It has been one week of growing rage and protests in different parts of Nigeria over the atrocities of operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Originally created to combat rampant cases of armed robbery and other violent crimes, SARS has grown into a monster killing and extorting young Nigerians. Anyone with a smartphone, bank apps, chat apps, dreadlock, ripped jeans, tattoo, flashy car or expensive gadget is at risk of being kidnapped, extorted, jailed, even killed.
Victims of SARS brutality are predominantly male between the ages of 18 and 35. They are profiled as internet fraudsters or armed robbers. This is why many young Nigerians who make up 70% of the country’s population, according to data from the Vice President’s Office, are on the streets demanding the scrap of the unit.
Just like many frontier and developing countries, Nigeria has a big internet fraud problem; and because of the activities of the generations before this, it is widely – even if erroneously – believed that a good part of the world’s internet fraud is carried out by Nigerians. But SARS continues to judge every book by its cover, profiling every bold, different, and exuberant young Nigerian a criminal. Even those who conform are not spared.
Ironically, members of the SARS squad themselves do not look like ideal models of what they expect honest young Nigerians to look like.
Every image examined by Neusroom, showing SARS officers in action, looks like they are determined to look like armed robbers, instead of a unit of Police enforcement.
Young Nigerians, most of whom are self-employed, freelancing, or studying, are tired of the harassment. And after three years of trending hashtags on Twitter and Facebook, they’re now taking the conversation to the streets – from Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Benin, and elsewhere. Outside of Nigeria, they’re protesting in London, in Berlin, in Canada, and several parts of the United States. It’s so organic, spontaneous, viral, yet organised and credible, that it appears the government does not know what to do.
While thousands have taken to the streets and members of the international community have also shown solidarity with the movement, others who can’t join the protest are seeking a way to support.
Here’s how you can support the movement and protesters:
1. Show Social Media Solidarity
The online campaign has been the most effective way of calling global attention to the movement. From different parts of the world people have joined the protest using the #EndSARS hashtag to share their thoughts, show solidarity. You can also share the messages to your WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media contacts. The movement needs as many people as possible to amplify the message to those who are not on Twitter.
2. Join a Protest in your neighbourhood
Now that the protest has been taken offline, wherever you are, there is a protest venue, show up at the rallies to encourage others. People gain strength from numbers.
3. Donate and Volunteer
Hundreds of protesters are out on the streets all night demanding an end to SARS. If you cannot be part of the street protest, you can donate funds to the movement or volunteer to take meals, water and other edibles to those attending the rallies. Former BBNaija housemate Erica has shown an example by donating food to protesters in Lagos. Companies like Flutterwave, PiggyBank, and others are giving generously. Show up at a protest venue with food and drinks or make online donations to support the cause.
4. Take it Offline
Now that the campaign has dominated the agenda in the digital space across the world, the message needs to be taken to the grassroots to those who are not aware of what is happening in the digital space. Amplify the message by educating people in the grassroots, share fliers, orientate them and let them know why it concerns them. If the son of a former Minister of Communication, Omobola Johnson, could be a victim of SARS impunity, those in the rural areas are not immune to the SARS virus, it is a no respecter of status.
5. Listen, Learn and Educate Yourself and Others
An online resource, a Google Doc, containing information about the movement has been created. Perhaps you’re still not sure of what to do, read about the movement and have a better understanding before making a decision. There are a lot of informative tweets and articles written about the #EndSARS movement, read up and educate others.