#EndSARS of 2020 in Nigeria was a youth-led citizen engagement and protest against police brutality. The activities started on social media and later ran through the major cities and towns. Eventually, the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force was disbanded.
May 3 2023
Effective policing is critical in the quest for a secure state.  However, some officers of the special anti-robbery unit of the Nigeria Police Force engaged in illegal involvement in civil and domestic disagreements, indiscriminate arrest, extortion, torture, brutalizing, and extra-judicial killings. Also, some citizens were abused over suspicion of involvement in cybercrimes among others.  The October 2020 protest was an unprecedented and coordinated movement against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force. The protests took place in major cities, towns, and the capital of Ogun state as well as other states in the country. The youth-led protest started as mere digital activism and soon cropped into coalition building and public engagement that demanded the holistic restructuring of the police and more importantly, the disbandment of the SARS unit.  The movement made use of technology for awareness and organization. Also, it engaged in physical protests at strategic locations. The engagements and innovation tactics were successful and it led to the disbandment of the police unit and also a partial reorganization of the entire police structure.
Problems and Purpose
The high rate of poverty, unemployment, poor governance, and lack of policy initiatives and implementation has increased the crime rate in Nigeria.  Also, socioeconomic demographics like the urban and rural population as well as higher education enrolment, are some other determinants identified.  Despite all these, the state still has the responsibility to secure the people and coordinate its agencies to prevent and fight all forms of criminality in society.  This is expected to be done in line with international best practices.
During its operation, some officers of the SARS unit operated mostly in plain clothes - without uniforms or badges, and even carried guns in unmarked cars that are not police operational vehicles.  Amnesty International 2020 released a document that contained some of the crimes committed by some of the officers including extortion, rape, extra-judicial killings, and other criminal acts.  Several petitions and protests on social media since 2016 were ineffective as there were no prosecutions of reported officers nor overhaul of the unit.  It took the recorded extra-judicial shooting and killing of a motorist in Delta State by an officer to go viral with national and international condemnation as well as street protests in about 26 out of 36 states of the federation for the government to take decisive action against the unit.  Within this context, the #EndSARS protest began as a youth-led movement on social media, and citizens shared their stories with posts through Facebook, Twitter, tik-toks, blogs, and youtube videos that generated millions of views to demand the end to police brutality and justice for the victims across the country.  Innovative coalition building and digital activism attracted national and international attention. The social movement resulted in weeks of violent protests on the major streets and the wanton destruction of public and private properties across the country eventually led to the establishment of the Victims Support Fund (VSF); Special Security and Human Rights Committees (SSHRC) and; Human Rights Complaints Offices (HRCO) by the National Executive Council [H].  Further, it resulted in the police disbandment of the special unit and general reorganization of the Nigeria Police Force.
Background History and Context
The establishment of the Nigerian Police predates the 1914 amalgamation and the 1960 independence of the country.  In 1992, owing to numerous reports of unresolved murder and robberies, the police authority established the SARS unit as one of the 14 units under the Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department. The unit was involved in high-rated criminal investigations such as assault, murder, smuggling, stealing, robbery, armed robbery, sex offense, traffic offense, currency offense, Indian hemp, forgery, human trafficking, and cultism/ritual cases. 
The officers of the special unit were operationally coordinated from the national police headquarters and at the height of the activities of the unit, there were numerous cases of abuse and brutality against some of the officers.  As earlier mentioned, the protest that initially started online soon escalated and led to the wanton destruction of public properties with record attacks on police stations, government buildings and properties, private establishments, and outright loss of lives by the irate youth during the agitation. 
