Nigerian celebrities gathered on October 8th with protesters calling for the End of SARS for the first round of protests calling for the end of SARS following a series of online protests.
Furious at the ongoing brutality and extortion of citizens, stars including actress, Toke Makinwa and artists, Falz the Bad Guy, Tiwa Savage and Runtown turned out in force with ordinary citizens demanding for complete closure of the SARS Unit.
Here is all you need to know about the #EndSARS movement.
What is SARS?
SARS is the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian police later changed to Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) in 2018.
It was originally set up in 1992 by former police commissioner Simeon Danladi Midenda to deal with crimes associated with arm robbery, car snatching, kidnapping, and gun crimes following the killing of a Nigerian Army Colonel, Col. Rindam, by police officers at a checkpoint in Lagos.
The group who do not wear any official uniform but carry guns, were further rolled out across the country at the height of internet fraud and university cultism.
How it started trending – Again in 2020
The #EndSARS campaign woke up again in early October 2020, when a video clip emerged on Twitter of a witness claiming SARS operatives had murdered a young man and took off with his Lexus Jeep.
A Young Man Was Shot Dead Today In Broad Daylight By SARS Officers At Ughelli, Delta State. After Killing Him, They Stole His Car (Lexus Jeep) And Left His Body On The Road Side. SARS Officers Are Now Rogue Criminals In Uniform #EndSARS. Its Time The Youths Declared #WarOnSars.. pic.twitter.com/F9EcahVNDH— Somto Okonkwo (@MrSomtoOkonkwo) October 3, 2020
The Beginning of #EndSARS
SARS routine became increasingly known as operation intimidate, oppress and extort against citizens in Nigeria.
Outraged by evidence upon evidence of citizens’ treatment by SARS, Segun Awonsanya, a realtor, began the EndSARs hashtag online in 2016 to draw attention to the campaign.
He told CNN the entire police force must be reformed and any SARS officers found guilty of offenses after the inquiry must answer for their crimes.
“The position of the people… is not negotiable. We are asking for a shutdown of a demonstrably criminal network within the police structure and a general reform in the police,” Awosanya said.
Awonsanya’s voice was heard as Vice President Osinbajo in 2018, promised to reform the unit and ordered the country’s National Human Rights Commission to set up a committee to investigate abuse allegations.
SARS was restructed and incidents quietened but it was only a short matter of time before reports of behaviour was trending again.
Victims of SARS
Victims of SARS are said to be endless with their brutality dubbed by Amnesty International as “a pattern of grave human rights violations”.
Lady shot in the mouth by a Police Officer at Salvation Bus Stop, Opebi Road. These are things armed robbers used to do. When will the NPF be reformed? When will our president listen to our voice? When will Nigeria be like a real country? #EndSarsProtests pic.twitter.com/QmVoznh0cE— DR.PENKING™ (@drpenking) October 8, 2020
There was Kolade Johnson in March 2019, shot when police opened fire while attempting to arrest a suspect. The officer in question, Sergeant Godwin Orji, claimed his gun was pointed in the air and only shot once while an eyewitness claimed he pointed the gun directly and shot twice.
The killing of Kolade was the subject of a #EndSARS petition to the UK Government to consider. The petition was rejected due to it being Nigeria’s matter.
There was Toni Astro, the software developer with a laptop who was classed as a internet yahoo boy then beaten and forced to withdraw money for them.
In August of 2019, a strayed bullet hit and immediately killed a pregnant woman during a raid to arrest kidnappers in Ijegun, Lagos.
Celebrities that have been targeted by SARS
Only three celebrities so far has coming forward on their encounters with SARS.
Back in 2019, Nigerian Rapper, Ikechukwu alleged he had been tortured by SARS and forced to hand over money. His fellow rapper, Ruggedman had a close encounter when his brother was arrested and extorted for money.
Actress, Beverly Osu also revealed her experience with SARS left blood spots in her eyes while Genevieve Nnaji narrated how her 13 year old neice was slapped across the face for carrying a laptop which was subsequently seized.