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by Nandika Ravi and Sergio Mourato

Thousands of Nigerians have been protesting for more than two weeks now against the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos, Nigeria. The hashtag #EndSARS has been trending on social media ever since, with citizens of Nigeria demanding an end to police brutality and corruption.

Protesters stand at the entrance of a toll-gate during a protest against the Nigeria rogue police, otherwise known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Lekki district of Lagos, Nigeria, 14 October 2020. During the week of 05 October, the Nigerian federal government yielded to a call by the Nigerian youth calling for the disbandment of SARS, for its public harassments, innocent killings of citizens, and other unethical conducts. But an announcement of a new police squad–Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), by Nigeria’s police chief has sparked a new wave of protests across Nigeria. EPA/AKINTUNDE AKINLEYE

City Youth Councilor of Toronto, Patience Evbagharu, said that SARS has been accused of  “extortion, harassment, torture and murders for many years.” She also said that the task force stereotypes youth, by targeting young men with tattoos, dreadlocks or expensive cars or phones.

The Anti- Robbery Squad was formed in Nigeria since 1992 to tackle armed robbery and other serious crimes. SARS was initially a force of officers who were undercover and did not wear uniforms. The unit developed a reputation for using excessive measures to control people.  Amnesty International‘s study accuses SARS of subjecting both men and women to various methods of torture and ill-treatment in order to “extract information.”

 

What spiked the recent protests in Nigeria?

A video showing SARS officers allegedly shooting a man in Delta state before driving off in his car began circulating in early October. The video prompted these recent protests in Lagos, Nigeria. After the video went viral, thousands of young protesters marched at Lekki toll gate in Nigeria with banners reading: “#EndSARS.”  The police initially responded to these protests with tear gas, water cannons and even open firing, Evbagharu said.

How are Nigerians in Toronto impacted by these protests?

Hundreds of protestors took to the streets in downtown Toronto demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria. Evbagharu said the youth these days are more empowered, and will not tolerate unjust and violent behavior by the police, who are supposed to be the ones to protect the people of the country.

 

Latest Updates:

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was ordered to freeze bank accounts of twenty protestors who were involved in the #EndSARS demonstrations. The CBN has repeatedly denied involvement in the freezing of bank accounts of #EndSARS protesters.