John Boyega backs #EndSARS outcry over notorious Nigerian police unit
Street protests against a notorious Nigerian police unit have received an invaluable boost from viral campaigning and celebrity support.
On Friday, the #EndSARS hashtag was trending not only in Nigeria, but in the UK and the United States.’
British-Nigerian actor John Boyega voiced his support for the campaign, as did popular Nigerian musicians Davido and DJ Cuppy.”This situation is tied to many other issues. Please lend your attention to this pressing problem!” Boyega posted on Twitter.
Chart-topping musician Davido tweeted: “My people need me …. #EndSarsNow.”
After receiving pressure from fans to publicly back the protests, DJ Cuppy wrote: “I would (be) lying if I said I’m DIRECTLY affected by SARS but a lot of my Cupcakes are and that’s enough for me to care. I stand behind the movement to #EndPoliceBrutality AND #EndSARS.”
The hashtag is a public cry for the Nigerian government to disband the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit blighted by accusations of corruption and brutality.
This week, fresh protests erupted over the alleged killing of a man by SARS officers on Saturday.
The animosity towards the unit is not new, however.What is the background to this latest unrest?
For years, videos that appear to show SARS officers extorting and assaulting civilians have been surfacing on social media.
This week, street protests have been taking place across Nigeria, including in major cities like Lagos, Abuja and Ibadan.
A video posted on Twitter appears to show “peaceful” protestors in Abuja being met by tear gas.
“For no reason, we are peacefully protesting, and they’re throwing tear gas at us,” a protester can be heard exclaiming.
What is the force’s response to the accusations?
On Friday, the Nigerian Police Force fired off a string of tweets accusing protesters of violence and the murder of a police officer in the Delta State region.
“ENDSARS PROTESTERS GO BERSERK – MURDER 1 POLICEMAN, INJURE ANOTHER IN DELTA, STEAL AK47 RIFLE WITH 25 ROUNDS OF AMMUNITION,” the force’s pinned tweet read.
Last weekend, it announced a ban on routine patrols by SARS and other tactical squads of the Nigerian police.
According to Amnesty International, it’s the fourth such ban in four years.
Despite this move, many remain critical.
Amnesty said the authorities have failed to diminish the unit’s “impunity” and that brutality and corruption is getting worse, “despite repeated pledges to reform the police squad and investigate violations committed by its officers.”