By: Jack Chrest
Nigeria is in the midst of a national crisis pertaining to police officers in the country. For years, Nigerians have been taking to the streets in protest of a controversial branch of the Nigerian Police Force known as SARS (Special Anti Robbery Squad). In the past, SARS have harassed citizens, made unlawful arrests, and even carried out unjust killings. This month, tensions boiled over as Nigerian forces opened fire on hundreds of peaceful protesters in Lagos, killing several.
Since the formation of SARS in 2017, the branch has repeatedly abused the human rights of every-day Nigerians. Tweets under the hashtag #ENDSARS show footage of forces torturing, sexually harassing, and humiliating protesters during previous demonstrations. Further, SARS officers are not mandated to wear police uniforms or badges while on the job. Effectively, street goers have no way of knowing whether they are being violated by an officer or a complete stranger. Regardless, SARS forces have not been held back by the Nigerian government over the past several years.
On October 20, hundreds took part in a peaceful protest outside of the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria. That evening, military forces opened fire on protesters, killing and wounding several. Prior to the massacre, demonstrators were gathered together, singing the Nigerian national anthem and waving green-and-white flags. Sadly, many of them were subsequently killed by SARS.
While it is hard to determine exactly how many lives were lost from the Lekki massacre, at least 12 deaths have been reported. The governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-olu, claimed that at least one person died during the protests. However, he initially denied all reported deaths, and some have claimed that even more protesters died at the hands of SARS. Many have reason to doubt the Nigerian government, as President Muhammadu Buhari is first on the list of those facing accusations of negligence. Both him and the governor of Lagos should have been aware of the order for Nigerian forces to charge into the crowd of peaceful protesters on the night of October 20. Even so, these leaders still sat back and watched innocent people perish.