By: A’Breya Young
The continuation of protests over police brutality generates a greater understanding of the issue of systematic racism. Although this is an ongoing problem in the United States, over the past few weeks, Nigerians gained global recognition through their strife against Nigeria’s military and police units. Consequently, the call for the ban of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS), led to the death of many innocent demonstrators and struck the need for governmental support.
The Nigeria Police, established in 1820, and the merging of the northern and southern police forces, created the Nigerian Police Force in 1930. In 1922, crime rates created a demand to form the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. SARS quickly became notorious for carrying out unlawful killings and tortious acts. The constant pattern of SARS abusing their power caused several Nigerians to expose the police force; subsequently, notable public figures spoke against Nigeria’s correctional officers. Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, released a statement urging the Nigerian President –Muhammadu Buhari– to suppress SARS from violently attacking protesters. The statement read, “I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence. The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy. I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”
No Justice…No Peace
Protestors took their fight to the streets when acknowledging the outcry of young Nigerians, who publicly exposed SARS for harassing residents of the country. In 2018, a 24-year-old boxer named Sunday Bang was accused of robbery by SARS officers and later arrested. Bang was held in detention for five weeks without access to lawyers, medical care, and his family. During these five weeks, reports revealed that Bang suffered from fractures and other injuries, due to the officers’ ill-treatment. Bang’s story, along with others, led Nigerians to protest against police brutality, documenting incidents and sharing them with the world only to find that these measures led to even greater violence. Shockingly, given SARS’s violent reputation, people still participated in demonstrations to show how corrupt the Nigerian police force was.
On October 13, thousands of protesters brought traffic to a standstill, as they blocked streets in Lagos to peacefully protest against the corruption of their police force. In the following days, after a curfew was imposed and police units were deployed, demonstrators continued to protest peacefully. On the 20th, Nigerian soldiers opened fire on those who defied the curfew, leaving around ten people dead. The crucial moments leading to this massacre suggests that SARS planned the attack. SARS’s efforts in suppressing protests motivated Nigerians to hold their government accountable and demand justice for the lives that were lost. Unfortunately, the conflict between SARS and the people of Nigeria has yet to be resolved. However, people around the world continue to work together to support those risking their lives every day to create a brighter future.