By Martin Rita Adebayo
The last one week have witnessed conscientious individual taking to the streets to protest against Police brutality and the highhandedness of the subset unit of the Police force called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In more than a decade, Nigerians have seen more than hundreds of extra judicial killings which arise from unlawful detention, extortion and baseless charges on mode of dressing, hairstyles and smart phones that these officers of the unit charged Nigerian Youths with. The manner and mode of operation for this unit of the Police force is not a general acceptable measure or standard of practice for policing anywhere in the world. SARS is a unit within force which was established in 1992 to combat robbery with tactical intelligence report and other social crime in the society. It is on note that this unit has undergone reforming, rebranding and refurbishment in the past with little or no improvement on their operation. In 2018, the then Acting President of Nigeria, Professor ‘Yemi Osinbajo ordered the total overhauling of this unit which is still marauding around and causing mayhem to the people they are to protect.
The premise on which this protest is erected is based on extortion, extra judicial killings, harassment of citizens, and spontaneous unlawful detention. These led to the call for the disbandment of the unit which has been greeted with a plethora of protest around the country. Police brutality is a thing of common everywhere in the world. The highhandedness of the officers and men of the SARS is something we can draw comparison with that of the local police in the United State of America that leads to the protest on Black Lives Matter Movement. In the Nigeria context, many have argue that the protest is one for a clout chasing both on and off the social media. In another narrative, it is said to be Pro-crime, so that those who engage in cybercrime, and other social crime can have a free filled day to themselves. This is far from the heinous crime that these officers have perpetrated against citizens of this country.
For a protest of value towards a better and a sane society like this, one would think that it will attract and enjoy media coverage and attention. But, reverse is the case which many have seen them as an accomplice to the crime against the Nigerian citizens. Protesters were seen sleeping on bare ground and floors in front of the Lagos State House of Assembly and the media and Television house were unable to discharge their duty adequately as the Fourth realm estate in the society. This is bad enough for the media houses in Nigeria to rise to the expectations during this material time. In that lacuna, the social media has come in to fill and bridge the gap in a way that a chain of protest and movement is formed. The power and the efficacy that the social media wield and enforce through Twitter, Instagram is enough advocacy to reach out to the international community. The majority of conversation, and discussion on Twitter is centered around SARS that carries different hashtags like #ENDSARS #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #SARSMUSTEND and the likes. This is more like a referendum on the police force on why the unit must be scrapped.
The advocacy on Twitter has lead to International representation and show of solidarity across the sea. These have seen international artists and figures to tweet solidarity message across. The ongoing protest is one way or the other is diminishing our international image and reputation, because this is a crime against human person. Social media has been able to draw the line where the media houses and prints has fail to carry out their responsibility. The advice on Twitter has made celebrities like Falz, Runtown, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Davido and the likes to join the protesters on the street.
The level of impunity by the Police force has further been stressed by the repressive attack on the peaceful protest across the country. We’ve seen Youths killed in cold blood in Ogbomoso, Oyo state and how they teargassed protesters in front of the Louis Edet House Force Headquarters in Abuja is a testament to the reason why they must go. Police force itself must be reform thoroughly. The officers within the force must be subjected to psychiatric and psychology evaluation on a regular basis. A technological device must be measured out within the extant laws of the force. The conventional stop and search measure in Nigeria must stop. We can do better as a nation to improve our security and intelligence apparatus.