In 2017 the hashtag #EndSARS went viral in Nigeria after several citizens published social media content describing the extortion, harassment, and kidnapping that they were subjected to at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a division of the Nigerian police force which was created in the early 90s to curb an uptick in crime and robberies and to ensure the safety of citizens across the nation. Over the years, the members of this special police force have been accused of predatory practices including torturing, harassing, intimidating and extorting Nigerian citizens with impunity.
The reports of widespread violence reached a tipping point two weeks ago when a video surfaced showing SARS officers torturing and executing unarmed Nigerian citizens. Nigerian youth coalesced around the battle cries of #sorosoke (Yoruba slang for raise your voice, don’t be silent), #EndSARS, and took to the streets in organized and peaceful protests in more than 30 Nigerian cities, demanding better governance, police reform, and that the government disband the SARS and bring justice to victims of police brutality. These demands bear striking similarity to the protests seen in the US and across the globe this year.
Sadly, the constitutionally protected right to protest has not been respected by Nigerian government security forces. This past Tuesday, the Nigerian Army assaulted an untold number of unarmed Nigerian youth in Lagos, Nigeria, who were engaged in peaceful protest. Other deaths have been reported across the country on this date as well.
The assault on innocent protesters is unacceptable, especially in the aftermath of a nation already severely burdened by the crippling health, social and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic; a nation where more than half of the population lives in extreme poverty and are on the margins of society. They are plagued by systemic barriers to equity and grapple with high unemployment, poor governance, energy poverty, and limited access to healthcare on a daily basis. These are the ills that compelled the brave and courageous youth to exercise their civil liberty and turn to peaceful protest to demand change.
Global Citizen condemns police brutality in all forms, particularly the recent attacks on peaceful protesters in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims of police brutality.
We stand with Nigerians and invite you to join us in calling on the Nigerian government to end these attacks on peaceful protesters, to dismantle systemic barriers to opportunity for Nigeria’s youth and to guarantee justice for the victims of police brutality.
Here are two ways you can take action for the #ENDSSARS movement:
An injustice to one Global Citizen is an injustice to us all and we must all speak up against the unfair administration of justice in Nigeria during this dark hour.
Thanks for all that you do,
Liz Agbor-tabi, Mick Sheldrick, and the Global Citizen Team