Calls Against Police Brutality Rock Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Calls and bawls against police brutality have rocked the atmosphere in Nigeria, as youths and indigenes of the country rally on social media and voice their concerns of police brutality in the country, particularly from a unit of the Nigeria Police Force known as the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS). FSARS isn't anyway new to controversy and allegations of misconduct and brutality, with quite a history of improper acts including the murder of a Nigerian football player in February of this year and the killing of a Nigerian youth by the name of Kolade Johnson in April of last year, an incident that drew cries across the country.

Calls against police brutality in Nigeria have rocked social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook, with hashtags such as #EndSarsNow and #EndSARSBrutality gaining steam as of late. Hordes of Nigerian citizens and residents have taken to Twitter, Facebook and the likes to voice concerns, among them notable and famous personalities such as Nigerian popstars Wizkid and Davido along with Nigerian activist and former presidential contender Omoyele Sowore.

The renewed calls against police brutality in Nigeria seem to have produced some results, with the country's police force having enacted a formal ban on "routine patrols" to the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) along with other tactical police units in the country. The Nigerian Police Force, in a formal statement, clarified that FSARS and other tactical units aren't allowed to conduct "search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices", as has widely been a source of complaint, and are to "concentrate and respond only to cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes when the need arises." Such an enactment, however, has not proven satisfactory, as similar enactments have been made as far back as three years ago but apparently to no avail. Indigenes across Nigeria have called for a formal speech from the country's president, Muhammadu Buhari, to solidify and widely formalize the enactments recently announced by the country's Police Force.

 The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has long been a controversial unit of the Nigeria Police Force, with calls against misconduct and brutality stretching back eight years ago. The unit traces its origins back to 1992 following the death of a Nigerian military officer, Colonel Israel Rindam, believed to be killed by police officers at a checkpoint in the state of Lagos. In the aftermath of his death, soldiers were dispatched across the streets of Lagos in search of police officers, who themselves widely withdrew from checkpoints and interest areas in the aftermath. The mass withdrawal for a two-week period led to a crime surge across Lagos and a response in the form of a new tactical unit called the 'Special Anti-Robbery Squad', which was commissioned following a ceasefire agreement between Nigerian Army and Police officials in the aftermath of Colonel Rindam's death. 

SARS is one of the 14 tactical units of the Nigerian 'Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department; which was set up to tackle intense crimes such as armed robbery and kidnapping. Despite its formal mantra, it seems the unit has veered off into unrelated areas, with a significant history of accusations and allegations of harassment against Nigerian indigenes, particularly the country's youth.

Photo credit: European Parliament, licensed under Creative Commons