So perhaps you have seen the hashtag or you have come across it on the media because it trended worldwide and many notable names lent their voices to the campaign. Let me briefly explain what #endSARS is about and how it all started. End SARS simply means to put an end to 'SARS' and not the disease, yeah right.
SARS is the acronym for Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigeria Police force. The SARS unit was incorporated to combat crime especially armed robbery and they were armed with the necessary equipment required. Over the years, this unit has become notorious and known for impunity, extortion, unaccountability, and murders. All these they have done backed by the law of the Nigerian government, after all, they are police officers. In other words, the unit supposed to fight crime are now the ones committing the crime and there seems to be no one to stop them.
End SARS or #endSARS is a leaderless social movement that calls for the disbandment of this notorious unit. #endSARS started in 2017 only as a Twitter campaign. The agitations and raised voices of the youths led the Nigerian government to ban, dissolve, and reform this terrible police force unit in 2017, 2018, and even in 2019 respectively. The effect of these bans and reforms were not felt, as the incidents involving police brutality and murder from this same unit continued to rise. In October 2020, there was an event when a video showing a SARS police officer shooting a young Nigerian trended on the internet, this happened in Delta State, Nigeria. This incident seemed like the last straw had been drawn and youths had had enough. The hashtag #endSARS immediately took a different dimension, from just a Twitter campaign to actual mass peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Abuja, Lagos and then in other major cities of Nigeria.
In a world made up of so many differences, there are a number of commonalities that are there to stay. The most important ones are definitely respect and equal rights. And for us, who are mostly enjoying this basic right on most days of our lives, it's very easy to take the same basic rights for granted and forget the people who are fighting to gain these rights. The current protests in Nigeria are a stark reminder of this world of inequality which persists to date. Unfortunately, when listening to this grim news over the TV, it's very easy to look away, however, this time around destiny had a surprise for us at On Point.
This time around our colleague, in Nigeria, was being literally surrounded by these protests, the fighting and killing very close to his home and a stone's throw away from our office in Lekki, the same place where the shootings have taken place. We cannot sit still and be indifferent to all of this. After all, we have travelled to Nigeria numerous times, and each time we were very positively impressed by the country, the people, the standards and all other aspects onto which we base our judgements. For all intents and purposes, it was just another city, very similar to the European ones. And yet it's a country which is very evidently suffocated by these underground powers which infiltrate the communities, wreaking havoc onto their very own people. It all boils down to power, maintaining it no matter what, even if the person in the street is the one to suffer.
Very interesting, is the persistently different reports which we have been receiving in the past days. The official story is much rosier than the videos uploaded onto social media. The latter is actually confirming the reports by Amnesty international which is reported in the following link - https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/killing-of-endsars-protesters-by-the-military-must-be-investigated/ - at least 12 citizens have been killed. If one had to go onto Youtube and look for #endSARS, the number of videos is impressively huge, and each one portrays a picture that shows youths and the community at large fighting for their rights.
In the midst of all of this, a very sorry picture of the Nigerian president has emerged. A president who is ready to spend so much energy during the election period but which has dragged his feet for days before deciding to speak to the nation. A president who opted not to mention the unacceptable shootings at Lekki, even though they were widely condemned both by the local and international community. In the end, all of this clearly shows a nation, who wants to move ahead, to progress but is not ready to have anyone tramping onto their rights. It's a nation which respects their leaders but is also expecting them to act as leaders.
Whilst many may condemn all this, very few are ready to act. Most of us would simply criticize the act, but that's opting to act indifferently. And yet we are being called to do so much more. In today's world, the word of the person on the street is as might as those running the countries. None of us is exempt from making our voices heard. We are being urged to protest on behalf of the Nigerian community, asking to end the injustices. We are to put pressure on our own government to publicly condemn the shootings. We are simply being called to act, each of us in our own way. No action is deemed to be insignificant. There is only one state which is unacceptable, that of being indifferent.