After the protests that lasted for over two weeks at several locations in the country, SARS was disbanded and the formation of a new special unit was announced on the 16th of October 2020 by IGP Mohammed Adamu. The special team was code-named Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, and it was to comprise an entirely new set of officers to be deployed after proper medical evaluation. SWAT had a mandate that included the response to robbery attacks, scenes of weapon-related crimes, rescue operations, and special operations including anti-banditry, counterterrorism, and counter-insurgency.  However, the introduction of SWAT to replace SARS was entirely rejected by the protesters and it subsequently fizzled out.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Segun Awosanya popularly known as Segalink is often credited as the convener of the #EndSARS for his initiative. He had earlier established the Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation to advocate for victims of police abuse.  Other persons such as Aisha Yesufu, Obianuju Catherine Udeh (DJ Switch), David Adeleke (Davido), Folarin Falana (FALZ), Peter Okoye (Mr. P), and some religious leaders like Pastor Sam Adeyemi made use of the social media space and the streets protests to support the movement. 
In addition, the movement had the support of international and public/private corporations. Among the early supporters were the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey; the State Coalition of Civil Societies; the International Federation of Women Lawyers; the National Youth Council; the National Association of Nigerian Students; and the National Human Rights Commission. Other notable supporters include United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres; United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo; former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton; then president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden among others  who either posted on their verified social media handles or made public remarks about it.
Funding for the protest can be categorized into financial and non-financial. Apart from voluntary donations by protesters, a group known as Feminist Coalition spearheaded the crowdsourcing efforts where young executives of companies supported the demonstrators financially  where hundreds of thousands raised in USD were distributed for several kinds of support and logistics including procurement of prosthetic limbs for two amputees who joined the street movement on their crutches.  Also, some homegrown payment apps and financial technologies like Fliqpay, Flutterwave, CowryWise, Paystac, and other fintech companies were involved.
The Federal Government of Nigeria made efforts to break the ranks of the financiers by blocking the bank accounts and other territorial cash flows. In response, Fliqpay, Quidax, and Korapay facilitated local and international fundraising through cryptocurrency.  Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) Nigeria, EndSARS Response, Feminist Coalition, Mentally Aware ng, EndSARS Legal Aid, The Food Coven, Flutterwave, Domino’s Pizza and Coldstone Creamery, and several other voluntary individuals and organizations provided the needed technical support including legal, medics, counseling, and security during the protest. 
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The #EndSARS protest of 2020 against police brutality saw organic recruitment in both physical and virtual spaces and the movement had both local and international enhancers.  The Twitter verified posts by artists and non-governmental agencies mentioned earlier, including posts by the CEO, and the #EndSARS emoji symbol created by Twitter shored up the social media current where the likes of Kanye West, John Boyega, and Rihanna gave their support through sharing of posts and commenting on the activities of the movements.  Other platforms such as Facebook and tik-toks were also used to mobilize participants for the movement.
Also, the reportage, posts, and videos shared on the media (conventional, virtual, and digital created the mass followers needed for the recruitment and coalition. The use of applications such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to recruit online supporters for the movement was effective. By the way, posts that got a lot of views, shared information, and motivated youths to get involved in the movement. Also, physical protesters were drawn from the youth constituency comprising students, artisans, unemployed, employed, entrepreneurs, professionals, On-Air-Personality, and other citizens who could afford to participate physically. 
Methods and Tools Used
Online technology provided the opportunity for youth to freely and timely get coordinated for the movements, especially against police brutality in 2020. The mass mobilization of youth through posts on social media (Facebook-live, Twitter posts, and TikTok videos) generated numerous views and shares. It was the main tool adopted while demonstrations went on concurrently on the streets.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Some officers of SARS used excessive force on their victims such that the unit became dreaded by the civilian population they were to protect. Also, the mode of operation was crude and below international best practices.  Suspects were illegally detained, and subjected to a variety of methods of torture including hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions, and sexual violence. 
After the Amnesty International report of 2016, Segun Awosanya established the Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF) in 2017. The organization focused on police reform and campaign to dismantle the SARS. The social movement grew as they advocate for victims of police abuse in Nigeria to be compensated and erring officers reprimanded.  It adopted technology and used social media and mobile phone infrastructure to operate. This generated high attention and a lot of people across the world connected to the movement. As protests began to escalate after the recorded extra-judicial shooting and killing of a motorist in Delta State by an officer in 2020, social media became the natural host and required springboard for other innovations and strategies to manifest. The international media like CNN, Fox News, and Al Jazeera had special coverage for the movement and there was also support from other broadcast stations in the US, UK, Germany, and other countries. The online space and major streets in Nigeria witnessed simultaneous protests during the #EndSARS protest. 
