Background of the study
The End-SARS movement has taken aim at SARS, a tactical police unit assembled in 1992 to curtail violent crimes such as armed robbery and kidnapping. Over the years, SARS has become the most flagrant source of state violence and corruption that citizens encounter. Youths, the demographic driving the end of SARS, report harassment, bribery, and even kidnappings at the hands of SARS officers, who criminalize young people for “dressing like” prostitutes and Internet scammers simply because they own smartphones and laptops, drive “flashy” cars, or have tattoos and dreadlocks.A 2020 Amnesty International report, “Nigeria: Time to End Impunity,” documented 82 horrifying cases between January 2017 and May 2020 of SARS extrajudicial killings, extortion, and torture methods, including “hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions, and sexual violence.” Citizen reporting sites including End SARS and The POBIN (Police Brutality in Nigeria) Project score more testimonies of abuse. On the morning of October 3, two days after Nigeria celebrated 60 years of independence, a tweet by Chinyelugo (@AfricaOfficial2) went viral, sounding an alarm that “SARS just shot a young boy dead.” Hours later, mobile phone recordings with the hashtag End SARS began trending, documenting the gruesome scene of the unidentified young man’s lifeless body abandoned on the roadside and citizens pursuing the officers, who they witnessed stealing the man’s Lexus SUV. Over the following days, many more Nigerians shared their own harrowing SARS experiences using the hashtag, which actually made its first appearance as a social media campaign and petition three years earlier, after a viral police murder in December 2017. This time around, with the mobilizing power of popular influencers on Twitter, the online protest moved to the streets. Since October 8, protesters in 26 of Nigeria’s 36 states have organized daily mass demonstrations, vigils, a sit-in of the National Assembly, and blockades of airports and major roads until the tragedy on October 20. What sets the 2020 End SARS movement apart from previous struggles in Nigeria is its inclusive, decentralized leadership and organizing approach. In a broader political system in which women face tremendous barriers to participation, a cadre of young women has taken the helm of mobilizing End SARS online and on the front lines, while also coordinating a vast network of mutual aid that has resourced protests across the nation. Since the protests started, the Feminist Coalition, coordinated by 14 women, has crowdfunded more than 147 million Naira (nearly $400,000) that was swiftly redistributed, with unprecedented transparency, to provide protest clusters with food, water, medical care, security, legal aid, and relief for victims of police brutality and their families. Still, EndSARS protesters insist, “We have no leaders,” rejecting the elevation of any individual or organization as the face of the movement. For now, this ethic has enabled the movement to sidestep co-optation by the establishment and hijacking by opportunists, which are pitfalls that undermined struggles like OccupyNigeria in 2012. The Nigeria Police was first established in 1820, but it was over a century later in 1930 that the northern and southern police forces merged into the first national police force, called the Nigeria Police Force. In 1992, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was formed to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes. Before that, anti-robbery was the responsibility of the Nigerian Police Force generally, although, from 1984, anti-robbery units existed separately as part of different states’ criminal investigation departments. Other special units, which went by different names at different times, included the intelligence response team, special tactical squad, counter terrorism unit and force intelligence unit, formed to tackle rising violent crime following the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970. By the early 1990s, armed robbers and bandits were terrorising Lagos and southern Nigeria. Police officer Simeon Danladi Midenda was in charge of the anti-robbery unit of the criminal investigation department in Benin, southern Nigeria, at the time. He had some success in combating armed robbery, earning a recommendation from the then inspector general of police. With crime on the rise in Lagos, Midenda was transferred there and tasked with uniting the three existing anti-robbery squads operating in the former federal capital into one unit in a bid to break the stronghold of armed gangs. As the new sheriff in town, equipped with 15 officers and two station wagons, Midenda formed an amalgamated unit and named it the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in 1992. In the early days of the unit, combat-ready SARS officers operated undercover in plain clothes and plain vehicles without any security or government insignia and did not carry arms in public. Their main job was to monitor radio communications and facilitate successful arrests of criminals and armed robbers such as Chukwudi Onuamadike, best known as “Evans”, who was arrested in 2017 after the police spent five years tracking him and placed a 30 million naira ($80,000) reward on his head. For 10 years, SARS only operated in Lagos, but by 2002, it had spread to all 36 states of the federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It was counted as one of the 14 units under the Nigerian Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department. Its mandate included arrest, investigation and prosecution of suspected armed robbers, murderers, kidnappers, hired assassins and other suspected violent criminals. Emboldened by its new powers, the unit moved on from its main function of carrying out covert operations and began to set up roadblocks, extorting money from citizens. Officers remained in plain clothes but started to carry arms in public. Over time, the unit has been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention and extortion. SARS officers then allegedly moved on to targeting and detaining young men for cyber crime or being “online fraudsters”, simply on the evidence of their owning a laptop or smartphone, and then demanding excessive bail fees to let them go. In 2016, Amnesty International