What is SARS and why are Nigerians protesting?

By Madison Taylor, Staff Reporter

Nigerians have been protesting for weeks against the special anti-robbery squad, otherwise known as SARS. Like many recent Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, the EndSARS movement has been protesting police brutality.

SARS is a police squad whose focus is on robbery and firearms in Nigeria. This squad has now become violent towards Nigerian citizens and the Nigerian people are demanding reform.

These protests are filled with thousands of young Nigerians in the streets of Lagos chanting “Enough is Enough.” 

Advertisement

One night, protestors went to Lekki toll gate plaza and security opened fire, according to a CNN article. Protesters have also been attacked by police, sprayed with tear gas and water cannons, shot at with live ammunition and brutally beaten.

(See more: EndSARS: How Nigeria’s youth finds its voice with the EndSARS protest movement).)

Simba Lugboso, a student majoring in psychology at SIU who is from Nigeria, said SARS’ job is to prevent online fraud and decentralize social movements.

“That has happened a lot in Nigeria previously, no employment among adolescents and graduates,”  Lugboso said. “When they see kids in their country who are trying to come up or get the best kind of technology or work for better things, they’ll see this and think, well you don’t have any money, you must’ve robbed [someone].” 

Lugboso said the EndSARS movement affects her because she has family and cousins who are around the graduating age who are buying cars.

“What they’re doing [is] when they see people with fancy cars and stuff like that, they believe it was stolen because they think we’re way too young to be driving or having that kind of technology or luxury. They take their stuff and they basically kill them,” Lugboso said. 

The EndSARS movement isn’t about wanting money but social reform, according to Lugboso.

According to Dr. Leonard Gadzekpo, a professor at SIU who lived and worked in Nigeria for several years, one would need background information on how SARS originally started.

“From 1965 to about 1970 would be the Nigerian civil war and by the time the civil war was over  and people have been desensitized to violence. Which means many people would be pulverized and poor. Therefore violence and robbery would start developing,” Gadzekpo said.

Gadzekpo said by the ’80s, Nigeria had become wealthier but society was becoming poorer. The wealth was not trickling down to the general population.

“I had finished college in Nigeria then I had another traumatic experience. They were called youth corpers and would infiltrate Pakastanis, Ghanians and other English speaking people from around the world,” Gadzekpo said. “We were all living in the bungalows and were attacked by armed robbers, they kidnapped and killed one of the guards. The case of violent crimes and robberies were escalating.”

By about 1984 ,the pandemic of violent crimes had increased and that’s when SARS was put into place, according to Gadzekpo.

“That spree or that pandemic I experienced would justify why the squad was put into place. As the years progressed into the ’90s, SARS was slowly deteriorating and turning into something else,” Gadzekpo said.

SIU professor Segun Ojewuyi said the way to end this violence isn’t going to be simple.

“It’s not as simple as defunding or reforming the police. But the police force itself is so poorly, poorly, funded but what happens? The police force itself is funded by the federal government that owns it but because of the corruption the funding from the top politician,” Ojewuyi said.

Ojewuyi said the police are doing corrupt things since they are so poorly funded.

“These guys you find on the street taking bribes and beating people up. They are so poorly paid. About half of them on the street use the money they collect from people to buy their own uniform. And put gas into their own trucks,” Ojewuyi said.

Ojewuyi said the problem needs to be decentralized and better managed and controlled. The younger generation will be the change that happens in Nigeria.

“So the second level of reform that is accepted and must happen is political. Changing those  who are the politicians and this must come from the young people. The set for that is going to be very difficult. You would have to create new political parties” Ojewuyi said.

According to The Washington Post, the Nigerian police force announced it dissolved SARS as of Oct. 11. Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said the police would be reformed and urged the citizens to leave the streets.

Protestors did not believe this and stayed in the streets even after the Lagos curfew was placed.

Staff reporter Madison Taylor  can be reached at [[email protected] or on Twitter at taylorm08.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisement