In the wake of the #EndSARS protests that have rocked several Nigerian cities in the last week, we at Nigeria Health Watch take a look at some of the ways in which police brutality affects the mental, physical and emotional health of young people, and reflect on the conversations we must begin to have as a nation, if we are to grow a healthy, productive citizenry for the future.
Young Nigerians have taken to the streets of major cities in Nigeria to demand for the disbandment of the country’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, popularly known as SARS. The squad is a unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) tasked with protecting citizens against violent crimes, such as armed robbery and kidnapping. Protesters are calling for the unit to be disbanded because of reports that SARS officers indiscriminately target and profile young Nigerians.
In June 2020, Amnesty International published a report on SARS, asserting that the unit continues to commit torture and other human rights violations while discharging their law enforcement duties. The report documents cases of extortion, torture and ill treatment by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. It reveals 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 contributes to, and exacerbates, these violations.
Protests which began on Wednesday, October 7, barely a week after Nigeria celebrated her 60th year as an independent nation, gathered momentum daily, mostly organised via social media platforms.