The October 2020 #EndSARS protests lasted for over two weeks in major cities across the country. Earlier, the government announced reforms in 2017 and 2018 including the setting up of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to enforce accountability and improve professionalism among the squad.  But there was really no improvement in the police and public engagements. The protest also saw the mere redesign of SARS to FSARS which only made high-rank officers supervise the operation that was limited to the prevention of armed robbery and kidnapping.  Even with the hurried creation of SWAT in 2020 during the protest, the suspicion and protest continued as protesters were not confident either the Federal Government or the NPF was genuine and likened their intervention to replacing Satan with Lucifer and says “SWAT is SARS and SARS is SWAT”!
It is not difficult to come to the conclusion that the movement against police brutality #blacklivesmatters in the United States influenced the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria. Especially, coming about five months after the May 25 2020 killing of 46-year-old George Floyd. Though the US abuse was tainted with violence against racial and ethnic minorities, #EndSARS was a movement against police abuse, entrenched impunity, inadequate laws, and failure to prosecute complicit officers . But then, both movements raised a conscious population that engaged the government and demanded the fundamental right to safety and protection.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The National Economic Council (NEC) under the Vice President of the country, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo directed federating states to set up the Victims Support Fund (VSF); Special Security and Human Rights Committees (SSHRC), and; Human Rights Complaints Offices (HRCO). To this extent, the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun inaugurated an eight-member judicial panel of investigation on the 17th of October 2020. 
The terms of reference for the panel were to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality, human rights violations, or related extra-judicial killings; evaluate the evidence presented, and recommend compensation and other remedial measures, where appropriate. Members of the panel included Justice Solomon Olugbemi (rtd), Chairperson; Olayinka Folarin, Chairperson - Ogun State Coalition of Civil Societies; Omonajevwe Janet Abiri - International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA); Babatunde Ogunyanwo; AbdulJabar Ayelaagbe, Chairperson - National Youth Council, Ogun State Chapter; Bamgbose Tomiwa, NANS Chairperson - Ogun State; Aisekegbe Momodu, National Human Rights Commission, Ogun State; and Oluwatosin T. Ogundele, Chief State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, who served as the secretary. 
The panel reportedly submitted a 289-page report. According to Justice Olugbemi (rtd), “it captured the testimonies and evidence of gory details of torture, unjustifiable shootings, inhumane treatment and other forms of human rights abuses leading to brain damage, spinal cord injuries, permanent disability, death, loss of means of livelihood, unlawful seizure of personal properties and various forms of atrocities”.  Ayelaagbe who represented the National Youth Council of Nigeria on the panel stated a total of 102 victims that have suffered various degrees of injury from police brutality submitted petitions to the panel and only 58 petitions were treated while the remaining were either withdrawn, rejected, or abandoned.  even as the panel recommended compensation to 42 victims or families to the tune of N218 million naira and the investigation, discipline, and where appropriate, prosecution of certain personnel. 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The dehumanizing treatment by some officers of the SARS unit led to public dissatisfaction and subsequently, mass mobilization and street protest across many states of the country. This further led to the call and demand for social justice and a total overhaul of the Nigerian Police Force which the citizens have perceived as brutal and unprofessional in conduct. Earlier in 2016, Amnesty International had documented several extortions, torture, and ill-treatment cases. It revealed a pattern of abuse of power by SARS officers and the consistent failure of the Nigerian authorities to bring perpetrators to justice.  which further highlights the deficiencies in Nigerian police accountability that contribute to, and exacerbate the violations.
The #EndSARS protest of October 2020 lasted for over two weeks in more than 26 out of the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. As the protests advanced, it had five clear demands which Strong highlighted as “#5for5” scorecard. The protesters in Ogun state and other places demanded (i) the Release of arrested protesters, (ii) granting of compensation for the families of victims, (iii) create an independent body to prosecute officers, (iv) psychologically evaluate SARS officers before they are redeployed, and (v) increase salaries of police officers to dissuade them from extortion. 