documented its own visit to one of the SARS detention centres in Abuja, situated in a disused abattoir. There, it found 130 detainees living in overcrowded cells and being regularly subjected to methods of torture, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions. Now, Nigerians say they have had enough. Since 2017, protests have been building momentum across Nigeria, stemming from online advocacy to street protests. The anger about the unit’s activities culminated in a nationwide protest on the streets of 21 states this month after a SARS officer allegedly shot a young man in Delta State. Amid the ongoing protests, President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the unit would be disbanded. But this has not quelled the protests as young people continue to occupy the streets in large numbers demanding the immediate release of arrested protesters, justice for victims of police brutality, the prosecution of accused officers as well as a general salary increase for the police force to reduce corruption. Young protesters say they have heard it all before. This is not the first time the government has disbanded SARS and promised reforms. In 2006 and 2008, presidential committees proposed recommendations for reforming the Nigeria Police. In 2009, the Nigerian minister of justice and attorney general of the federation convened a National Committee on Torture to examine allegations of torture and unlawful killings, but made little headway. In October 2010, the then Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, allocated 71 billion naira ($196m) for police reforms. In 2016, the inspector general of the Nigeria Police Force announced broad reforms to correct SARS units’ use of excessive force and failure to follow due process. Historically, police officers who are alleged to have unlawfully killed Nigerians have faced few or no repercussions. For years, Amnesty International has reported cases of unlawful killings and police brutality by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria. Reports of human rights violations committed by SARS have continued to mount, despite repeated promises of reform and accountability by the Nigerian government. The police authorities created a Complaint Response Unit (CRU) in November 2015, through which the police could process complaints from the public. To date, no SARS officer has been found responsible for torture, ill-treatment of detainees or unlawful killing. The following year, 2016, Amnesty International documented 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions by SARS, with victims, usually young men between the ages of 18 and 35, arrested during street raids on groups of people doing things such as watching a football match or drinking at pubs. Research by CLEEN Foundation, a Nigerian non-profit organization which promotes public safety and access to justice, found that the Nigeria Police Force lacked an effective database on complaints and discipline management.
Statement of research problem
Prior to the EndsSARS protest, many Nigerian citizens’ relationships with the police force were strained.Citizens’ trust in police institutions has dwindled as a result of several factors, including bribery, illegal detention of suspects, extortion, unlawful killings, and harassment of youth because of how they dress or the type of car they drive, who are immediately tagged as fraudsters by policemen at check points. All this led to a public outcry and, as a result, there was protest to disband SARS in over 26 of the 36 states we have in Nigeria. However, even after SARS was disbanded, the relationship between citizens and Nigerian police has not been particularly cordial, as some officers felt resentful for the people they were supposed to protect, and as a result, there have been reports of police brutality.These are among many that will be discussed in this study.
Objectives of the study
The primary objective of this study is as follows:
1. To find out the cause of the EndSARS protest.
2. To investigate if the relationship between the citizens and police was cordial before the EndSARS protest.
3. To find out if the relationship between Nigerian police and citizens has improved after the EndSARS protest.
4. To find out if the scrapping of SARS and reformation of the police has improved the job role of the police force.
The following questions have been prepared for this study.
1. What were the causes of the EndSARS protest?
2. Was the relationship between the citizens and police cordial before the EndSARS protest?
3. Has the relationship between Nigerian police and citizens improved after the EndSARS protest?
4. Has the scrapping of SARS and reformation of the police improved the job role of the police force?
Significance of the study
This study will lay emphasis on the pre and post SARS relationship between the Nigerian police force and the citizens.
The findings of this research work will undoubtedly provide much needed information to government organizations, NGOs, the police force, individuals, and academia.
Scope of the study
The goal of this study is to examine the pre and post-end SARS relationship between the Nigerian police force and the citizens. Hence, this study is delimited to police men and Nigerian citizens in Lekki, Lagos state.
Limitations of the study
This study was constrained by a number of factors which are as follows:
Financial constraint: is inevitable considering the present economic situation. Due to lack of finance at the researchers’ disposal to get materials and in the printing of questionnaires. It was not possible to visit some of the police stations and some of the victims of corruption.
In developing countries like Nigeria, there is the problem of insufficient data.
Time constraint: Another constraint is time, which makes it difficult for the researcher to switch between writing about the research and engaging in other academic work.
Operational definition of terms
EndSARS: End SARS is a decentralised social movement, and a series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria.
Relationship: The way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected
Nigerian police: is the primary law enforcement and security agency in Nigeria, with a workforce of approximately 371,800 people.
Citizens: a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.