Street protests against a notorious Nigerian police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), have received an invaluable boost from several countries with many celebrity supports.
On Friday, the #EndSARS hashtag was trending not only in Nigeria, but in the UK, Canada, and the United States. The hashtag has remained on Twitter’s Nigeria top 10 trend table since the weekend.
British-Nigerian actor John Boyega voiced his support for the campaign, as did popular Nigerian musicians Davido and Wizkid.
Anonymous, an international group of anonymous cyber-activists, has also joined in the campaign.
Some other Nigerian artistes – Tiwa Savage, Runtown, Falz, Wulrd and DJ Spinal – were on the streets of Lagos to lead their voices against the alleged legal criminal police unit.
Also, a Nigerian professional athlete and owner of the first Black-owned cigar line in the UK Mike Edwards has called for a protest in London. He said he would be leading a protest to Nigeria High Commission in London on Sunday. Award-winning actress Nse Ikpe-Etim has also tweeted to join Edward’s protest.
Several other protests have been planned in other foreign countries such as Germany, the USA, and Canada, while protests have been taking place in at least six states in Nigeria including the FCT.
Nigerians are protesting, yet again, after years of horror stories of brazen extortion, illegal detentions, and illegal murders of Nigerians, mostly youths, by the notorious police unit, at the hands of local police. The protesters are demanding the government to scrap the police’s notorious unit.
The recent fury was sparked after graphic footage showing officers from the SARS police unit dragging two men from a hotel in Lagos and shooting one of them in the street.
In the disturbing footage taken by visitors at a hotel and posted on to social media on Saturday, armed officers of the SARS can be seen dragging two limp bodies from the hotel compound into the street before one of the men is shot.
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.
On Sunday, Nigeria’s inspector of police, Mohammed Adamu, banned SARS, and other “tactical” police units focused on armed crimes from stop and searches, from setting up roadblocks and said officers would always be uniformed.
The governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, promised “appropriate actions will be taken, and speedily too”. According to the police, a dedicated complaints unit has in recent years improved accountability for police abuses.
However, a history of unmet promises for change has fuelled cynicism in Nigeria and a sense that the armed police units are beyond reproach.
In 2018 Nigeria’s police chief ordered a re-organisation of SARS after similar public outrage after alleged abuses.