Not Just a Hashtag


by Feyi Apampa, United World College Maastricht alumna
30 October, 2020
Illustration by Estella Tenga


The #ENDSARS/SWAT hashtag has been circulating around social media for quite a number of days now. On the 8th of October 2020, protests broke out across many locations in Nigeria after a video of a SARS officer shooting a young man was released. 

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What is SARS? 

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SARS is the Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit of the Nigerian police force formed in 1992 after the rise of violent crimes in Nigeria, with the sole purpose of investigating crimes such as armed robbery, kidnappings and theft. However, they appear to have had a different agenda, for what we now see is these officers acting like those that they were  supposed to apprehend. 

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SARS officers abuse their power in so many ways, from kidnapping, to torture, to sexual violence, to murder- the list is extensive . Not to mention the fact that the Nigerian police force was ranked THE WORST in the world in 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index. This is why #ENDSARS is trending.

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“The men of SARS stopped me at Yaba, got into my car, and said that I’m a yahoo boy (a fraudster) because I was wearing gold chains, owned an iPhone and there was cash with me. They drove me to their office in Surulere and held me there till I paid 50k (about 131 USD). One of them gave me his number to keep in touch.”

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“I was bundled to the station like a criminal, I was extorted. One innocent person was assaulted with a cutlass at the police station”

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“When armed robbers were breaking into my apartment in July., I called SARS and they told me they had no petrol in their vehicle. The robbers spent 2 hours robbing my entire street uninterrupted.”

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“Met a lady today who was picked by SARS in Ibadan, searched, then driven 12 hours to Abuja. They asked her for money, she told them “do your worst.” They did. Framed her and locked her up for 42 days without contact with her family who thought she was dead.”

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SARS has become a game of who can hunt down Nigerian people, specifically youth, with dreadlocks, nice clothes, nice cars, piercings, tattoos, dyed hair, laptops and expensive phones. 

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If any of these apply to you, be careful, you might be next.

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So what has the government said in response to the #ENDSARS movement?

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On the 11th of October, the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank MBA signed a statement about the dissolution of the SARS unit stating that:

  1. The Inspector General of Police has dissolved the SARS unit across the thirty-six State Commands and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with immediate effect.
  2. All officers and men serving in the unit will be redeployed to other Police Commands, Formations and Units.
  3. A new policing arrangement for tackling the offences of Armed-Robbery and other violent crimes will be unveiled to the public soon.
  4. A Citizens and Strategic Stakeholders Forum will be launched to provide an avenue for citizens to regularly interface and advise the police authority on issues touching on the general public.
  5. To deal with the report of crimes committed against citizens, an Investigative team will be constituted which will include Civil Society Organizations and culprits will be punished.

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What has been the response of the youth and general public?

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As said by Bashir Ahmad, the personal assistant of president Buhari, SARS was “reorganized” in 2017, “overhauled” in 2018, “disbanded” in 2019 and now “dissolved” in 2020. For the past 4 years the government has promised the removal of SARS, but that hasn’t been the case. Nigerians are tired of empty promises, and have demanded:

  1. The immediate release of arrested protesters
  2. Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for the families of the victims 
  3. Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days)
  4. In line with the new police act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of disbanded SARS officers before redeployment.
  5. Increase of police salaries so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.

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 So much has happened concerning the protests since it started a couple of weeks ago. By the 19th of October, Nigerians and allies all over the world had donated money to be used for food, water, ambulances and other support and had raised over 74,727,649.14 NGN (approximately 195,662 USD) in the currencies of USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, GHS, KES, and BTC. The response from some Nigerians in the diaspora has been overwhelmingly positive with protests in various countries, including the UK, US and Canada.

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20.10.20 – The Lekki Tollgate Massacre

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In Chapter 2 part 14.2 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, it states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The government has broken this, multiple times, but the events of the 20th of October 2020 mark the worst way this constitution has been broken. On this day at 11:49am WAT, the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu issued a 24-hour curfew to start at 4pm, in order to prevent citizens from exercising their constitutional right to protest against police brutality, claiming that the protests have been infiltrated by criminals. This gave Lagosians about 5 hours to spare and prepare. With Lagos being home to about 20 million people, 5 hours is such little time and as a result, people were met with gridlock traffic and crazy long queues in various places like grocery stores with the fear that the curfew may be extended. 

