On Friday 4th October 2020, video clips had emerged viral on Twitter whereby, a witness claimed a young man, who was living around Ughelli town in the south-southern Nigeria of Delta state, was gunned down by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force.
According to the video, sympathizers could be seen chasing the Special Anti-Robbery Squad operatives keenly while they fled away with the victim’s vehicle.
Meanwhile, the Delta State Police Command have debunked the report in a statement issued by its Public Relations Officer, Onome Onovwakpoyeya
They said “The allegations and the said online videos about SARS operatives killing a young man in Ughelli are not only false, malicious and erroneous but also misleading. The victim was neither shot nor killed by the policemen. The policemen involved are not SARS operatives as earlier reported. The allegation is the handwork of criminally minded people, who do not see anything good in the police, but want Delta State to be in turmoil”.
However, despite this statement, there has been a wide generated reaction from many Nigerians, with the nationwide protest on social media (#EndSARS), clamoring for a total scrap of the unit.
By the 10th of October 2020, the online protests had developed into street protests which are being held concurrently in different Nigerian cities including Lagos, Abuja, Ughelli, Abeokuta, Awka, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Jos, and Ogbomoso. Nigerians in the diaspora have also joined the protests in the US, the UK, South Africa, and other cities of the world.
Not The First Time
The “End Sars protest”, could be regarded as an issue that repeated itself as it has also trended a couple of years back when similar protests surfaced on social media in Nigeria.
Techcity Media reported that The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which was founded in 1992, has been linked to acts of extortion, kidnapping, unlawful arrests, illegal detentions, brutality, theft, rape, blackmail, and murder. Heart-rending videos and stories of SARS operatives and their activities have also been shared on social media, majorly involving young Nigerians who have tagged internet scammers simply for their hairstyles, smartphones, or laptops.
However, the Nigerian Government had promised on multiple occasions to reform the police unit. Zikoko Media reported that in December 2017, the then Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, banned the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) from conducting “stop and search operations”, except when necessary. Also, In August 2018, Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, in his capacity as the acting President, was reported to have directed the Inspector General of Police to “overhaul the management and activities of SARS”, with immediate effect. The non-implementation/of these directives led to the order of President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2019 when he instructed that the Inspector-General of Police, the Ministry of Justice, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should “work out modalities for the implementation of the report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) within three months”. But all these later turned out to be just an “audio” and ineffective implementation.
SARS Finally Dissolved
Having failed several times to take drastic action to address SARS’ malpractices and end police brutalities, Nigerians believe that the government has given an endorsement to the rot in the police force.
But in a statement posted on the President’s Twitter handle, on the 9th of October, President Buhari said: “I met again with the IGP tonight. Our determination to reform the police should never be in doubt. I am being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the Police are fully accountable to the people”.
Nigerians ignored this statement, they seem to have heard and had enough of the consequences of ineffective reform promises, and are pushing for a total scrap of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS).
Following the continuous outcry, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, IGP Muhammad Adamu, finally dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across the 36 State Police Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where they exist in the country. This was announced at a press conference broadcast live on TV stations on 11th October 2020 in Abuja.
Nigerians Rejects Disbandment, Renewed Protest Against SARS
Following the dissolution of the SARS operatives, the Nigerian police ordered their deployment and assured that a new policing arrangement will be released to address gaps the dissolution would cause.
Despite this, Nigerians were not pacified, owing to the promise of new policing arraignment which may later constitute the disbanded and deployed officers. They rejected the disbandment and as well requested an Executive order from the President in a renewed campaign held across the country on the 12th of October 2020.
According to Tech Next Media, popular Nigerian Musician, David Adeleke, who led a protest in Abuja was reported to have said “We want an executive order, a legislative action, and a judicial panel of inquiry set up to prosecute those rogues. Nothing more, nothing less”.