It has now been one year since a youth-led mass protest movement against a hated police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), spilled over into wider anger and calls for better governance in Nigeria.
The anger turned into mass protest and unrest, and ended abruptly after the deadly shooting of unarmed protesters on October 20 in Lagos’s Lekki toll gate. At least 12 persons were killed there according to rights group Amnesty International, a claim that has been disputed by local authorities.
One of the protesters Helen at the time said : "We are here because our youths are tired of what SARS (Special Anti Robbery Squad) are doing to us. SARS are being brutal in this country and it’s not fair. We don’t have our rights as youths". Her words encapture most of what was said during the protest though they would metamorphose into other issues of governance that called for attention.
"There is hunger in the land, economy is poor, there is no light, there is no roads, there is no water. Banditry in the north, kidnapping in the north, militants are fighting. What did we voted you for? We voted you to bring that change to us."- 'DX2', a Performing artist said.
Organisers have been mobilising online for a protest to coincide with the Lekki Tollgate shooting but police authorities in Lagos, Abuja and other states have been issuing warnings against the anniversary protest, asking them (organizers) to halt the plan.
SARS, or the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, has for decades been a notorious unit of Nigeria’s police force accused of unlawful arrests, profiling, torture and even extrajudicial killings.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Oct. 12 2020 disbanded the unit but reports of police abuse have not stopped in the west African nation.