Calls for police reform in Nigeria

Isadora Li, page editor

Brutality in Nigeria has recently grown in response to the harsh treatment of citizens by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). SARS was first established in 1992 as a means to put an end to the widespread robberies that were taking place, but it has since evolved into a group that has had multiple accusations of inhumane treatment against it. The complaints, including kidnapping, rape, and torture, eventually led to SARS being disbanded, yet the cruelty that ignited the protests hasn’t ceased.

Through social media, families are connecting and sharing their accounts of interactions with SARS officers. Many are hearing about unlawful detentions and unreasonable charges, with the goal of SARS officers being to extort Nigerians who appear well off. The newest wave of videos and images spread around social media depict graphic violence in the streets, bringing the Nigerian government under fire for refusing to take action in holding officers accountable. Author Chimamanda Adichie voices her thoughts on the violence: “The Nigerian state has turned on its people. The only reason to shoot into a crowd of peaceful citizens is to terrorize: to kill some and make the others back down. It is a colossal and unforgivable crime. The brazenness is chilling, that the state would murder its citizens, in such an obviously premeditated way, as though certain of the lack of consequences.” 

Despite being dissolved on October 11, police have still continued their mistreatment of citizens. Investigations and promises for accountability made by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari never seemed to come to fruition in spite of the ongoing violence and continued mistreatment of citizens. Protests across the country, predominantly led by young Nigerians, have drawn increased attention to the SARS violence. The most recent massacre occuring at the Lekki Toll Gate where an undisclosed number of people were shot, in response to a 4 p.m. curfew. 

With so many casualties, people outside Nigeria are left wondering about ways to help. Amnesty International has created email templates to send to President Buhari and Attorney General Abubakar Malami to petition for police accountability. Similar to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, protesters are now bringing attention to the Nigerian police brutality in the form of peaceful protests from the streets of Nigeria to the US. Many claim the behavior of the Nigerian SARS emphasizes the universal need for police accountability, but with so little action taken by governments worldwide, it is being called into question whether or not promises for reform will be followed through.