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Despite the initial 4pm curfew, peaceful protesters still decided to meet at the Lekki Tollgate, which has been the main center of all the protests since they began on the 8th. Sometime before 4pm, the CCTV cameras at the Lekki Tollgate were uninstalled and around 6pm, the lights at the tollgate and surrounding areas were turned off. At approximately 6:45pm tweets from the scene of the protests started to alert people that soldiers arrived at the scene and opened fire allegedly resulting in the loss of about 78 lives and counting (although the figure is now debated), with many others injured and in critical condition. While this was ongoing, the Lagos state government tweeted an amendment to the initial start time of the curfew, moving it till 9pm, all while the shooting is happening. What were the protesters doing at the time of the massacre? Sitting down, waving the country’s flag, and singing the national anthem. For many, their final words being “peace and unity” the last line of the first stanza of the Nigerian national anthem.

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So who is responsible?

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With videos and live stream recordings circulating the media, the Nigerian army was quick to label their involvement and the killings of protestors as fake news. On the 18th of October, it was reported the army was to intervene in the protests, with a deployment under the name “Operation Crocodile Smile VI.” The acting director of the army’s public relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, said that the army “is ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively”.

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In addition to this, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Lagos state governor, also known as “the Grand Oppressor of Lagos State”, has since fled the country and claimed that he had no involvement with what happened, despite the popular belief he is the beneficial owner of the  the Lekki Tollgate amongst many other properties in the area, such as the Oriental hotel, and the popular news channel, TVC.

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The current governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has since stated that “forces beyond [his] control]” are responsible, and even went on to say that there were no fatalities  in a press release, which the pubic asserts is a blatant lie, as many watched the live broadcast by a popular Nigerian DJ who livestreamed most of the protest on Instagram, on which someone was shot and killed live.

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My heart is heavy, my country is bleeding. Never in my 18 years of life have I ever felt more confused. Nigeria, the most populous Black nation in the world, is in shambles. Innocent people are being murdered! The silence of the wider Black community and the rest of the world is deafening. WE ARE NOT JUST ANOTHER HASHTAG! I urge you all, Nigerian or not, to raise awareness! Use your voice! Nigeria needs you now more than ever. For 60 years, we’ve been suffering. For 60 years, we’ve been exploited. For 60 years, we’ve been promised a better Nigeria. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. All my life, I’ve seen countless Nigerians go into poverty; I have seen everyday pain and suffering. How can minimum wage be 30,000 NGN ( approximately 78.50 USD)and a COVID test be 50,000 NGN (approximately 131 USD)? How does that work? MAKE IT MAKE SENSE! What happened to the better Nigeria we were promised?  We, the “lazy” youth (as the president called us), have woken up and we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

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All I have left to say is this:

Sanwo-Olu! You’ve been caught in all your lies!

In the words of Stephanie Mbachu, Buhari! “You’ve been a bad, bad boy!”

Tinubu! You can run, but you can’t hide!

The blood of innocent Nigerians soils all of your hands. Blood on the flag, blood on the land, blood on your hands!

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This article is to JIMOH ISAQ. AYOMIDE TAIWO. PETER OFURUM. CHIKA IBEKU. CHIBUKE ANAMS. IFEOMA ABUDU. CHRISTIAN ONUIGBO. EMMANUEL EGBO. VICTOR MADUAMAGO. CHIDI ODINAUWA. STEPHEN AGBANYIM. TONY ORUAMA. TIYAMIU KAZEEM, MUS’AB SAMMANI. KOLADE JOHNSON. ONOVO MATTHEW. CHINEDU ANI. PRESCIOUS ODUA. RICHARD GORA. CHIJIOKE ILOANYA. LINDA IGWETU. DANIEL TELLA. HARRY ATARIA. JOHNSON NNAMEKA. FEMI BELLO. CHIMA IKWUANDO. GODGIFT EKERETE. GABRIEL OWOICHO. TINA EZEKWE. MODEBAYO AWOSIKA. DANIEL ADEWUYI. CHUKWUEMEKA MATTHEW. CKIKA IBEKU. AZUAMAK MADUEMAGO. RINJI BALA UZZIEL. TIYAMIU KAZEEM. JOSEPH EIDONOJIE UGBENI. ANITA AKAPSON. CHIBUIKE DANIEL IKEAGUCHI. ANTHONY NWOKIKE. PAULINUS OGBONNA. IFEANYI OZOR. CHINEDU MENIRU. AUGUSTINA AREBU. EKENA ISAAC MEGBE. EMEKA OJINZE. ADEMOLA MOSHOOD. ISMAILA ANYINLA. MIRACLE.  JOY NDUBUEZE. SUNDAY. OKE-OBI ENADHUZE.

and the many others, who have lost their lives to the hands of SARS and the government, your deaths shall not be in vain, we promise you that. We will fight till the very end. Rest in eternal peace.

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“We want a Nigerian society where the child of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody”

– Aisha Yesufu (2020)

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