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The #ENDSARS Protests in Nigeria: A Muslim Perspective

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It is noteworthy to state that while some people have made efforts to give the protests seeking for justice religious and ethnic undertones, this has been mainly rejected as Nigerian youths came out en masse from different parts of the country to condemn police brutality against the people as a united front.

Since October 9th, Nigeria has been witnessing a series of protests against police brutality which later snowballed into civil unrest. To everyone who knows Nigeria or a little about its history, the story of the country’s police brutality will, unfortunately, not sound like fresh news. 

In the past, many protests calling for an end to police brutality have been held. But the most recent one, which like the previous ones was tagged ‚ÄėEndSARS‚Äô, drew the world’s attention with many international figures condemning the atrocious crimes of the Nigerian police.¬†

What is SARS? 

For non-Nigerians, the moment they come across the #EndSARS hashtag, the first thing that usually comes to their mind is; what is SARS and why do Nigerians want it to end? 

SARS is an acronym for Special Anti Robbery Squad, a police unit that was created in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other related crimes. Although since in the early 1980s there have been different special units for fighting robbery, SARS, in particular, has stood out for its brutal and systematic approach. 

As the country’s population soars, so does its crime rate. Consequently, SARS started fighting cultists, hired assassins, kidnappers, fraudsters, and internet scammers. 

So, what went wrong? 

This unit that had done commendable works to purge Nigeria of miscreants has suddenly metamorphosed into a harbinger of torture, arbitrary arrests, extortion, illegal detention, and extrajudicial killings, which is the reason behind the protests that swept the country from October 9th. This was six days after a viral-gone video showed two young men being brutalized by the men of this unit and one of them even being shot. 

According to an Amnesty International report in 2016, there are at least 130 detainees living in SARS-operated overcrowded cells, in addition to shootings, torture, and mock executions that they are being subjected to. 

From 2017, young Nigerian Twitter users started the conversation of #EndSARS, mounting pressure on the government to disband the infamous police unit. 

Since then, whenever anyone suffers a similar fate in the hands of the SARS operatives, Twitter has become a place to tell the story and draw the attention of young Nigerians to the injustice meted against them. In some cases, human rights groups and sometimes lawyers have intervened, but the arrival of justice to the victims of this act of brutality by the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), through its SARS unit, was just a pipe dream since the Federal Government had announced the disbandment of SARS thrice already. 

A Glimpse at the EndSARS Protest 

From October 9th, Nigerians started protesting against this murderous unit, calling for its disbandment. Days after, the government heeded their call and announced the dissolution of the unit Рbut in a country where government officials are known for deceit, unfulfilled promises, and lip service to the protestors, this meant that the Federal Government did not stick to its decision. 

The protesters defied all odds to continue pushing their demand. Adding more to the problem, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced that the state security outfit is replacing SARS with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), a comment that provoked the young people, who believe that SWAT is old wine in a new container. 

As a country where corruption has permeated all sectors, the healthcare system is poor, insecurity has become a norm, power and water supply intermittent and quality of public education low and human rights violation the order of the day, the ‚ÄėEndSARS Protest‚Äô will soon become a microcosm of the country‚Äôs problems.¬†

Does it affect the Muslim population?  

Like almost every other national issue in the country, the EndSARS protest has affected the Muslims that constitute 51.6% of the population. According to a statement released by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) last week, while the peaceful EndSARS protest degenerated, it alleged that in Southeastern Nigeria, where the majority of its population are Christians, many Muslims have been attacked. 

The statement added that the Central Mosque in Orlu in the Imo State of the region was razed down with a worshipper killed and four injured by the protesters. 

It is noteworthy to state that while some people have made efforts to give the protests seeking for justice religious and ethnic undertones, this has been mainly rejected as Nigerian youths came out en masse from different parts of the country to condemn police brutality against the people as a united front. This kind of rhetoric is only diverting the objective of the protest, as all Nigerians devoid of their religious, ethnic, sectarian, or political affiliation are all victims of SARS brutality. 

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