Police Brutality Is an Epidemic. #EndSARS
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Police brutality seems to be the norm in countries that value militarized police systems over the actual protection of their citizens. Such countries have established hierarchical standards in which authority and power can become easily abused. This is the case with law enforcement where people in power stop prioritizing justice.
When the incompetence of law enforcement results in the loss of innocent lives, the civilian is forced to pay the price, and if they are lucky, then they will get a hashtag on Twitter. Nigerians are tired of seeing their friends and family turn into hashtags. They want the criminals of law enforcement to be brought to justice.
#EndSARS is a movement led by the youth of Nigeria who were initially calling for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). SARS is a Nigerian police unit that was implemented in 1992 to protect civilians against armed robberies and crime. Despite the fact that the SARS unit was officially disbanded on October 11, several young activists continued to take to the streets to demand that federal action be taken to provide justice for the victims of police brutality.
SARS’s abuse of human rights cannot go unnoticed. For example, SARS has a history of sexually abusing Nigerian youth. Rape and sexual assault are huge problems in Nigeria. Police officers, especially male police officers, believe that their uniforms exempt them from having to obey the law. Their status as officers of the law allows them to exercise a certain level of dominion over civilians, particularly vulnerable women. Aside from sexual violence, SARS uses other methods of torture as well, such as mock execution, beating, hanging, and more.
On Monday, a 24-hour curfew was implemented to suppress the peaceful protests. At Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria, police opened fire on the protesters. At least 12 people were killed and hundreds were left severely injured. What happened at Lekki was just one instance of police brutality during the protests. As of now, 56 people have been killed during the protests in Nigeria.
The president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, released a statement on Thursday that warrants a significant amount of anger. During a televised address, he warned Nigerians to stop the demonstrations. He failed to mention the Lekki Massacre and other instances in which innocent lives were taken by the police.
The people of Nigeria are tired. Who do you go to when the very people who are supposed to protect your civil rights end up being the ones ruthlessly taking them away? How much media attention is required for serious change to be enacted? The world watches as Nigeria denies justice to its citizens, similar to the ways in which the world watched as America failed to convict the murderers of Breonna Taylor and other victims of police brutality.
SARS has fallen short of valuing the liberties and freedoms of its civilians. In response, the Nigerian youth has taken it upon themselves to remind law enforcement that their duty is to uphold the law, not to abuse it.