When we think of police brutality, we often categorize it as an epidemic specific to the United States. However, unfortunately it is a global one, with the most infamous example of this occurring in Nigeria, popularizing the #EndSARS movement.
Founded in 1984 to combat a rise in violent crime including kidnapping and robbery, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was created to significantly reduce the occurrence of these offenses, but it did not last for long.
As time progressed, SARS officials have been accused of using their resources to target individuals from low-income communities to abuse, torture and execute them. And though this has been occurring for many years, it was not until a video last month went viral that appeared to show SARS officials killing a man unjustifiably, did the rest of the world start to pay attention.
As a Nigerian American, the blatant acts of terrorism occurring in Nigeria deeply trouble me for reasons you can likely infer. But I want to clarify that this isn’t just about me. The real question is why should YOU care about the injustice happening in a country across the world, when it may have little-to-no effect on you here.
“As Americans or as just Westerners, we should care about human rights issues all around the world, especially seeing our role in causing many of these issues” said Dami Ojikutu, secretary of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Black Lives Matter and member of UMBC’s African Student Association.
“In the UK there has been definitive proof that money has been appropriated to fund the SARS unit in Nigeria and it is likely the same for the US as well. I feel that many black people should also care about the events that occur in Nigeria because there are lessons and organizational strategies that can be learned from the End SARS movement that we can apply here as well.”
Similar to Ojikutu, the only answer I have as to why you should care about the SARS crisis is because they are human beings and their lives matter too. This is especially true if you claim to be a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement within the United States. Contrary to popular belief, the Black Lives Matter movement is an organization meant to draw attention to the injustices and adversities that Black people face worldwide, not just in the United States, as the blatant disregard for Black lives is a global issue.
Although the months following George Floyd’s death in May initially reignited the Black Lives Matter movement, sparking nationwide protests and the institution of new legislation policy, support from non-Black communities has since dwindled, and social media engagement regarding the issue is essentially nonexistent now.
So, if you’re looking for ways to change, a good starting point is to use your social media platforms to raise awareness about what is happening in Nigeria. Additionally, you can cautiously donate money directly to mutual aid funds, organizations or individuals within the country, or, if you cannot donate, you can repost the donation links you come across to increase the likelihood that someone will.
However, it’s important to recognize donations may not be the most effective way to offer aid to Nigeria. “The Nigerian government has frozen bank accounts that have been assisting the protesters with Mutual Aid and are now moving to ban social media in Nigeria entirely. I know people want sudden action but that action can only be taken by people who are living in Nigeria. You can’t just throw money at the problem” Ojikutu explained.
While sharing and spreading awareness is important, it’s equally important to know what not to share. “We need people to not share anti-protester links. This serves the interest of the Nigerian elite and politicians. We need people to be against the Nigerian government and call out the propaganda that they will probably share. We need people to not spread false information and verify what is going on,” Ojikutu stated.
We also need to recognize that the abuse occurring at the hands of SARS is a direct result of colonization, as the police state in Nigeria was initially formed in 1861 to protect the capitalist interests of those that initially colonized the country. As of Oct. 1, Nigeria has only been a free country for 60 years.
The situation in Nigeria is comparable to the impact that slavery has in the United States, which has resulted in centuries of institutionalized racism here. As a people we need to do our due diligence in understanding the long-term effects of colonialism and its impact on policing and general anti-Black legislation today.
“The takeaway from the situation should be that military personnel or police can easily be abused and sicked on their citizens in all countries regardless of race or nationality. It’s not just an American problem,” Ojikutu explained.
“It’s up to the youth not just in Nigeria but around the world to make changes for the better as we cannot be reliant on the older generation who is used to a horrible status quo to make decisions for a world they will not be around for.”