This is What is Happening in Nigeria
Nigeria is an impoverished country and her people are waking up to the truth that our country will not change itself. We have to act.
Nigeria is a country where the poor have learned to accept it as their lot, destiny. Protests are not commonplace, people lose faith in themselves, in their leadership, in the cause and declare ‘Nigeria will never get better, our leaders are too powerful, we cannot win. Then they go back home to continue to lament the hopelessness of our country. But this time, peaceful protesters didn’t let thugs, or threats deter anyone.
What is SARS
SARS stands for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
It is a police unit created in 1984 by the military government. Accusations of SARS officers robbing, attacking and even killing people go back years, but a fresh wave of protest started at the beginning of October.
SARS is a controversial unit of the Nigerian Police Force with a lengthy record of abuses. The protests started in 2017 as a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ENDSARS to demand the Nigerian government eliminate the force. After experiencing a revitalization in October 2020, mass demonstrations were occurring throughout Nigeria in major cities, and the hashtag had 28 million tweets. Nigerians have recounted both stories and video evidence of how members of SARS engaged in kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, humiliation, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings, and extortion in Nigeria. (WIKIPEDIA)
SARS is a unit of the Nigerian police that has been under fire for many years. Citizens have been calling for their disbandment, and the government will make non-committal responses. Two years ago the government said they had disbanded them, but the atrocities committed by the unit continue to go unchecked.
Petitions have been made to police authorities, and reports published about gruesome cases in the media. Yet, they took no obvious action unless a particular case attracted public attention and outrage, and police authorities make arrests, announce the dismissal of a few officers, and hand them over for prosecution. It is not clear if justice gets served if the officers got prosecuted. There is usually talk of reforms being made and before long, they sweep it under the carpet. We do not hear about the case; it is as if nothing happened.
According to an article on Premium Times, most times where the courts have ordered the police to pay compensations to victims of extrajudicial killing, the Police do not comply with these orders. Sometimes, police officers shield police officers wanted by justice. In one case where a bench warrant was issued for the arrest of a DPO in Enugu for him to answer to a case of kidnapping and murder, the police said they did not know his whereabouts. About four years later, the same DPO sighted at Zone 9, Police Headquarters, Umuahia, in the Provost Office, ironically. Up to this time, nothing happened even when people sounded an alarm. In addition, a DPO raped a female suspect in his custody in 2014. An investigation was ordered, but the report of the investigation kept secret despite promises that it would be public. That senior officer has remained in service and even promoted. Need I rehash the tragic case of the ‘Apo 6’ and the debauchery that attended it? So impunity reigns.
SARS atrocities will take years to put together, however, here are three that stand out.
We know SARS officers to arrest people, parade them as suspected armed robbers, kidnappers and fraudsters. Then they demand enormous sums of money from their families. When these monies are not paid, they kill the suspect. Of all the SARS bases in the country, the most outstandingly notorious was SARS Awkuzu Anambra State. The impunity exhibited by operatives of SARS Awkuzu was at its peak under the blood-thirsty reign of CSP James Nwafor. At the candle night demonstration for fallen heroes of the #EndSARS protest in Abuja, a lady recounted how he (Chijioke) was captured by what we have described as the most dreaded unit in Nigeria, Awkuzu SARS. Chijioke was 20 years old in 2012, he went for child dedication and was picked up there and was allegedly taken to SARS office. “When his family went to seek him, they were informed they have taken him to the headquarters. When they got there, his mother sighted him being taken to the station, and she said that is my child. “The officer in charge of that station requested them to boot her and the family out of the premises. Since then they haven’t seen Chijioke.
