The latest hashtag trending all over Nigerian social media is the #EndSARS hashtag which has geared over 3 million tweets, excluding related hashtags such as #EnsSARS #SARSMUSTEND, and #SarsMustGo.
Aside from social media, #EndSARS has been physically protested – most notably, in Lagos and Abuja. People stormed the streets since Tuesday, 6th November 2020, protesting and calling for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Nigerians overseas, especially those in Europe and North America, equally joined the campaign. While certain Nigerian celebrities voiced their opinions through videos and social media live transmits, non-Nigerian celebrities such as Trey Song, Cardi B, and Big Sean gave online activists a boost by their reactions to the campaign. Most notably, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing made a tweet on October 11th, 2020, supporting the Nigerian Police decision to ban SARS.
So why all the noise? You may ask. What is #EndSARS all about and why is the movement making headlines in Nigeria?
How it Started
#EndSARS first began as a social media wake-up call started by Segun Awosanya in 2017 against the alleged brutality of the police unit. The campaign died down in the middle of 2018 as not a lot of people paid attention to activists call for the scrapping of the force.
On Saturday 3 October 2020, a video trended on social media showing a SARS police officer shoot a young Nigerian in front of Wetland Hotel, Delta State. The video prompted a public outcry on social media against the brutality.
Subsequent video and pictures containing alleged actions of SARS officers flooded social media. The campaign resurged with the hashtag #ENDSARS, culminating into advocacies, online activism, and protests.
Nationwide protests started on October 8th; a face-off of peaceful protesters and the Nigerian Police who tried to disperse the crowd through the use of teargas and water sprays. Concurrently, protests broke out in London, Canada, and the United States, calling for the Nigerian government to put an end to the police unit.
Accusations Made Against SARS
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad officers have been accused of illegally arresting Nigerians, especially youths, and extorting money or other valuables from them. SARS has equally been accused of mounting illegal roadblocks, searching without a warrant, rape, treating suspects brutally, and killing innocent Nigerians
In 2016, an Amnesty International report surfaced, accusing SARS of human abuse, cruelty, torture, and degrading treatment of detainees – such as severe beating, hanging, and shooting detainees in the leg.
Response from Nigerian Authorities
Given the uproar, the Deputy Governor of Lagos, Femi Hamzat, addressed protesters on October 9, 2020, stressing that the police have no right to arrest or extort citizens of their personal effects without proper investigations and reason. He however alluded protesters to remain peaceful in their protest.
That same day, Lagos State House of Assembly held an emergency meeting to address the petition signed and submitted to the National Assembly by 10, 195 protesters. Some of the issues discussed by the House was the necessity to dissolve the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and set up a new unit in it’s place with a clear code of conduct and sanctions for illegalities.
Yesterday, been Sunday, 11th of October, 2020, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the dissolution of SARS. While some Nigerians took the announcement as a victory, many others called for the permanent elimination of the unit from existence, stressing that the government has banned SARS three times before now without substance.
Where does VTpass stand?
It’s a sad moment for everyone witnessing these events happening around the country. On the other hand, however, the people’s voice ought to be heard as it is constitutionally structured to be.
As a brand, it is our responsibility to look beyond business when supporting matters that most concern our customers. On that note, VTpass stands with Nigerians in the fight for justice against illegal police oppression, the abuse of power, and disregard of human rights. #ENDSARS.