Police brutality in Nigeria

Samuel Ogali, Courier Staff

The issue of police brutality in America has been all too familiar for African-Americans for decades. Whether it was Rodney King, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor or George Floyd, the conversation around excessive police force on selective groups of people has been a polarizing issue at that. Unfortunately, police brutality and discrimination isn’t only felt in the states, but in other countries as well.

For a while now, I’ve been seeing posts on social media about the protests that are taking place in Nigeria. Every post I saw said #ENDSARS. Now, I didn’t know what SARS was and why my fellow Nigerians were protesting all across Lagos (a city in Nigeria) to denounce it. But, after further educating myself on what the organization was and why so many are decrying its existence, it started to make sense.

During the 1990s, Nigeria (similar to cities like New York and Oakland) was experiencing a high percentage of crime; as a result of this, the Nigerian government implemented a special police force, the Strategic Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that would patrol different areas in efforts to arrest and stop people who were causing problems, such as robberies. The difference was this special force did not have to wear uniforms and blended in without people noticing who they were. Now, in theory, this sounded like a good idea, but gradually this special force took matters into their own hands and instead of protecting its citizens, it unjustly targeted them.

SARS would primarily profile young Nigerian adults who they believed were suspicious of illegal activity. This would include people who wore expensive attire, had dreadlocks, tattoos or even an iPhone. This characterization fits the description of who SARS believed were criminals, even if this was extremely far from the truth.

Unfortunately, this profiling has led to SARS unjustly attacking and even murdering people they suspect to be criminals. These tactics have reached a breaking point in Nigeria as mass protests around the region have led to more attention being placed on the Nigerian government.

Fortunately, the Nigerian government, through constant pressure, agreed to disband SARS, but completely blindsided people by announcing it would implement its replacement called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).

The protests in Nigeria have already turned deadly as members of these forces have killed protesters as well as people trying to hijack the protests for their own agenda.

What’s happening in Nigeria is terrible, but it’s just the latest bad news in this catastrophic year. Police brutality isn’t only in America, but everywhere else, too