TW: Mentions police brutality

Protests have erupted in Nigeria after a video emerged of a man being killed by police, sparking anger and outcry. 

Protesters gathered outside the Nigerian Police Force headquarters in Abuja and poured red paint on the road, symbolizing widespread police violence and brutality. The nationwide protests are against the ongoing corruption of the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and a demand for its disbanding. 

The notorious police unit is known for its ill-treatment and torture particularly targeting Nigerian youth and women

The #EndSARS social movement began on Twitter. It has been trending internationally and brought much-needed attention to the terror inflicted by SARS. 

The notorious police unit is known for its ill-treatment and torture particularly targeting Nigerian youth and women

SARS was set up in 1992 and tasked with tackling the rising crime in Lagos, Nigeria. According to Amnesty International, SARS evolved over time from a special unit created by different state commands to address specific violent crimes such armed robbery, kidnapping, communal violence, and religious violence.   

 Officers travel in unmarked buses usually without uniforms or tags. The anonymous nature of the police unit allows for an easier route to abuse and corruption. SARS has since become known for extortion, extra-judicial killings, rape, and ill-treatment.  

SARS usually targets and detains young Nigerian youth who appear to be well-off with the assumption that they are engaged in crime or fraud. SARS then extorts them for enormous bail fees. In extreme cases, SARS might also kidnap people and force them to withdraw money in exchange for their freedom. 

Women are targeted as well by SARS with several reports of women who were raped while detained in the custody of SARS officers.

Nigerian youths shared personal horror stories of violence, torture, and brutality from SARS online. These teenagers are often targeted simply for having dreadlocks, tattoos, expensive cars, and expensive gadgets. Here are just a few of their stories: 

Amnesty International has explicitly documented 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment, and extra-judicial killings by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020.  In total, around 1900 Nigerians were killed by security forces in 2020. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns began in April, more Nigerians have died from security forces than the virus. 

Despite the 2017 Anti-Torture Act, many detainees in SARS custody are subjected to torture and severe beatings.

None have been convicted. 

Amnesty International’s 2016 report on SARS exposed the failure of the state to investigate the torture, corruption, and abuse by SARS officers. Shortly after the report, police promised to investigate each case. However, according to Amnesty International research, no SARS officer has been convicted of human rights violations in the cases documented in the report. 

Despite the 2017 Anti-Torture Act, many detainees in SARS custody are subjected to torture and severe beatings. None have been convicted.

On October, 11th Nigeria dissolved SARS, with plans to redeploy the officers and replace the police unit. 

Protesters are dissatisfied with this action and have called for five demands. The release of arrested protesters, justice and compensation for families of victims of police brutality, setting up of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct, psychological evaluation of disbanded SARS officers before deployment, and the increase of police salary.

The disbanding of SARS is not as good of news as it sounds, however. SARS has been banned before in 2018 without much change or reform. Plus the idea that SARS officers will be redeployed brings up questions of accountability and reliability. 

If the same officers are simply redeployed into different positions instead of being held accountable or persecuted for their inhumane crimes, the cycle of police brutality only continues. Now, the question remains – can the Nigerian government be relied upon to reform the police unit, if it has failed to do so before?

The disbanding of SARS is not as good of news as it sounds.

This is why Nigerians are protesting, and why people all over the globe are protesting against police brutality. Real change can only occur systematically. And, real progress can only happen once justice is given to the victims of police brutality and violence. 

Police brutality works at a large scale that can’t be solved by dissolving police units. It is a culture of violence that needs to be addressed, either through complete structural reform or abolition. The Nigerian people are calling for a top-down structural reform of police units. Furthermore, the prosecution of SARS officers for their killings, torture, and extortion are necessary for justice.

As protests continue in Nigeria, 10 people have been killed by police thus far. The Nigerian people are angry, disappointed, and discontent with the government’s lack of action to make the institutional and necessary changes to police units in Nigeria. Without the discipline and prosecution of the SARS officers, as well as actual reform to police units, abuses of power like police brutality will only continue. 

Here is a comprehensive resource hub of ways you can help Nigerian protesters, including donations, social media accounts to follow, as well as educational information.

Donate to the Feminist Coalition here to help with medical aid for the injured, legal aid for previously arrested citizens, and to create a fund for victims of police brutality and the families of the deceased. 

Donate to Gatefield Impact here to support journalists and citizen reporters covering the protests.

Donate to the Kapital Plug fund here.

Donate to the Diaasporans Against SARS gofundme here

Sign the petition to charge President Buhari with crimes against humanity here.

Sign the petition in support of the updated seven-point demands here.

Sign up here to share any resources you may have to support protesters.


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  • Tamia Adolph

    Tamia Adolph is a writer and journalist, who writes poetry and fiction writing under the pseudonym, Imogene Mist. She is the founder of a mental health awareness organization called #MeTooButImStillHere, which aims to advocate for mental illness in Africa. She holds a BA in Journalism and BA (Honours) in English Literature. Currently, she is completing her Masters in English Literature. Her passions include musicals, environmentalism, and all forms of art.