What is behind the “End-SARS” movement?

The slogan “EndSars” calls for the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian police with a long list of abuses.

SARS is a special unit of the Nigerian police, which was established in 1992 in response to the increase in armed robberies in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos.

Since then, however, SARS has become a “specter of terror for citizens,” and has been given the nickname “Go and Kill” by Nigerians, according to Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto. This unit brought more unrest than peacekeeping.

There are countless witness testimonies and video evidence on the internet of such “official actions.” These show SARS officers involved in kidnappings, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, humiliation, extrajudicial killings, and extortion of Nigerian citizens.

A large part of the victims of SARS abuse were and are young Nigerians between the ages of 16 and 35. Middle-class people with mobile phones and cars, but especially Nigerian men who were targeted for attacks based on their appearance (fashion choices, tattoos, and hairstyles).

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations wrote reports on the atrocities and degrading treatment that the population had to endure due to this special police unit as early as 2016.

Aniedi Okure, a Catholic priest and executive director of the “Africa Faith and Justice” network, called on the church and all believers not to overlook the police violence, which he says is a failure of the government.

“The people who are supposed to protect us have turned out to be perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and crimes in society,” he said. “The primary responsibility of the government is to protect its citizens. We seek justice for the people and promote the right and dignity of the human person, created in the image of God – and we want it to be respected.”