The #EndSars began in Nigeria as a series of tweets on police brutality, extortion, and extra-judicial killings. These shared grievances on Twitter led to the biggest protest the country has ever witnessed. In so many parts of Nigeria, mostly young people took to the street with placards to exercise their rights to peaceful protest. Celebrities from Nigeria lend their voices and presence to the protest. Before long, the hashtag became a global concern and many people all over the world showed support and contributed their voices in demanding the end of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad also known by its acronym SARS.
What was more fascinating was the level of support received from citizens of other countries. The Nigerian plight was familiar to anyone who had ever experienced police brutality. All over the world, there are cases of police brutality every year. On May 25, 2020, US Policeman Derek Chauvin dragged a black man named George Floyd out of his vehicle, knelt on his neck for eight minutes until he gave up the ghost. This act, captured in a video, resuscitated an old wound, emotions were triggered and mass protest followed. In the event of the US protest, lives were lost, properties destroyed and so many protesters sustained injuries.
In May 2017, Shamim Reja was tortured by the police until he lost his life in Sonargaon police station, located in Bangladesh. After a series of investigations, the three officer-in-charge Arup Torofar, SI Paltu Ghush, and ASP Uttam Prashad were found guilty as charged. Inhumane police misconduct was a major motivation to the 2011 Egyptian revolution as well. From Europe down to Africa, there have been numerous cases of police brutality caught on tape with speculation that the undocumented stories are higher.
This is why it was easy for any citizen from anywhere in the world to be triggered by any act of police brutality because it feels relatable, “Police brutality here in America often is an abuse of power-driven by race. To be brutalized, extorted, and murdered by your own people is unimaginable. Prayers up and I’m researching ways I can help. #EndSARS,” Trey Songs wrote on Twitter.
Support for the Nigerian protesters is a hand of understanding, an act of empathy that is based on past experience, forged under the human instinct to stand with the oppressed, “I stand with my Nigerian brothers and sisters to end police brutality, the government must answer to the peoples cries #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria,” Kanye West also tweeted.
At the home front, popular names which include Wizkid, Davido, Aisha Yesufu, Runtown, Genevieve Nnaji, Falz also joined the protest pledging solidarity and funds. Renowned celebrities which include Ozil, Rio Ferdinand, John Boyega tweeted the hashtag and called on the government to listen to the demands of the protesters.
The protest received forceful clap-back from policemen who threw teargas at protesters, videos of policemen beating protesters in Lagos and Abuja were circulated on the internet. At Oyo, a state in Nigeria, a protester Jimoh Isiaq was shot by the police. Local media has proved reluctant to cover the stories, an act that is viewed to be fear of sanction from the federal government. BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and other prestigious global media took the news before many local Nigerian media.
After days of continuous protest, the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police Mohammed Abubakar Adamu finally announced the disbandment of SARS. The IG’s announcement was seen as a small victory over the government who hitherto shown no interest until the pressure became unbearable.
However, the protest didn’t stop after the announcement made by IG, it was generally believed that this was a faux declaration like all other previous government announcements that were not backed by action. The protesters demanded that the president should make the announcement and there should be a legislative law to consolidate it.
The disbandment of SARS was seen as the first step towards police reformation, “This is just the beginning!! We won our fight to #ENDSARS .. now Reform the Nigerian police!! #Endpolice brutality! We deserve good governance! #Endpolicebrutality,” Wizkid wrote this on his Twitter handle. The president has so far made the announcement. The legislative process is currently ongoing. Further demands from the protesters have also been granted by the federal government. The five demands include the immediate release of all protesters, justice for all the deceased victims of police brutality with appropriate compensation for their families, psychological evaluation and training for all the disbanded officers before their redeployment, setting up an independent body for police misconduct, and lastly increase in police salary.
The outpour of support from non-Nigerians all over the world signals two things: that the international community is paying attention and also that police brutality, wherever it happens, will always be condemned. For so many Nigerian youths, this protest is beyond the basic demands; victory over the government will boost the attitude of youth to stand for their rights, to demand a better standard of living.