#EndSARS Is Trending, Here’s What’s Happening In Nigeria
The hashtag #EndSARS has gained traction online recently as a result of a movement in Nigeria condemning police brutality from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS.
Protests in the country began two weeks ago, when footage emerged online that claimed to show a man being beaten by SARS officers.
Members of the public took to the streets in response to the heinous act, demanding that the police unit accused of illegal detentions, assaults and shootings be disbanded.
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the squad on October 11, but protests continue as activists call for more changes in the security forces and reforms to the way Nigeria is run. The hashtag #EndSARS is used to raise awareness for the protests and to rally the crowds.
This week, rights group Amnesty International claimed government forces fired shots at protestors during a demonstration at Lekki toll plaza in Lagos.
The shooting took place on Tuesday, October 20, after which Amnesty claimed 38 people died and hundreds were injured. The organisation says a total of 56 people have died throughout the two weeks of protests.
In comparison, the state governor claimed 25 people had been wounded but only one person had died.
An unnamed witness told BBC News soldiers pulled up to the wealthy Lekki suburb at 7.00pm local time and ‘started firing directly’ at peaceful protesters.
They were firing and they were advancing straight at us. It was chaos. Somebody got hit straight beside me and he died on the spot.
As a result of the shooting, an indefinite 24-hour curfew was put into place in Lagos and other regions.
Amnesty accused the police and military of using excessive force, but Tuesday’s incident apparently didn’t deter authorities, as police in Lagos fired shots in the air on Wednesday in an effort to disperse anyone defying the curfew.
Tensions remain high, and a reporter for AFP news agency said several buildings were in flames around the Lekki area on Wednesday. Other buildings set alight included a bus station, a major TV station linked to one of the governing party’s top politicians, and the headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
In a statement issued by President Buhari’s office on Wednesday, October 21, the government said the dissolution of SARS was ‘the first step in a set of reform policies that will deliver a police system accountable to the Nigerian people.’
The presidency wishes to reiterate the full commitment of the Buhari administration to the implementation of lasting police reforms in Nigeria.
A number of celebrities have shown their support for the movement, allowing the #EndSARS hashtag to gain further attention.
Beyoncé addressed the movement on Instagram, writing in part:
I am heartbroken to see the senseless brutality taking place in Nigeria. There has to be an end to SARS.
To our Nigerian sisters and brothers, we stand with you.
Footballer Odion Jude Ighalo, who is from Nigeria and who plays for Manchester United, called his country’s government ‘a shame to the world’ and accused the authorities of killing their own citizens.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden said the US ‘must stand’ with the protesters, while British Nigerian boxer Anthony Joshua tweeted: ‘I pray God opens the gates for the heroes of Nigeria.’
Amnesty International has claimed that CCTV cameras at the site where Tuesday’s shooting took place were removed before the incident. The organisation said this was a ‘clear attempt to hide evidence’ and described the shootings as ‘extrajudicial executions’.
It urged the need for an investigation and to have those responsible held accountable.
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Amnesty International Nigeria