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#EndSARS: Nigerians recount their experiences with Special Anti-Robbery Squad

Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) a unit that is part of the Nigerian Police Force has come under heavy criticism for its heavy handed tactics and excessive use of force. This week Nigerians have been commenting on social media about the atrocities of the police squad. Nigerians are demanding that SARS should be disbanded using the hashtag #EndSARS.

“I will shoot you and kill you here and nothing will happen.” The statement is one Nigerians repeatedly hear from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, otherwise known as SARS a unit of the Nigerian Police Force tasked with fighting violent crimes.

Just some weeks back, the Nigerian Police Force was rated the worst in the world. The Nigerian Police Force reacted by tweeting about how they use international and professional standards of policing. They also came out with a statement on Facebook. The reality Nigerians faced was however contrary to the statements made by the Nigerian Police.

Many Nigerians have a story to tell about their experience with SARS, the new epidemic that’s damaging the societal fabric of the country. Young boys can’t have iPhones, young ladies can’t dress as they please and if you carry a laptop in your bag you’d be forced to produce a receipt for it or end up in the cell.

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The Assistant Commissioner of Police who heads the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit, Abayomi Shogunle in a tweet said “to all those having frightening dreams – “shot/beaten by police.” Pray to God not to allow it happen + avoid areas where police are responding to incidents in real life. if such dreams persist, GO SEE A PSYCHIATRIST. We only deal with real life police complaints.” Shogunle, a top brass officer said that those on Twitter calling for SARS to be disbanded may likely be armed robbers.

Amnesty International Nigeria, in 2016 stated that “SARS officers believe they have carte blanche to carry out acts of torture. This is hardly surprising when many of these officers have bribed their way to SARS in the first place. The police chiefs in charge are themselves entwined in the corruption.”

For the past few days, Twitter has been awash with stories of how SARS operatives intimidate ordinary Nigerians. Many Nigerians languishing in cells were picked up by SARS operatives and are held in various places without any records or plausible reason for their arrest. They are forced to pay huge sums of money for their release.

The hashtag #EndSARS has been tweeted by top Nigerian musicians such as Falz, Don Jazzy and Simi who shared their experience.

The stories have come in torrents and each story is more shocking than the other. Nigerians have demanded for SARS to be disbanded using the hashtag #EndSARS. No government official, not even the President or Vice President has reacted to the overwhelming outcry against the police.

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Some organisations are planning protests in major cities round the country to demand the end of SARS. And a petition with over 20,000 signatures has been circulating the internet.

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