In the course of the protests, activities of both public and private organizations were paralyzed, numerous properties were destroyed and many lives were lost. Unfortunately, apart from releasing the arrested protesters and the paltry increase in the salaries of the police officers by the Federal Government, other items on the scorecard have been abandoned. Specifically, the Ogun state government is yet to compensate victims, making the setup and subsequent recommendations of the panel a mere talk shop. 
With the adoption of social media usage and street protest, the #EndSARS social movement grew from concerns raised on social media to national and international discourse with governmental and non-governmental officials lending their voices against police brutality in the country. Notably, it was only after the disbandment of the unit that the protest ended. Lastly, the movement was able to raise the consciousness of the citizens to political engagement and participation, which led to the disbandment of the SARS unit and a partial restructuring of the Nigerian police force. However, the spate of police brutality is observed to have reduced as the discussion has subsided.
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14) See: NPF History of the Nigeria Police Force. https://npf.gov.ng/aboutus/History_Nigeria_Police.php
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16) Interview with Abdul-Jabar Ayelaagbe, Chairperson - National Youth Council, Ogun State Chapter, Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 27th March 2023.
17) Emmanuel Akinwotu (2020). Nigeria Cracksdown on ‘end SARS’ Protesters, Alleging Terrorism. The Guardian, November 13 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/13/nigeria-cracks-down-on-end-sars-protesters-alleging-terrorism. Accessed 20th March 2023.
18) Ohimai Amaize (2021) How Twitter Amplified the Divisions That Derailed Nigeria’s #EndSARS Movement. Future Tense, https://slate.com/technology/2021/04/endsars-nigeria-twitter-jack-dorsey-feminist-coalition.html Accessed 21st April 2023
19) Oluwadara Abimbade, Philip Olayoku and Danielle Herro (2022) Millennial Activism within Nigerian Twitterscape: From Mobilization to Social Action of #ENDSARS Protest. Social Sciences & Humanities Open. 6(1), 1-9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590291121001182?via%3Dihub Accessed 21st April 2023
21) Patsy Nwogu (2021) EndSARS: An Insight on How the Protest was Funded. Twentyten. February 07. https://twentytendaily.com/endsars-an-insight-on-how-the-protest-was-funded/ Accessed 28th March 2023.
22) Stephanie Busari (2020) Nigeria’s Youth finds Voice with the EndSARS Protest Movement. CNN. October25, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/25/africa/nigeria-end-sars-protests-analysis-intl/index.html
23) Uwazurike. A (2020) #EndSARS: The Movement Against Police Brutality in Nigeria. Harvard Human Rights Journal. https://harvardhrj.com/2020/11/endsars-the-movement-against-police-brutality-in-nigeria/. Accessed 21st March 2023.
24) Akindare Okunola (2020) #EndSARS: 8 Organizations Supporting the Fight to end Police Brutality in Nigeria. Global Citizen, November 11. https://www.globalcitizen.org/es/content/endsars-organisations-supporting-protests-nigeria/ Accessed 27th March 2023.
25) Interview with Abdul-Jabar Ayelaagbe, Chairperson - National Youth Council, Ogun State Chapter, Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 27th March 2023.
26) Amensty International (2023). Police Violence. https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/police-brutality/ Accessed 21st April 2023
27) Interview with Abdul-Jabar Ayelaagbe, Chairperson - National Youth Council, Ogun State Chapter, Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 27th March 2023.
28) Amensty International (2023). Police Violence. https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/police-brutality/ Accessed 21st April 2023
29) Sada Malumfashi (2020) Nigeria’s SARS: A Brief History of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. AlJazeera. October 22. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2020/10/22/sars-a-brief-history-of-a-rogue-unit. Accessed 31st March 2023
30) Bukola Adebayo (2018) How a Social Media Movement against Police Brutality Prompted Nigerian Government to Act. CNN. August 20. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/20/africa/nigeria-police-brutality-report/index.html
31) Stephanie Busari (2020) Nigeria’s Youth Finds Voice with The EndSARS Protest Movement. CNN. October25, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/25/africa/nigeria-end-sars-protests-analysis-intl/index.html
32) See: Establishment, Composition and Training of Nigeria Police SWAT to Replace the Disbanded SARS. https://www.proshare.co/articles/establishment-composition-and-training-of-nigeria-police-swat-to-replace-the-disbanded-sars?menu=Economy&classification=Read&category=Politics. Accessed 28th March 2023.
