A struggle against brutality: Nigeria’s #EndSars movement

Protests have gripped the streets of Nigeria as thousands demand an end to police brutality. Unrest began as a defiant movement against the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit renowned for carrying out frequent human rights abuses. However, the movement, which has gripped people nationwide and across the globe, has become something far greater – it is now representative of a voice demanding total change and reform.

Unrest against the notorious police unit has been present in Nigeria for many years, with protests erupting across the West African country since their formation in 1992. SARS has frequently faced accusations of human rights violations. It is believed the unit has carried out extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, discriminatory profiling, and extortion. Amnesty International has documented 82 cases of police brutality in Nigeria since 2017, with reports of brutal torture methods also released. This October marked the banding together of Nigeria’s youth in the fight against such brutality. Protests this year erupted after reports of unlawful shootings were shared across Twitter. The #EndSars movement began trending on the social media platform and outrage quickly swept throughout the international community. Protests against the police unit are not a recent phenomenon, but this time the campaign has gone global.

On October 11th, Nigeria’s inspector general of police announced the disbandment of SARS, with a new unit, SWAT, replacing it. With the news came anxiety and discontent and #EndSwat immediately began trending on Twitter. Though the news of the unit’s termination was met with jubilation by some, many fear it lives on under a new title. After all, this is not the first time an announcement has been made claiming the dissolution of SARS. Young Nigerians and global supporters will continue to take to the streets until all demands calling for an end to police brutality are met.

The movement has now become something greater. With the supposed end to SARS, the Nigerian youth now focus their efforts on ridding the oil-rich country of police brutality and crooked leadership once and for all. Motolani Alake, a journalist for Nigeria’s Pulse newspaper, said the protests have become an “EndSARS battle cry… a tone of rebellion, a note of valid belligerency and a chant of unification in the Nigerian struggle against police brutality and terrible governance”.

As demonstrations continue across the country, more and more evidence has emerged of violence against protesters. Footage has been leaked of live ammunition and water hoses being used to disperse crowds, while a number of demonstrators have been killed in violent clashes with government forces.

With the prominence of social media, the campaign has now gone global. Shocking footage of police brutality has haunted and left a scar on those who witness it. Outrage is no longer contained to Nigeria and those taking a stand to rid the West African country of injustice are spread throughout the international community. Numerous celebrities, including footballers and musicians, have taken to Twitter to voice their anger.

The footage that has dominated social media over the last month has meant the eyes of the world are now focussed on Nigeria. The movement has become a symbol for wider change and the Nigerian youth believe now is the time for a new generation to lead their country into a brighter dawn. The end of SARS is suspicious to many, and its successor, SWAT, carries fears of a continuation of violence under a new name. However, one thing is certain: Nigeria has hope for a brighter future. Will it be fulfilled as an opportunity for radical change? Or will it be a simple return to that of which has scarred the people of Nigeria for too long?    


About Author

William Warnes

William Warnes

Global Editor - 2019/20

Co-Deputy Editor - 2020/21