #EndSARS movement resurrected on Twitter after a video went viral on the platform. In the video, a SARS officer is shown fatally shooting a young Nigerian unprovoked in Ughelli, Delta State. It was also believed that the squad has taken the victim’s vehicle, a Lexus SUV. As the video spread across Nigerian Twitter, the #EndSARS hashtag began being used more and more frequently.
Besides expressing their anger and disappointment in SARS on social media, Nigerians have also organized peaceful protests in most regions of the country. Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, the police used teargas and shot at the protesters, killing a Nigerian citizen in the process. At the moment, the protests are on-going and have gained wide support both from regular citizens and celebrities on social media.
3. The aftermath
The events of #EndSARS are still unfolding and the process of getting rid of SARS can take months, if not years. The reactions from the Nigerian officials have been widely different, with some supporting the protests and the idea of disbanding SARS and others lashing out against protesters. However, an important development in the story took place on October 12, when President Buhari uploaded a video on Instagram, denouncing police brutality and announcing his desire to disband SARS. Now Nigerians are waiting for the situation to resolve while continuing to spread the information on social media.
The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people. pic.twitter.com/XjQMSr3jlm
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) October 12, 2020
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