With over 4 million tweets to its credit, an issue doesn't become merely trending; it becomes the voice of the people. So after a video of a young man allegedly being killed by the SARS unit goes viral, the latest protests across Nigeria, including Lagos, ensue. It doesn't take long for the protests to become a hashtag, and for the hashtag to become a movement EndSARS.
The Nigerian specialist police unit force called SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) has been accused of crimes of the worst kind, unlawful arrests, violence, torture, extortion and even murder. Protestors across the spectrum got together, along with campaign groups including Amnesty International, urging the government to hold the unit accountable.
Celebs' call to EndSARS
Sometimes all that a cause needs is a viral social media campaigning and some celebrity support. Star Wars actor, of Nigerian descent, John Boyega led the way in backing EndSARS outcry by tweeting both his support for the protestors and frustration at the hands of police brutality.
Joining in were also Nigerian superstars Wizkid and Davido who tweeted their support for the protestors. Apart from the support and the outcry, many people used the hashtag to share the stories of police brutality as experienced by them.
Not the first time for SARS
Nor the first time for hashtag EndSARS. This is not the first time that police brutality has raised a worldwide hue and cry. The hashtag EndSARS was, reportedly, first used in 2018. Several reports published by human rights organizations and several campaigns, including those by Amnesty International and National Human Rights Commission, have highlighted the unfairness with which SARS goes about its stop and search operations.
Young men with flashy cars, tattoos, piercings, expensive accessories, and gadgets are especially targeted by SARS. Amnesty International Nigeria tweeted about Tiamiyu Kazeem, a 21-year-old footballer who was killed by SARS police.
Tear gas, force and gunshots
Last week, Nigeria's inspector general of police Mohammed Adamu suspended the SARS unit and also stripped it of its powers to carry out stop and search operations, and setting up roadblocks. But the protestors aren't happy, wanting nothing less than complete dissolution of the unit this time. In fact, many commuters were left stranded around the Alausa and Berger area in Lagos State of Nigeria because those protesting blocked the highway. Nigerian police resorted to firing tear gas at a protest in the capital Abuja and reportedly some protestors were also beaten up.