The #EndSARS Protests In Nigeria

Recently, Campeedia’s Anne-Sharlene Murapa had a chat with Tomiwa Odebode on the Police Brutality in Nigeria. Tomiwa is a final year IBT student at the African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda. She is passionate about activism and conservation.

She wants to leave her mark on the world not by having a big name or legacy but is content with being behind the scenes and helping the greater cause.

The 3rd of October came with the resurgence of the 2017 Twitter hashtag, #EndSARS. This was after an online video of a SARS officer shooting a young Nigerian began to trend on social media.

A global outcry followed, as Nigerian nationals both in Nigeria and the diaspora, as well as the rest of the world, joined in on raising awareness around the issue on social media. By the 8th of October, Nigerian residents had taken to the streets to amplify their voices and protest against what has grown into frequent acts of violence by these SARS officials unto the country’s residents.

Tomiwa stated that the background of the problem started with the organisational deficiencies, which included unpaid salaries, lack of benefits and a lack of appropriate machinery.

“Them not being paid leads to them being hungry, and all of these frustrations build up. They don’t have any way to let out these frustrations without losing their jobs so they lash out to the next person, everyday citizens”,

she said, in reference to the SARS officials.

She indicated that the most targeted people were Nigerian youth, specifically men. This is because one of the biggest problems in Nigeria is fraud, which translates into two types: physical and digital.

There are stereotypes as to what a fraud boy (aka Yahoo boy, G-boys, 419) looks like; dreaded hair, dyed hair, piercings and tattoos. They are believed to be advanced in technology, so they are assumed to have laptops or phones, specifically iPhones, as they are seen as a sign of luxury.

With this biased description, the police go into the streets and harass anyone who has the slightest similarities with this description, and in this day and age, the victims are the youth.

As a citizen, she expressed that she was not surprised by the government’s nonchalant and dismissive response which was borderline mockery as they have never taken them (the citizens) seriously.

“But at the end of the day, we are demanding change (which we rarely do), of something that is threatening our human right, the least they could do is grant our request”,

she emphasised.

She went on to explain that the impact of the assaults is that Nigerians did not feel safe anymore as men, women and even children are now being attacked.

The purpose is no longer catching the fraud boys, which is already a flawed idea. It has now escalated into extorting money from anyone they can get their hands on, and if they are in a good mood they let their victims go after assaulting them, but sadly for some victims, it ends with them losing their lives at the hands of these men. 

The protests, on the other hand, have assisted people in realising that they have the power, and they can influence decision-making in the country.

They’re starting to realise that the government exists to serve them and not the other way around.

“Online activism brings the world’s attention to our doorstep, our government can ignore us, but there are organisations above the government set up to fight for our human rights. Online activism allows for this to become a reality; it connects us with the right people; it elevates our cries.”

She encouraged African youth to help by reposting using the hashtag #EndSARS, donating and talking to the right contacts if they had them. More information on this can be found here.

In a tweet, Tomiwa asked people to protect the people fighting on the ground when utilising protest photography.

The significance of this is concerning the protests happening in the U.S. where the photos taken of the protesters were used to track them down and either arrest or kill them.

By keeping the faces of the protesters off the pictures, they are protected from endangerment in the future. 

At the end of the day, the government’s response matters because ultimately,

”They have the power to End Sars, not reform, disband, dissolve or whatever new term they want to use. We want them to End it.”

– Oluwatomiwa Odebode | Nigerian Student at African Leadership University Rwanda.

Curated by Anne Sharlene Murapa | People and Operations, Campeedia.

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