The federal government announced that SARS was scrapped, but the protests have continued. What started as an outcry against SARS and police brutality has become a movement for general policy reforms in Nigeria.
All over the country, Nigerians have turned out in large numbers to walk and call for policy and government reform, acknowledging the fact that Nigerian security agencies wouldn’t freely attack citizens if the system wasn’t so corrupt.
On the 11th of October, Nigerians released the 5 demands they made for the government to meet, creating the hashtag on social media, #5for 5. These demands are:
- The immediate release of all arrested protesters
- Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.
- Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct
- Psychological evaluation and retraining of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed (to be confirmed by an independent body)
- An increase in police salary to adequately compensate them for the protection of citizens’ lives and property
In a nationwide address, President Muhammadu Buahri acceded to these demands and ordered the immediate disbandment of SARS, an order which has since been complied with.
Haunting stories of police brutality still pour in, adding to the determination of Nigerians to see a positive change in their nation. When asked by government officials for their leader, the protesters staunchly declare that they have none (believing that having leaders will help the government create a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy). However, this strategy has also led to a stand-off as the government’s repeated calls for dialogue are met with stiff resistance.
Donations are pouring in, going toward getting food and water for those protesting, with the coordinators doing what they can to account for the monies. Cases of missing phones and bags being returned, and men handing out whistles to women to be used if subjected to sexual harassment abound. Protesters have also done their bit to clean up all litter following their marches.
However, over the last few days the protests have taken a dark turn as in some parts of the country acts of vandalism which include the burning of vehicles, businesses, properties and a police barracks have featured in the wake of the protests. Lives have also been lost to deliberate acts of murder and unfortunate accidents. A jail break in Edo state led to the institution of a curfew in the state even as allegations fly between government and protesters with regard to who is responsible for the “infiltration” of the protests by undesirable elements.
Social media is at the moment torn, not by those for or against the demands but rather by those who feel it is time to dialogue with the authorities and those who are leery of any compromise at all.
Today, the 20th of October 2020 marks almost 2 weeks of the protests tagged #EndSARS and aimed primarily at dismantling the dreaded and deeply despised Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police. That goal has since been achieved as the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the replacement of the unit with a Special Weapons and Tactics arm (which is also being resisted). Certainly at this point armed robbers and other criminal elements are currently taking what they might consider as a much deserved break from the inquisitive eyes of the Police.
While government and the protesters wait for who blinks first, how soon the stalemate ends can only be determined by fate as Nigerians look on with bated breath.