Nigerian Governor Bans Protests After Demonstrators Demand End To 'SARS' Police Division
Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has also ordered local law enforcement to crack down on people seen protesting.
October 09, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Update (October 13, 2020): Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the governor of Nigeria’s Rivers State, faced an avalanche of criticism on Tuesday when he announced on Twitter that he was banning all protests following an outpouring of support for demonstrations against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, also known as SARS.
The Rivers State Government hereby wish to inform the general public that all forms of protests have been banned throughout the State.
— Gov N E Wike Information. (@GovWike) October 12, 2020
“The Rivers State Government hereby wish to inform the general public that all forms of protests have been banned throughout the State. Therefore, all proposed protests under #EndSars Campaign are hereby prohibited,” the governor said through Commissioner for Information Paulinus Nsirim.
“Government took this decision because the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had already scrapped the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Therefore, there is no need for any form of protest against a Unit of the Police Force that no longer exists,” he added.
Wike also asked all “parents and guardians” to make sure their children did not protest and ordered law enforcement to crack down on anyone seen protesting.
The posts were quickly slammed by people who questioned why such force was being used and promoted against peaceful protests.
— Wizkid (@wizkidayo) October 13, 2020
Don't be Devil's willing tool. Let the people exercise their right.
SARS has been banned on paper, but the Police still killing the people? How?
— Ifechidere (@Ifechideere) October 12, 2020
So you’re banning free speech. Just say it well.
— Yagazie Emezi (@YagazieEmezi) October 12, 2020
For weeks now, people have been taking to the streets over longstanding issues with SARS. The infamous police squad has been implicated in hundreds of crimes and is well known for their bribery demands and extrajudicial killings, according to Amnesty International.
After initially banning the squad from conducting any more raids or operations, the decision was made to fully disband the group, The New York Times reported.
“The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms. We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct are brought to justice,” President Muhammadu Buhari said during a press conference.
But that has not stopped protests, which have only grown in size as more people question what will be done to the officers who were in SARS.
Sensing that he had made more than a few people angry with his tweets, Wike took to Facebook to post words from a speech he gave to protesters after hours of criticism online. He painted himself as a champion of the people and said he was elected because of his opposition to the actions of police organizations like SARS.
Wike called for reform of the entire police force and noted that SARS officers may be deployed to other units. He then said he has long complained about the violence perpetrated by SARS officers and told the crowd that he himself has faced criticism for speaking out against the police.
"It is not only to end SARS. Already, there is a pronouncement to scrap it. But every Nigerian should support the total reform of the Police. SARS cannot and has never been our friend in Rivers state. They killed a lecturer at Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic without a cause and people kept quiet,” Wike said.
"President Muhammadu Buhari said he will reform the Police. Let us be ready to hold him by his words. When we raised the alarm over the killings of Rivers people by SARS operatives, nobody listened to us as they said I was playing politics with it. No Governor saw the need to speak out against that evil,” he added.
His words did little to suppress the outrage at his decision to ban protests in his state. Nigerian citizens have spent the last week criticizing the government and the police for firing tear gas at protesters and trying to violently silence demonstrations, according to The Guardian.
“The government disbanded SARS in 2017, in 2018 and in 2019. We’re not buying it this time,” 25-year-old Boston University student Omobolanle Adams told The New York Times.
Original (October 9, 2020): Nigerians across the world are calling for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force, known locally as SARS, after years of accusations that members of the group carried out extrajudicial killings, robberies and general harassment of local populations.
According to Business Day Nigeria, the recent protests over SARS broke out after a video showed officers dragging a man out of a hotel and shooting him in the head on October 3. Video of the incident depicted officers shooting one of the men outside of the Wetland Hotel, Ughelli in Delta State. The circumstances surrounding the shooting remain unclear.
The video ricocheted across social media, enflaming tensions between Nigerian citizens and SARS that had already been simmering for years.
Amnesty International has written extensively about SARS and their lengthy history of violence. For years, politicians in the country have pledged to reform the squad and introduce new rules to reign in their impunity, but little has changed.
Multiple investigations of the unit have been started but rarely go anywhere. Last week, The Minister of Police Affairs announced a ban on routine patrols by SARS, according to Amnesty International.
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, called the announced investigations "yet another lame attempt to rein in this unit of the Nigerian police which is notorious for the widespread torture and other ill-treatment of Nigerians."
— A THREAD of SARS brutality in the last 3-4 years across Nigerian cities as documented in videos.. Giving credence to the #EndSARS protests. Retweet
— VyrãlTreñdz (@TheVyralTrendz) October 9, 2020
"We have seen from bitter experience that past investigations into violations were either never carried out or marred by irregularities. To date, the Nigerian authorities have yet to show a genuine commitment to ending the lawless activities of SARS," Ojigho said in a statement on Tuesday.
"The authorities have an obligation to protect Nigerians and bring to justice those who violate their human rights. Unless the authorities follow through with their promises to reform SARS and end the frequent extortion and ill-treatment of Nigerians, their empty words will be just that," Ojigho added.
The response to the video has grown substantially over the past week, with dozens of major Nigerian figures calling for an end to the unit and an investigation of everyone involved.