In the past three days, the heat of the people’s concern over the recurring acts of assault, extortion, illegal and indiscriminate arrest among many human rights violation carried out by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Sqaud (SARS) arm of the Nigerian police, continues to burn and spark off important conversation and radical actions.
Following the multiple cases of indiscriminate stop and search incidences experienced by numerous young Nigerians and shared on social media, the country has been thrown into another state of worry and protests against a unit of government that should be providing security and not inciting fear. With celebrities in the likes of Wizkid, Falz, Olamide, Naira Marley, Yemi Alade, Toke Makinwa, and many others raising awareness around this social menace that is making a return for the second time, in less than a year since it escalated last year.
— Wizkid (@wizkidayo) October 5, 2020
Police brutality is sky rocketing by the day And the nigeria gov. Is not deaf nor blind, they see all the trends and tag along with whichever one they like. You don't have to like this one to do right thing. The hashtags are becoming tiring. The people are sick of it.
— Olamidé (@Olamide) October 4, 2020
On Sunday, October 4, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu announced the ban on activities of SARS, known as the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) as well as other tactical arms of the force, including the Special Tactical Squad (STS), and others. Rapper and singer, Naira Marley has also been at the forefront of this conversation, calling for a protest and then pulling back to dialogue with the Nigerian Police over an Instagram live session.
All of these movements and activities might signify the kind of pro-activeness needed to clamp down on the deplorable and inhumane means by which SARS officials carry out their operations, but it is no different from the outcry, the online protests and the campaigns organised last year.
With SARS, Nigerians are not guaranteed of a swift and thorough reform of an armed force that terrorises young Nigerian citizens, men, women and people who appear to be queer or are already socially vulnerable. This is our fear. What long-lasting solutions will be reached at this dialogue? What are the assurances that SARS personnel will adhere strictly to best practices if reinstated, what are the assurances that the Nigerian Police Force will not pick up the baton and continue this devious culture of exploitation and undeserved violence. From this vantage point, a through reform of the Nigerian Police Force is a progressive way to start. That and an overhaul of the processes and laws surrounding policing in this country. Arrests based on perception and no evidence or substantial suspicion should cease to be a thing as it has far reaching effects much more than we can imagine.
We can only hope that whatever trajectory this wave of anti-SARS/Police brutality goes, that it would bring a permanent end to this reckless exercise of power.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.