#EndSARS: Tech CEOs, Celebs, Politicians, Int’l Community Back Anti-Police Brutality Protests in Nigeria
After years of being brutalised, harassed and extorted by a notorious police unit named Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), Nigerian youth have trooped to the streets in protest, demanding the disbandment of the unit. And they are not alone. They have the backing of tech entrepreneurs, celebrities and politicians – indicating that the revolt is overdue.
SARS, which was set up to combat incessant armed robbery attacks in the country, has become the most dreadful police unit. Ironically not dreadful to the armed robbers but to young Nigerians who are making a honest living, in a country already battling poverty, unemployment and corruption in high places.
Ending SARS is important for the Nigerian tech industry. Your coders and other techies are disproportionately affected. It is in your businesses best interest to get SARS stopped. Staying neutral is the same as supporting what's happening right now.
— m_e (@markessien) October 9, 2020
Tech companies and their CEOs have thrown full weight behind the #EndSARSProtest and challenged other stakeholders in the space to march on the streets with other teeming youths, as the issue directly affects their personnel. Some of the companies, such as Piggyvest and Flutterwave have even donated cash to help the movement.
One of the tech CEOs rallying support for the protest is Mark Essien, founder of Hotels.ng. In the last 72 hours, he has been stoking the ongoing agitation on Twitter and outrightly berating anyone who had a contrary opinion. Others lending their voices are Olugbenga Agboola, founder of Flutterwave Inc., Jason Njoku, iRokoTV founder, Sim Shagaya, uLessonApp founder among others.
Agboola said Flutterwave staff have donated N2 million to support victims of the protests. The money is being held in a public fund set up by the company and made open to interested persons who might want to donate to the cause. As of the time of filing this report, donations have exceeded N6 million.
Despite the call for calm by President Muhammadu Buhari, who reiterated the government’s “determination to reform the police”, the nationwide protests, which was reignited last week, rages on – spreading fast to more states and cities in the country and beyond its borders. The message is clear. The youth groups insist on the unit to be scrapped and not reformed.
The nefarious activities of the men of SARS have gone on for years, and several attempts by the Nigerian government to reform the unit have been unsuccessful. This gives credence to the reports that the extortion of innocent Nigerians is sanctioned by police superiors, who allegedly take a certain percentage from the cash SARS operatives realise from their illegal activities.
In Nigeria, a young man (or woman), who is stylishly dressed, who adorns a trendy hairstyle, who drives a decent car, owns a decent smartphone and a laptop is automatically profiled as a ‘Yahoo boy’, local parlance for internet fraudsters, by the Police. And it did not matter whether you could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you make a legitimate income. The officers would threaten to kill until the fellow is stripped of valuables, especially cash.
Today at the Kaduna #EndSars protest I spoke to @channelstv
While I was speaking to them the Nigerian Police decided to harass protesters. They said it is illegal for us to protest.
We shall never be intimidated.#EndSarsNow #EndSARS #EndPoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/c7XSPA1RGk
— Mün (@MunTheShinobi) October 10, 2020
The demonstration garnered international support on Friday, Oct. 9, after the #EndSARS hashtag trended worldwide on Twitter. Now, local and international celebrities, including Falz, Wizkid, Davido, Runtown, John Boyega, Chance de rapper, Diddy, Trey Song, Cardi B, Estelle among others are lending their voices.
On Saturday, Oct. 10, the Lagos State House of Assembly, after a meeting, called on the Nigerian government to scrap the dangerous police squad. The announcement came after a group of protesters, led popular Nigerian comedian, Debo Adebayo a.k.a Mr Macaroni, camped in front of the Assembly complex for over 24 hours, insisting they would not vacate the place until they got answers. They were eventually persuaded by the House Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa who appealed to the protesters to give the lawmakers 72 hours to take action.
Also on Saturday, the Police opened fire on protesters in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, killing a youth identified as Jimoh Isiaka, while 7 others sustained varied injuries. The State Governor, Seyi Makinde condemned the shooting and described the protests as “a strong indicator of a systemic failure”.
Peaceful protests are a big part of our democratic process. The right to freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed by our Constitution, and I will never support any attempt to rob citizens of their fundamental human rights.
— Seyi Makinde (@seyiamakinde) October 10, 2020
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The demonstration is likely to escalate from next week as a non-profit organization in Nigeria, Koku Foundation, says it would mobilise over 5000 widows and youths to the Office of the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, asserting that they would be there until further notice.
“Enough is Enough! I have order 40 long Lag bus that will move our widows from Yaba to Govrnor offices and they will sleep there till further Notice! We would be cooking daily there with water for both the widows and youths! we wont move away until they hear our cry! 5,000 widows tomorrow with thousands of youth..I advice you to take another road cos Alausa will be book (blocked) till next few days!”, the Foundation founder wrote on the organization’s Instagram page.
With the mounting pressure, coming from Nigeria and the international community, to scrap SARS, it is believed that a responsible government would listen to the cries of the people and implement their demands.
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