Nearly two weeks into perhaps, one of the most unifying protests in Nigerian history, there does not seem to be any sign of the anti-SARS movement slowing down or the message being diminished.
SARS, The Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, is a unit of the Nigerian Police force tasked with tackling the vice that is armed robbery, as the name implies.
Ironically, the work these miscreants have performed over the years cannot be described as anything other than government-approved armed robbery.
The unit is notorious for profiling young men and determining that they are ‘fraudsters’ on the observation and ‘reasonable determination’ that they either have an expensive car, an alternate hairstyle or just generally look a ‘certain way’.
Their modus operandi is holding Nigerian citizens at gunpoint to extort funds from them; going as far as having them drive to the ATM machines, or if the victim is low on funds: spending the night in their cells; detained indefinitely with no access to lawyers or family until the detainees’ benefactors provide ‘bail sums’.
At a protest against police brutality, the police response to the peaceful protesters has been to unleash tear gas, public beatings and worst of all bullets on the citizens they were sworn in to protect
The protests triggered the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police to come out publicly and disband the unit. The president followed suit a day later, dissolving the unit. This begs the question: why have the protests not stopped?
Well to put it simply, at a protest against police brutality, the police response to the peaceful protesters has been to unleash tear gas, public beatings and worst of all bullets on the citizens they were sworn in to protect.
This has led to deaths in Lagos, Ogbomoso and Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
So, either SARS has not been disbanded as the President says or these actions are symptomatic of the un-disbanded culture of police brutality that has permeated the very fabric of the nation for 60 years.
I will not for the purposes of fairness to the victims allow you to make up your minds; it is the latter.
For every “Happy Weekend Sa!” or random police (whether SARS or another unit) checkpoint stop, there is extortion, criminality and violation of the basic rights of Nigerians by the police.
This is so ingrained in the culture that setting aside money on long journeys for the abrasive Police is very much normal.
The difference now, is that this particular unit disproportionately targets a segment of the Nigerian youth,; a generation of educated, fearless, pacesetters who are not confined by culture or conformity and recognise and utilise the power of their voice.
Sanwo-Olu, did not see it fit to address the people until the protests started hitting where it hurt: economically
So while 77 year-old Mr. President (a former military tyrant) calls the murderous thieves that are SARS “a few bad eggs”, the youth still march on the streets, declare public holidays and put resources together (68 Million Naira!) to feed protesters and pay lawyers to defend their rights.
It is interesting to note that the Governor of Lagos state, Sanwo-Olu, did not see it fit to address the people until the protests started hitting where it hurt, economically.
Sanwo-Olu physically went to address the protesters once they blocked the lekki toll gate.
Some would say this is because Tinubu (a godfather and what many perceive to be a Nigerian Oligarch) still controls our governor and has a monopoly over Lagos state… but that’s another article for another day.
“You can never beg your oppressor for your freedom, you have to fight for it”- Seun Kuti.
Well the youth are certainly doing more than just not just begging; that is enough encouragement to keep going.
PS: Shoutout to @fkabudu and the Feminist Coalition (@feminist.co) for the tireless work in freeing unlawfully detained citizens, raising money, using their platforms to catapult the movement. RIP to the fallen victims.
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