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Athletes plead for an end to Nigerian police brutality via #EndSARS campaign

Jason Owens
·4-min read

As protests of police brutality in Nigeria have turned deadly in recent weeks, the nation’s alleged government-sanctioned violence against its young citizens has gained global awareness.

The #EndSARS campaign has garnered traction on social media among celebrities and athletes raising awareness. Athletes around the world with Nigerian ties have been vocal.

What is #EndSARS?

SARS stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a Nigerian security force formed in 1992 with the intent of focusing on crimes related to robbery and firearms.

According to The Independent, the unit has developed a reputation for torture and killings with Amnesty International reporting that SARS officers committed at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial execution between 2017 and 2020.

Per The Independent, Amensty International accused the Nigerian government of being complicit in SARS’ human rights violations.

The Amnesty International report alleged “a pattern of abuse of power by SARS officers and the consistent failure by the Nigerian authorities to bring perpetrators to justice. It highlights the deficiencies in Nigerian police accountability that contribute to, and exacerbate, these violations.”

Athletes speak out

Nigerian-American Los Angeles Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike announced her support for protestors on Instagram.

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“What people don’t realize is that we are connected now more than ever before,” Ogwumike said. “We are finally realizing that we are more alike thane we are different.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So right now, I am sending prayers and strength to Nigeria. Keep making your voices heard. We are with you.”

Usman: ‘Buhari, you need to step up’

Nigerian UFC champion Kamaru Usman pleaded with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari for change.

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“What I’m seeing — all the killings that are taking place, all the destruction that’s taking place. We’ve been set back a long long time, but this has set us back even further,” Usman said. “And you can be the one to step in and bring this to a halt.

“But for some reason, silence has gone on long enough. Buhari, you need to step up. The government needs to step up and they need to change. They need to change that country.”

Ighalo: Nigerian government ‘are killers’

Nigerian Manchester United soccer player Odion Ighalo spoke out against the Nigerian government in blunt terms.

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“Nigerian government, you guys are a shame to the world for killing your own citizens, sending military to the streets to kill unarmed protestors because they are protesting for their rights,” Ighalo said. “It is uncalled for. ...

“This government. They are killers and they will keep killing if the world didn’t talk about this.”

Nigerian-American athletes speak out

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo and retired NFL player Emmanuel Acho — all of Nigerian heritage — also expressed their support via social media.


Violent video prompts October protests

Protests against SARS started Oct. 8 after a video circulated allegedly showing SARS officers shooting and killing a man, Time reports. Nigerian authorities denied SARS involvement, but the government vowed on Oct. 11 to disband SARS following the widespread outrage over the footage and the rise of the #EndSARS campaign that dates back to 2017.

Amnesty International’s Nigerian director Osai Ojigho said that the move to disband SARS wasn’t enough.

“The announcement falls short of demands for accountability and justice for abuses committed by the unit and police in general,” Ojigho said, per The Guardian.

“The police authorities must state strongly the concrete steps they will take to ensure all officers alleged to have committed human rights violations are investigated and brought to justice.

People demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria, Sunday Oct. 18, 2020. Nigerian protests against police brutality continued Sunday for the eleventh day, with demonstrators fending off attacks from gangs suspected to be backed by the police, warnings from the Nigerian military, and a government order to stop because of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Protests against police brutality in Nigeria have turned deadly and garnered attention around the world. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Protests turn deadly

Protests have continued in Nigerian streets with deadly consequences. According to The Guardian, video has surfaced allegedly showing armed police shooting live rounds and tear gas at protestors. Another video showed six officers beating a woman with batons and sticks.

Other videos show authorities firing water cannons at protestors.

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An Amnesty International investigation determined that Nigerian army and police officers killed 12 peaceful protestors on Tuesday at two locations in Lagos, the nation’s largest city, Time reports.

Amnesty International estimates that 56 people have been killed since the protests started, with 38 of those killings happening Tuesday.

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