A Reporter’s Inquest into ENDSARS Protests at Alausa

A Reporter’s Inquest into ENDSARS Protests at Alausa

Alausa in Ikeja is the seat of government of Lagos state, the nation’s commercial capital. It is a gateway into Lagos state and houses the most popular mall in the state, Shoprite. It is also the seat of the parliament where expression is given to people’s voices. Alausa had hosted several protests in the past

Alausa in Ikeja is the seat of government of Lagos state, the nation’s commercial capital. It is a gateway into Lagos state and houses the most popular mall in the state, Shoprite.

It is also the seat of the parliament where expression is given to people’s voices. Alausa had hosted several protests in the past but such protests have always ended in delivering charters of demands to political actors who would often give leaders of protests some consolatory speeches

But all that has paled in the face of the EndSARS protest whose immediate goal was to ask government to abolish SARS.

It is ironic that SARS which had its origin on noble objectives had metamorphosed into an anathema that Nigerians detest like plague and had seen thousands of Nigerian youth trooping to the streets demanding its extinction.

SARS which is acronym for Special Anti-Robbery Squad used to be a unit of Nigerian police force under the force criminal investigation department headed by the then Deputy Inspector General of police Anthony Ogbizi, though it was founded in 1992 by the former police Commissioner Simeon Danladi Midena.

A trigger for the formation of SARS was when Colonel Rindam, of the Nigerian Army was killed by police officers at a checkpoint in Lagos. When the information reached the army, soldiers were deployed to various streets in Lagos in search of any police officer for reprisal attack. The policemen were withdrawn from the checkpoints, security areas and other points of interest only for criminals to have a field day. Some police officers were said to have resigned while others ran for their dear lives. Police officers were absent for two weeks at checkpoints and other areas, an action which increased the crime rate and SARS was formed with only 15 officers operating.

SARS is one of the 14 units in the force criminal investigation and intelligence department which was established to detain, investigate and prosecute people involved in crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping. In 2009, after years of operations the team grew in number and strength. SARS operatives also covered the Universities because of the increase in cultism, internet frauds. But in the discharge of their duties, lots of arrests were made but not without the harassment of innocent youths also.

The journey of the end SARS campaign began in December 2016 by Segun Awosanya popularly called Segalink, who took up an online advocacy campaign to end SARS’ brutality in the country. The campaign started officially with a hashtag called #EndSARS. The public responded well to the campaign which included the hashtag with people all over Nigeria by also posting on their experiences with SARS. The campaign got attraction from the international and local media.

There had been different attempts to reform SARS. Youths over the past few years have complained bitterly to the government on how SARS has been maltreating them. These maltreatments were in the form of beating, illegal detention at the police cells, sexual harassment, killing of innocent youths. Once anyone enters the SARS trap, it takes the grace of God to come out alive but not without parting with huge sums of money.

According to a publication by Pulse.ng a Nigerian news website, “What SARS became was a national scourge that a witch-hunt machinery against Nigerian youths with dreadlocks, piercings, cars, expensive phones. In May 3120, Amnesty International said it would be suing the Nigerian police over human rights abuse stating that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Borkiri, Port Harcourt, arrested three bike riders and detained them for over one week. On 3 June 2011, the Nigerian police force discovered an attempt by sars operatives to bomb the force headquarters.

Following several reports on human rights violation by members of the public to the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, on 7 August 2015 announced that it will be dividing sars unit into two units, the first being operational unit and the second investigation unit. During its formation the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was known to operate covertly. SARS operatives were not allowed to wear police uniforms, carry guns in the open. They were given unmasked vehicles with sometimes no license permit or private plate number during duty.

Discussions by different bodies on how to stop SARS nefarious activities had been ongoing but nothing seemed to have worked until this last protest. This month October, when Nigeria turned 60, marked a significant milestone in the annals of struggles in Nigeria, as youth all over the country staged a very dramatic EndSARS protest.

It started like a drama from the Lekki toll gate end of the state with a small gathering of youth protesting and asking for the end of SARS. The gathering was fum-filled with music blaring and different persons in the music and entertainment industry addressing the gathering. The gathering grew in leaps and bounds, hourly and daily. It gathered steam through the social media. What appeared an innocuous gathering became a cynosure and gained attention of the media.

By Tuesday, 13th of October 2020 which marked the 6th day of the protests which had spread to different parts of Lagos, such as Ikorodu, Lekki, Fagba, Idimu. I decided to make an inquest by observing the Alausa Secretariat protest in Ikeja.

On this day, as usual, thousands of youths had gathered with written different inscriptions on cardboards, placards, posters, banners where what the youths are fighting for are listed. Such inscriptions include “EndSARS”, “Reform Nigeria Police”, “Youths need employment” and so on.
Different celebrities took turn to entertain the gathering. Fela’s music was played other revolutionary music by Bob Marley and local artistes were played. Different persons shared different experiences about SARS and all in unison agreed that the unit must be abolished. Some even went as far saying that Nigeria didn’t need the police.

At the protest grounds foods, drinks, snacks were given freely to the protesters. Water and other soft drinks were not in short supply. As the crowd grew daily, it became hectic to manage the traffic. The protests caused a lot of traffic, roads were blocked because the youths took a large space on the road. At Alausa, police ensured that the protest was peaceful and lively as Efe winner of Big Brother Naija season 2, Actor Jigan Baba Oja, Musician Eedris Abdulkareem showed their support by solidarising with the youths.

These celebrities spoke on how the situation of the country has been, what they actually want the government to do. Songs by 9ice, Davido were played just to entertain with a lot of singing, shouting, dancing. The youth’s take away slogan during this protest is “sorosoke were” meaning speak up. Meanwhile while the LNSC (Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps) were driving with foodstuffs in their vehicle the youths shouted “Ole, ole” meaning thief.

Youths have spoken their minds out by saying end sars, end police brutality, reform the police force, and increase the salaries of the police. Few days back, at Alausa in Ikeja, in the morning the State governor addressed the tiring youths by assuring them that all their demands will be met, he further said that he will deliver their messages to the president. In conclusion he said he will ensure that the families of the SARS victims will be well compensated.

The Inspector General of Police, Mohamed Adamu has said that SARS will now be reformed and replaced with SWAT. This has provoked the youth because they believe that all those in the former SARS will now be redeployed to the new SWAT which they said is not acceptab

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