Soro Soke, meaning ‘speak up’ in Nigeria’s national language, Yoruba, has become its protestors' battle cry. They are fed up with how their government is reacting to the national crises at hand. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been shouting this for weeks in response to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, and the police brutality destroying their lives.
SARS was created in 1992 to deal with theft-based crimes but has spiralled into harming Nigerian citizens rather than helping them. Soon after its conception, the group became synonymous with extrajudicial murders, torture, and overall criminal activity. SARS officers do not wear any official uniforms or have name tags - which allows them to have more freedom to commit the crimes they were designed to combat.
SARS’ crimes came into the international limelight after footage of a man being beaten by alleged SARS officers went viral in early October. Even though international communities are just now becoming aware of SARS’ violence, the group has been brutalising citizens for years. In fact, Amnesty International released a report in June 2020 detailing the human rights violations that SARS officers had committed, including 82 cases of mistreatment, torture, and executions from January 2017 to May 2020. This report not only exposed the mistreatment at the hands of SARS, but the inability of the Nigerian government and police officials to defend their citizens. Complaints against SARS are not new, and since 2017 there have been multiple attempts to disband SARS to no avail.
After the video started circulating, international protests sprung up in support of Nigerian citizens in countries like the UK, US, France, and Canada. Celebrities and politicians used their platforms to put pressure on the Nigerian government using slogans such as “Buhari is a bad boy,” in reference to President Muhammadu Buhari. President Buhari, the leader of Nigeria, finally started listening on October 11th of this year when he announced the disbandment of SARS but protestors across the world deemed this lacklustre. The Nigerian police had been unjustly and violently cracking down on anti-SARS protestors, and this transformed the protests into demonstrations about police and government reform.
An organisation called The Feminist Coalition raised over $400,000 for protests. With this, they posted real-time updates of how their money was being used - transparency Nigerians have been calling on their government for as well. They raised money for medical support, legal fees, and even prosthetics for two members who joined protests on crutches.
Through all the danger, threats, and fear - protestors came together to support and stand up for each other’s rights. It paid off, but it is simply the start.
The ENDSARS movement was the tipping point for well-welcomed change In Nigeria. This movement exposed more of the poverty, inaccessibility, and corruption in the country to usher in the beginning of powerful changes.