Calls for the disbandment of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) intensified into the early hours of Friday, October 9; as youths across different parts of Lagos converged at the State House in Alausa to express their grievances at the crimes of the police unit.
1st News garnered that the protest commenced on Wednesday night; with several celebrities holding protests across various points in the metropolis.
The SARS operatives are infamous for its alleged high-handedness; extortion; and gross violation of human rights with the youth demographic bearing the brunt of these crimes.
At Alausa, a group of young people led by Mr Debo Adebayo, a comedian popularly known as Mr Macaroni, stormed the premises of the Lagos Assembly; asking that the lawmakers pass legislation that will see to the disbandment of the SARS unit in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
The youths decried the constant harassment encountered in the hands of SARS operatives; lamenting the rate at which many young creatives are being battered and also killed by the ‘ruthless’ police officers in the squad.
Mr Macaroni and the other youths spent hours at the gate leading into the Lagos Assembly complex; seeking to see Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who they were told was as expected not in the office at the time.
Officials and other members of the parliament tried to persuade the angry youths to leave and return at dawn; but they held their grounds; and likewise insisted that they would not leave till the number one citizen in Lagos addresses them; and assures them that they would work to ensure an end is brought to the ‘menace’ that SARS has become in the country.
“If we say we want to see the one that we elected into office; it is not too much,” Mr Macaroni insisted while addressing an official of the Lagos legislature.
Intimidation by Police after long siege
After a long seige, the police disrupted the protests by shutting off streetlights; whilst shooting gunshots in the air in a bid to disperse the youth.
1st Reports further garnered that some of their cars were towed with their sleeping tents destroyed by these police officials.
The chronology of these events was detailed by Savvy Rinu, an anti-SARS activist on Twitter.
Undeterred, these youths toiled on before the Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, finally arrived at the scene to address the protesting youths.
Mr Obasa told the crowd that members of the parliament will hold an emergency meeting in the morning of Friday to deliberate upon the #ENDSARS concerns.
He promised it will not be a deliberation by only the legislators; as the governor as well as all other stakeholders concerned will be at the meeting.
The speaker apologized for the ordeal that the youths have been through; while staging their protest at the gates of the parliament. He assured them that a lasting solution will be found for the issues that have been tabled.
History of SARS
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police force was put together to tackle robbery; as well as crimes related to armed robbery within the country. But the unit has, for quite a while, been overreaching in its operations across the nation.
Due to the lack of clear authority, the unit has transmogrified into a fearsome monolith; harassing many young Nigerians; especially men who spot dreadlocks and other forms of fancy hairstyles.
More often than not, encounters between men of the SARS unit; as well as the civilian populace have ended in infringements of rights and a show of lawless on the part of those who swore to uphold the law and protect the citizens.
It is in an attempt to bring an end to SARS brutality that many Nigerians kicked off a campaign via social media; demanding that the squad be dissolved.
What seemed like a mere Twitter storm soon spilled over into the streets; with countless youths in various parts of the country protesting and calling for an end to cruelty by SARS officials.