SARS: Nigerian youth, celebrities protest against controversial police unit accused of brutality


The nationwide protests had been a end result of weeks of anger and outcry on-line by the nation’s younger individuals over claims of kidnapping, harassment and extortion by a police unit often known as the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).

On Thursday, a protest was led in Lagos Island by Folarin Falana, a lawyer and singer, and Runtown, an artist recognized by that stage title.

Falana, who’s popularly often known as Falz, informed CNN it was vital for him to march as a result of there have been “too many numerous incidents of harassment, extortion and police brutality,” within the nation. He added that he, too, had been a sufferer of harassment by the hands of the Nigerian police.

“People have been posting online about it for years, but it has been the same sluggish attitude and response to it. Nothing has changed and people keep on being harassed. That’s why we have taken to the streets and we want the government to listen,” he mentioned.

“I am marching for the ones that are not recognized. We are surprised by the numbers that came out and we are prepared to march again,” he added.

Protests proceed into the evening

Overnight protests had been additionally held in Lagos mainland Thursday exterior the Lagos State Assembly as organizers carried placards and knelt down, chanting ‘End SARS.’
A gaggle of protesters, led by Debo Adebayo, a comic by the stage title of Mr Macaroni, held a protest vigil, working into the third evening in a row, in Alausa, Lagos.

Videos from the protesters shared on Twitter Thursday evening confirmed police officers forcefully dispersing the protesters, dismantling their sleeping tents, turning off the road lights and making verbal threats.

Nigeria’s police pressure had responded to the general public outcry final Sunday by banning the unit from finishing up any stop-and-search actions.

SARS, in addition to different tactical police models, at the moment are prohibited from “carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk. duties — stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc — with immediate effect,” Nigeria police chief Mohammed Adamu mentioned on Sunday in a press release.

“Voices and complaints on the issues of unprofessional conducts by some SARS operatives have been heard very loudly and clearly,” the statement read.
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Feyikemi Abudu was among the many protesters exterior the Lagos State Assembly in Ikeja on Friday. She informed CNN their calls for had been offered to the meeting, which held an emergency session Friday to hearken to their calls for.

“There are many demands, but the main one is to scrap SARS, not to reform it but to completely end it. Another demand is compensation for victims of SARS brutality, both alive and dead. We also want a committee that will investigate and look into the present and past grievances around SARS brutality, ” Abudu mentioned.

Abudu additionally informed CNN she has raised 1.3 million naira (about $3,390) to purchase meals for these protesting and for medical therapy for these injured in the course of the protests.

Media persona Toke Makinwa was additionally amongst those that protested. “People are constantly calling my show with reports of harassment,” she mentioned.

“One man told me they pulled his phone and searched his banking app, they took him to an ATM to withdraw money for them. Nigeria has reduced its citizens to doing everything by themselves. SARS should not be one of the problems we have to face. You are supposed to be anti-robbery but we are afraid of you. People who are meant to protect are the ones oppressing us.”

CNN put this and different allegations to the Nigerian police pressure, and Lagos state spokesman Muyiwa Adejobi mentioned that each one complaints against its officers are rigorously investigated and applicable sanctions utilized to offenders.

Adejobi added that many individuals hardly ever report the abuses as a result of they worry that they could not get justice. He inspired individuals affected by police misconduct to report the abuses.

‘A scarcity of political will’

The police say that the ban on the SARS unit is one of many steps in direction of reforming the outfit.

However, this ban will not be the primary time authorities in Nigeria have censured the SARS unit.

In 2018, the country’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, whereas deputizing for the President who was out of the nation on trip on the time, ordered the unit to be overhauled. In January 2019, the police introduced one other ban on the identical police unit.

But the human rights group Amnesty Nigeria says not a lot has modified since these bans had been put in place.

“A similar ban on SARS did not end police brutality because it appeared the bans were simply done to assuage the swelling public anger at the time of the announcement and not intended to end police brutality,” Amnesty Nigeria’s program supervisor, Seun Bakare, mentioned.

In an electronic mail to CNN, he mentioned consequently of previous campaigns, some reforms like “the passage of the anti-torture act 2017, the signing of the new police act” and different minor amendments have been handed.

The anti-torture act of 2017, for instance, is meant to guard Nigerians, together with suspects and detainees from torture and inhumane treatment. However, there appears to be a scarcity of political will to implement these legal guidelines, Bakare mentioned.

‘Nothing will occur if I shoot you,’

The hashtag #EndSARS, #StopPolicebrutality has continued to pattern on Twitter as younger individuals shared their tales, photographs and movies that they allege present males in Nigeria police uniforms looking out their automobiles and harassing them.

Lagos-based entrepreneur Samuel Otigba informed CNN he has had a number of encounters with members of the police that he believes to be from the SARS unit. He mentioned the encounters often start with requests for bribes. Otigba alleges that in May, he bought into bother as a result of he declined to provide a bribe to 1 of the officers when he was stopped after a night out along with his spouse.

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He says his cellphone was searched and he was threatened by the officer who informed him, “You know if I shoot you, nothing will happen. The highest anyone will do is cry justice on Twitter.”

Otigba recounted one other encounter earlier this 12 months when one other set of officers, who had been carrying masks, he mentioned, stopped him and his spouse once more after an evening out in Lagos state.

“Six of them jumped out of their mini bus and started pointing guns at us, commanding us to get out of our car. We thought they were armed robbers. We were all so scared and my wife was crying,” Otigba informed CNN.

This time he says he paid the officers 20,000 naira (round $52) earlier than they had been let go. He mentioned he didn’t report the incident.

Adejobi, the police spokesman, mentioned solely incidents which can be reported are investigated.

‘Carrying laptops not a criminal offense’

Nigeria’s tech group, particularly, has long complained about police harassment.

Many tech entrepreneurs say they’re focused for having issues like tattoos and dreadlocks, or just for carrying laptops and smartphones.

Nigeria's tech community launches a campaign against alleged police harassment
Between 2017 and 2020, Amnesty International mentioned it has documented 82 cases of police brutality in Nigeria.

“Detainees in SARS custody have been subjected to a variety of methods of torture including hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions and sexual violence,” Amnesty’s report mentioned.

Nigeria police chief Mohammed Adamu warned against “the invasion of the privacy of citizens particularly through indiscriminate and unauthorized search of mobile phones, laptops, and other smart devices,” whereas Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo just lately held a gathering with police chiefs over the difficulty, in response to a press release from the Presidency.

Osinbajo mentioned the president is “very concerned about it, and … wants to see reform.”

“You cannot have a situation where SARS says they are investigating cybercrime by arresting young men and women carrying their laptops and phones. I don’t see how you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi or in their cars,” in response to tweets attributed to Osinbajo.





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