A Brief introduction to SARS and the Nigerian Protests

Just 3 weeks after Nigeria celebrated Independence Day, it seems there is now little reason for natives and the diaspora to salute the condition of their country. Social media has erupted recently with celebrities from every corner of the globe broadcasting #ENDSARS, but how did it all begin?

SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) came into existence through a catalyst of unfavourable events. Col Rindam of the Nigerian Army was killed by the Nigerian Police force in 1992, a moment that breaded a feud between the Nigerian Army and Police. Subsequently, 3 police officers were arrested after this tragedy and countless more defected their roles for fear of punishment. As a result, the crime rate spiralled in this period due to minimal governance caused by the fleeing of the police force. This couldn’t last and before it turned to chaos a former Police Commissioner, Simeon Danladi Midenda established SARS as an alternative to re-establish order within Lagos. Shortly after, the Police and Army came to an understanding and SARS was recognised as a legitimate body by the citizens and government alike.

Little can be said about Midendas’s motives in hindsight, but this decision has led to the wrongful and brutal murders of Nigerians ever since.

The string of wrongdoings started in 1996 when a pair of security guards were accused of assisting a robbery, consequently leading to their arrest without evidence. The two bodies of these guards were later found with no explanation or investigation into the matter. Just 8 years later a bus driver was murdered in Obiaruku (Delta State) after refusing to pay a bribe to another power-hungry SARS member. These tear-shedding incidents still did little to limit the expansion of SARS, in-fact the unit grew exponentially in the years that followed.

In 2009 during the proliferation of internet fraudsters and social media, SARS became prominent within University circles where they unfairly profiled students based on vague descriptions such as ‘tattoos’ and ‘piercings’ . A simply archaic angle on how to conduct objective policing, and one that led to the inhumane torture of innocent students merely expressing themselves in a period where they’re seeking their own voice.

If public opinion towards SARS had not already been crushed, then August 2019 is when citizens of Nigeria really woke up to the travesties of the institution. Whilst searching for culprits of a crime in Ijegun, members of SARS wrongly murdered a pregnant lady whilst clumsily firing rounds of bullets. This lack of care for civilians had been consistent throughout the tenure of SARS, but now the people had reached their limit.

The last straw occurred in October 2020, when a young man was killed outside Wetland Hotel in Ughelli. Despite the hashtag being conjured in 2017 by @Letter_to_Jack the movement has finally reached a level of international notoriety. But this is not enough, the SARS force has now been disbanded by justice has still not been restored to the citizens of Nigeria. At the time of writing, protesters are being killed for speaking out on the atrocities they’ve witnessed since the 28 years of SARS ruling. And whilst this may be the crux of the issue currently, this round of protests has also presented an opportunity for the people to speak up on social, economic and infrastructural issues that have plagued the country for too long!