33) See: Establishment, Composition and Training of Nigeria Police SWAT to Replace the Disbanded SARS. https://www.proshare.co/articles/establishment-composition-and-training-of-nigeria-police-swat-to-replace-the-disbanded-sars?menu=Economy&classification=Read&category=Politics. Accessed 28th March 2023.
34) Sam Levin (2022) ‘No Progress’ Since George Floyd: US Police Killing Three People a Day. The Guardian. March 20. https://www.theguardian.com/us-ews/2022/mar/30/us-police-killing-people-high-rates. Accessed 21st April 2023
35) Akinola Ajibola (2020) #EndSARS: Abiodun Sets up Panel of Inquiry, Others on Police Brutality in Ogun state. Channelstv.com, October 17. https://www.channelstv.com/2020/10/17/endsars-abiodun-sets-up-panel-of-inquiry-others-on-police-brutality-in-ogun/ Accessed 21st April 2023
36) Akinola Ajibola (2020) #EndSARS: Abiodun Sets up Panel of Inquiry, Others on Police Brutality in Ogun state. Channelstv.com, October 17. https://www.channelstv.com/2020/10/17/endsars-abiodun-sets-up-panel-of-inquiry-others-on-police-brutality-in-ogun/
37) James Ogunnaike (2021) #EndSARS: Ogun Panel Submits Reports, Recommends Over N218m Compensation to Victims. Vanguad, July 9. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/07/endsars-ogun-panel-submits-reports-recommends-over-n218m-compensation-to-victims/ Accessed 21st April 2023
38) Interview with Abdul-Jabar Ayelaagbe, Chairperson - National Youth Council, Ogun State Chapter, Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 27th March 2023.
39) Akinola Ajibola (2020) #EndSARS: Abiodun Sets up Panel of Inquiry, Others on Police Brutality in Ogun State. Channelstv.com, October 17. https://www.channelstv.com/2020/10/17/endsars-abiodun-sets-up-panel-of-inquiry-others-on-police-brutality-in-ogun/
40) Amnesty International Nigeria (2020): Nigeria: Time to End Impunity - Torture and Other Violations by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/9505/2020/en/, 2020. Accessed 26th March 2023.
41) Strong. K (2020) The Rise and Suppression of #EndSARS: A Deep Dive into the Protests in Nigeria, and Where the Movement Stands Now. Bazaar. October 27. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a34485605/what-is-endsars/, Accessed 31st March 2023.
42) Interview with Abdul-Jabar Ayelaagbe, Chairperson - National Youth Council, Ogun State Chapter, Abeokuta, Nigeria, on 27th March 2023.
Al Jazeera news on #EndSARS
fox news on #EndSARS https://www.google.com/search?q=fox+news+on+%23endsars&rlz=1C1JZAP_enNG1045NG1046&ei=bb1FZNf4MK6ZptQPvpiC8AI&ved=0ahUKEwiX49KtksH-AhWujIkEHT6MAC4Q4dUDCA8&uact=5&oq=fox+news+on+%23endsars&gs_lcp=Cgxnd3Mtd2l6LXNlcnAQAzoKCAAQRxDWBBCwAzoFCAAQogQ6BggAEAcQHjoICCEQoAEQwwQ6CgghEKABEMMEEApKBAhBGABQ7gVY_RZgqB5oAXABeACAAYUBiAHSBZIBAzAuNpgBAKABAcgBCMABAQ&sclient=gws-wiz-serp
Note: The original version of this entry was written by Tunde Abioro, Visiting Scholar at McMaster University (Paticipedia)