Why #EndSARS protest is not the answer to police brutality in Nigeria

EndSARS protester pictured with placard

EndSARS protester pictured with placard

Every sane society has a special police unit devoted to fighting high risk violent crimes like robbery, kidnapping etc.

Just like most of us in our workplace, we cannot perform all the tasks alone, while we specialize in some, others specialize in the rest.

A single police officer cannot perform all the tasks required of the police force, so like what is obtainable in most of our workplaces, they specialize too ranging from minor criminal investigations to major criminal investigations like murder, rape etc. Some are specialized in active crime combat or high risk operations that include fighting robbery, kidnapping among others.

While the campaign to #EndSARS has become popular within the last week over report of rising brutality against unarmed Nigerians who most times did nothing to even warrant a stop and search, it is important to go historical a little to ensure we don’t keep getting the same result from social struggles like this.

A lady pictured protesting against police brutality in Nigeria
A lady pictured protesting against police brutality in Nigeria

It is the constitutional responsibility of the Nigerian Police to fight crime in the country and if SARS is disbanded as a result of the public campaign against it, the leadership of the Nigerian Police will be left with no choice but to create a new unit that would still perform this special task of fighting high risk crimes.

Before SARS, there were special anti-robbery units that existed like ‘Operation Fire for Fire’, ‘Rapid Response Squad’ etc. Some were created at state levels by Military Administrators. These units became extinct after public outcry against them over their excesses, but the more the government ban them, the more they are also replaced by new units that are only different from the old ones in nomenclature.

Police brutality/intimidation/extortion is a culture in the Nigerian Police and banning SARS will likely not end it since whatever unit will replace SARS will definitely inherit the same culture of intimidation, brutality and extortion.

The more we focus on #EndSARS, the more we lose focus of the biggest problem facing the Nigerian Police. The police in its entirety needs reform.

SARS is not the cause of the problem…
SARS is a manifestation of the problem…

Every unit in the Nigerian Police is dysfunctional, not only SARS…

If you go to report a case to the Police, you need to keep ‘bribing’ them to do a follow-up on the case…

Criminal cases like rape, second/third degree murders, domestic violence etc, are settled in police stations instead of courts…

Investigative units use unacceptable techniques to coerce confessions that are most times inaccurate…

Sadly also, some of the citizens who are busy criticizing SARS are also guilty of (mis)using the police to intimidate less privileged citizens over civil disputes.

#EndSARS will NOT solve the problem.

Credit: Dr Raymond Adibe, Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. 

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