By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer
Protests have broken out in Nigeria, calling to abolish the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. #EndSARS has sparked a movement to end police brutality and hold the government accountable.
Lagos, Nigeria junior Chine Okeke said her cousin lives in the area near where the Lekki Massacre took place on Oct. 20.
“She was hearing gunshots for a couple of days,” Okeke said. “No one I know was harmed, but they have been affected by it, and I do know people who’ve lost people to shootings during the protests and people who’ve been unlawfully detained, so it’s definitely something that’s affecting a lot of people that I know.”
If it hadn’t been for social media, no one would have known the truth about what was happening in Nigeria and who was killing protestors and inciting violence, Okeke said.
“I joined an Instagram Live that day, and I saw everything happening in real time, but the army came out and said that people were doctoring videos,” Okeke said. “They said that it’s fake news even though we know that it’s not.”
Amnesty International has been calling for Nigerian officials to hold SARS responsible for police brutality, but nothing has happened despite anti-torture legislation that was passed in 2017.
“The complete failure of Nigerian authorities to bring an end to the gross human rights violations perpetuated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad or to bring any SARS officer to justice is shocking and unacceptable,” director of Amnesty International Nigeria Osai Ojigho said in an Amnesty International article. “Nigerians are outraged by the systemic human rights violations perpetrated by the SARS with impunity.”
Okeke said the education system in Nigeria has held people back from knowing the truth about the corruption in the government.
“A lot of people who are affected don’t have access to social media,” Okeke said. “It’s a lot of people who are poor, don’t have access to the internet or good electricity, so it’s people who are more educated and have more access to technology that really started bringing the issues to the forefront.”
Many newspapers have covered the protests and portrayed the government in a negative light, and they were fined by the National Broadcasting Commission. This is why social media has been such an important factor for staying informed about the protests and the response from the government and SARS, Okeke said.
Lagos, Nigeria sophomore Semi Olujobi said the Nigerian government was also hoarding relief supplies that were meant to be distributed during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“It’s because they want to use poverty as a weapon against the people,” Olujobi said.
Olujobi said to bring the people who have been abused and killed by SARS, people around the world have to stay informed and call for justice together. Keeping it out on social media is one way to make sure officials will be held responsible.
“They might not be brought to justice nationally — the leaders — but internationally, they can be brought to justice,” Olujobi said. “Nigerians don’t necessarily want intervention. We want the attention that can then bring about real change.”
Okeke said seeing the protests in the United States and in Nigeria both calling for an end to police brutality is strange to see in both places.
“I can’t pick which struggle to empathize with more, and that’s a really hard thing for me to do,” Okeke said. “I didn’t grow up worrying about race relations. I’ve always been Nigerian. I haven’t really seen myself as Black since everyone around me was Black.”
Okeke said she left Nigeria to come to a better country, but the United States has showed hardships and discrimination on a racial level.
“I do really feel like it’s not safe for me to be anywhere, especially as a Black woman,” Okeke said. “We know that women are disproportionately more affected by all these things. It’s upsetting. Sometimes I try not to think about it, because it just makes me upset. But it’s just, where can I go and be accepted?”
Olujobi said he has also struggled to see his home dealing with injustice, while also facing injustice in his second home.
“It’s definitely a bit of an unnerving feeling,” Olujobi said. “You can’t really run anywhere, or look to any place for help. You just have to try and do as much as you can for your people.”
Even though it’s not easy, the fight to end police brutality around the world is a sign of hope and change, Okeke said.
“SARS is not just about police brutality. It’s really become just a wider call for better governance in Nigeria and more accountability; for people to actually do the things that they’re elected to do,” Okeke said. “Even though we haven’t seen the results that we wanted, we’ve seen a lot of positive steps in the right direction. So that’s making me really excited to see what the future holds. I hope that in 2023, when our next presidential elections come, we’re able to have candidates that will actually advocate for us and want to do the right thing. I don’t think that this is going to make anybody back down. It’s really just going to make us more motivated, more hopeful for a better country.”