The #EndSARS Movement Is Being Defined by Nigerian Youth

The #EndSARS Movement Is Being Defined by Nigerian Youth

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On October 6, Nigerians gathered en mass to protest the alleged murders, rape, and assault by a special unit of the Nigerian police known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, aka SARS. In the following days, protests spread to every major city in Nigeria as well as in Toronto, New York; Pretoria, South Africa; London, Berlin, and Geneva among others.

SARS, created in 1992, is the unit of the Nigerian police that was supposed to be in charge of robberies, kidnapping, and other violent crimes. Instead, it has been accused of using its position to extort, rob, defraud, injure, and even kill people. Before now, there have been attempts to advocate against SARS, but nothing on a global level.

Between January 2017 and May 2020, Amnesty International recorded at least 82 cases of “torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution” at the hands of SARS agents.

“This one we know falls solely on us. It’s our fight,” Afro-Fusion singer Omah Lay tells Teen Vogue. “The police hardly harass the elderly, but once they sight a young man and you maybe have dreads, piercings, or tattoos, you are automatically a ‘yahoo boy.’ They’d stop at nothing.”

The initial demand from youth organizers — who have by and large been leading the movement — was to abolish SARS. By October 11, after worldwide protests, the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu announced in a statement that the unit will be dissolved. But the police reassigned the same officers who were previously in SARS to other departments within law enforcement, thus avoiding the overall issue of excessive force. A new unit ironically named Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) was created to replace SARS and will reportedly carry out SARS’s duties. 

To date, the #EndSARS movement is the largest organization that has been carried out in Nigeria in recent years. In the past few weeks, thousands of young Nigerians took to the streets with some staging sit-ins and even sleeping in the streets overnight. Protestors blocked major roads leading to airports and interstate highways, which forced a statement from the Lagos State Government.

Young Nigerian artists especially are using their influence to mobilize and advocate for the abolishment of SARS. Oxlade, an Afrobeats musician, says he was injured during a peaceful protest. Even while hurt, he was still advocating for the release of arrested protesters, including his manager, Ojabodu Ademola.

20200221101654 The #EndSARS Movement Is Being Defined by Nigerian Youth

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