As more and more Nigerians take to the streets in an effort to get the country’s government to agree to put an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) under the banner #EndSARS, more and more celebrities are lending their voices to amplify a cause that has been advocated for more than three years.
#EndSARS is a social movement in Nigeria that started on Twitter calling for banning of the SARS, a unit of the Nigerian Police Force. This after the unit has been accused by of police oppression and brutality.
Though the cause is not new, the unit’s continued existence has renewed protest action in cities across Nigeria.
This after Nigerian musician WizKid used his platform to both challenge the country’s president Muhammadu Buhari on Twitter after the tweets of his less-famous fellow countrymen went ignored and to shed light on calls being made by accounts with less of a following than he has.
Donald trump is not your business!
Old man! Police/Sarz still killing
Nigerian youth on a daily! Do something!
Nothing concern u for America!
Face your country !! https://t.co/thxmoYb7VE
— Wizkid (@wizkidayo) October 4, 2020
According to Okay Africa, although the unit was originally created to deal with violent crimes such as robbery, kidnapping and murder, in recent years, they have been accused of perpetrating those very crimes.
Their targets seem to be Nigerian youth who have shared numerous accounts online of having been stopped by the SARS unit for reasons such as “looking gay”, “looking like an online scammer” (a Yahoo boy) and “looking like a sex worker”.
Following the amplified interest in the #EndSARS movement in recent weeks, celebrities all over the world have taken to Twitter to lend their voices to the cause, to spread the necessary information to bring awareness and to let people outside Nigeria know what they can do to help, no matter where in the world they are.
Rapper Kanye West is among the latest to tweet about the police brutality suffered by Nigerian youth.
I stand with my Nigerian brothers and sisters to end police brutality, the government must answer to the peoples cries #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria
— ye (@kanyewest) October 12, 2020
He was also joined by musician Trey Songz who said he did his own research into the matter and regularly retweets updates shared by Nigerians on the ground.
After doing a little research I would like to speak out against what’s going on in Nigeria right now. Their pleas to #EndSarsNow IS VERY REAL. I have so much love for my Nigerian fans and it’s so hurtful to hear whats happening.
— Trey Songz (@TreySongz) October 10, 2020
Police brutality here in America often is an abuse of power driven by race. To be brutalised, extorted and murdered by your own people is unimaginable. Prayers up and I’m researching ways I can help. #EndSARS
— Trey Songz (@TreySongz) October 10, 2020
Others such as musician Estelle, radio host Ebro Darden, rapper Nasty C and footballer Mesut Özil all had something to say.
— Estelle (@EstelleDarlings) October 10, 2020
When Moms take to the streets the World stops.
Fix it now Nigeria. #EndSARS
— Kojo Ebro (@oldmanebro) October 9, 2020
World is fucked up & the people that are supposed to serve & protect are often the biggest problem smh. #EndSARS
— #ZMWSP (@Nasty_CSA) October 10, 2020
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) October 11, 2020
No reform No change of oga No ban … we want it scrapped completely!!! #EndSARSImmediately
— Davido (@davido) October 9, 2020
According to a report filed by AFP, some lives have even been lost in the protest action that began last Friday.
A protester and a police officer were killed on Thursday while another sustained life-threatening injuries during a protest in the southern town of Ughelli, Hafiz Inuwa, Delta State Commissioner of Police told AFP, adding that nine suspects had been arrested.
Protesters gathered peacefully in the economic hub of Lagos but in the capital Abuja, the crowd was met with teargas, according to one of the organisers.
“Our members were close to 200 in the protest. We were teargassed,” said human rights activist Deji Adeyanju.
“It’s just sad that they are clamping down on peaceful civil protest.”
Anger has been brewing on social media after a video went viral showing the alleged killing of a man by a police officer in Delta State – a video that authorities denied was real.
The man who filmed the video was arrested, provoking even more anger.
Nigeria’s vice president Yemi Osinbajo denounced police violence when asked about the issue by reporters.
“I’m very concerned, in fact, very angry about what I see, happening to young men and women who are arrested, in some cases maimed or killed by men of the police force,” Osinbajo said.
The movement initially targeted the federal SARS, widely accused of unlawful arrests, torture and even murder, but has since broadened to include all police forces.
While the SARS unit was suspended on Sunday, groups such as Amnesty International said the government had not gone far enough, pointing to previous unsuccessful attempts to ban the force.
The hashtag #EndSARS was the most trending topic on Twitter on Friday.
“There’s a lot more people than yesterday. The movement is growing,” said 29-year-old Chinoso Esengba, a doctor participating in Friday’s protest.
“This problem affects us all. We all risk being tortured, arrested, extorted for no good reason,” he added.