The next time they went, the officer boasted that he shot Chijioke and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Some other officers told the parents it is possible ha hadn’t died that the man (officer in charge) could just be bluffing and that they should bring some money to bring him. “The father produced some money, and the officer said the money was too small. The father went, sold his land, sold some properties, raised N3 million, gave it to the man, and the man said N3 million was ‘chicken change.’ “The most horrifying part of this story, “The most horrifying part of this story, that man in charge, made Chijioke’s dad look for Chijioke’s body in the river of dead bodies; he made him turned every single corpse upside down, searching for his son. I cannot imagine what that man was going through. One part of him would think, let me find this body so we can have closure. Another part of him would think, let me not find this body so we can have hope.
In March 2017, SARS officers arrested and detained 23-year-old Miracle in Neni, Anambra State, southeast Nigeria, accused of the theft of a laptop. They had tortured and starved during the 40 days he was in detention before he got charged and brought before a court.
“… their leader directed them to hang me. They took me to the back of the hall and tied me with ropes. Then they started using many items to beat me, including machetes, sticks, inflicting me with all kinds of injuries. One officer used an exhaust pipe to hit me on my teeth, breaking my teeth. They left me on that hanger for over three hours…”
In the disturbing footage taken by visitors at a hotel and posted on to social media on Saturday, armed officers of the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad, commonly called SARS, we see them dragging two limp bodies from the hotel compound into the street before one man is shot dead.
The video has sparked a deluge of footage and stories posted on to social media alleging recent atrocities and brutality by the notorious SARS unit, long accused of rampant abuses.
The unit, spread around the country, often operates in plainclothes, brandishing heavy weapons and setting up roadblocks for indiscriminate searches, fuelling widespread anger that they are often indistinguishable from armed criminals.
In one video posted on Twitter, onlookers accuse a squad of Sars officers of shooting a motorist and dumping him on the roadside, filming as the officers speed away from the scene with the victim’s vehicle. In another video, a man standing unarmed against a parked bus is surrounded by Sars officers and gunned down.
Nigerians Got Tired
Nigeria is a terribly impoverished country. Nigeria became the poverty capital in the world, surpassing India. Over 87million people suffer abject poverty, which is about 50% of our population.
Nigeria is an impoverished country and its people are waking up to the truth that our country will not change itself. We have to act.
Last week the government approved N1.6b for a website they claim will assist them track procurement and tackle corruption, a few months ago they spent N600m on a logo for an airline that probably doesn’t exist, In August over 100bn school lunch funds traced to a dead officials account. Our Lawmakers earn over N2m per annum over 100 times more than other countries lawmakers.
Why does the poverty capital of the world have the highest-paid politicians?
To be honest, the #ENDSARS protests are not entirely about SARS. The protesters wanted many other issues addressed at once. Issues like;
Cost of Government
Justice for deceased victims’ families.
Sunday the 11th of October the Inspector general of police announced that SARS has been disbanded. However, the people do not believe this to be true because in the last 5 years they have disbanded SARs at least five times. They created a new unit named Special Weapons and Tactics. (SWAT)
Protests continue holding in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja and spread to other parts of the country with the protester refusing to back down and protest escalated nation the protester insists that the terms of the disbandment are vague with no concrete timelines for when these changes will happen.
The Protesters Are Young People
This time the protesters are young people. Afraid for their future, afraid that they will die by the same fate that executed other young people who have been victims of police brutality.
The youths of Nigeria see a bleak future, a government that values its lawmakers comfort above the education, health and security. It bedevils the Nation with a looming food crisis, crushing poverty, ineffective healthcare system, unemployment and a myriad of infrastructural problems, yet the government doesn’t think the young people’s fears are valid.
Monday 19th October 2020 the protest took a new complexion as distinct groups joined in. In Lagos, the roadblocks increased, and it locked the city down, it stranded people across the cities like Lagos and Abuja, cult clashes and killings became the order of the day. The original intent of the #ENDSARS protesters has been high-jacked. By Tuesday the government had announced a curfew to start at 4 pm. They later extended the curfew to start at 9 pm, but at 7 pm the military opened fire on the protesters killing many and injuring so much more.
A dictatorial government will not silence our voices. Our brothers and sisters did not get killed in vain. We will continue to defend our right to live freely in Nigeria.