EndSARS Protest: More than a Call for Security Sector Reform in Nigeria?

By Maurice Ogbonnaya

Shortly after Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary celebration on October 1, 2020, nationwide protests fueled by demands to reform a dreaded unit of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), broke out in several major cities across the country. Largely staged by the youth, and trending on social media, the #EndSARS protests started on October 5, 2020 following the killing of a young man in Ughelli, Delta State by operatives of SARS. By October 10, 2020, the street protests had spread across the country. The protests have also gone global with solidarity protests held in Accra, Frankfurt, London, Toronto, and Washington DC,1 attracting Nigerians in the diaspora and persons of note, including music and sports stars like Wizkid, Drake, Kanye West, Mesut Özil, and Alexander Iwobi,2 among others, demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria.

The protests are the result of pent up frustrations following years of human rights violations, extortion, torture, brutality, and extra-judicial killings by SARS operatives and the police in general. Established as a special unit of the NPF under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) in September 1992, SARS was formed to investigate, detain, and prosecute people suspected of involvement in high caliber crimes such as armed robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and illegal possession of firearms. In 2018, its operational jurisdiction was expanded to include cybercrime.3

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