Friday, October 23, 2020

#EndSARS: Rest and recover your energy, for the journey ahead of us is long

I have seen posts today indicating many young Nigerians feel tired and defeated. I wanted to remind us all that building a country that works for us and our children is a marathon, not a sprint.

Let us not diminish what we achieved over the past few weeks. SARS was disbanded, again, and hopefully for good. Many state governments have set up panels of inquiry into police brutality and some have started “showing their workings”. We have shown the political class that it will not always be business as usual. And there’s more.

I am deeply sorry for the lives that were taken by agents of the state during the protests and by hoodlums during the unrest that erupted afterwards. I am also very sorry for the people who were injured. These ultimate sacrifices must not be in vain.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

On #EndSARS (Again)

I am overwhelmed by the reports of police brutality that have surfaced over the past week*. From the mid-90s (and likely before) to the past week, too many Nigerian lives have been cut short or had their trajectory altered significantly by policemen whose job it was to protect those people.

There have been reports of torture and extrajudicial killings. We have heard from relatives who have not seen their loved ones in years after they were arrested by the police. What is missing in all these reports is justice. A SARS officer notorious for extrajudicial killings in Awkuzu was appointed an adviser to a governor**. Another was promoted to become the head of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Many other trigger-happy policemen remain nameless and faceless, living their lives without paying for their crimes against humanity.

This is not right and things have to change. I am proud of the young people who risk their lives everyday to keep this issue on the first page of the agenda. While we cannot bring back the lives that have been lost, we can continue to demand justice for them and to apply pressure until the government takes meaningful action to address police brutality once and for all.

Aluta continua, victoria ascerta.

* These stories are frankly overwhelming and some of the pictures are very graphic. If you’d like to see them, search #EndSARS on Twitter or visit

** He has now been fired and the governor has promised he will be charged for his crimes, but he should never have been appointed an adviser in the first place as there have been allegations against him in the public domain for many years now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

#EndSARS: Why scrapping SARS will make a difference, even if the officers remain in the police

Like other young Nigerians, I spent my Sunday afternoon calling for an end to Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Long removed from its origins as a crime fighting unit, SARS evolved into an extortionary outfit that profiled and harassed Nigerians. The Inspector General of police has since announced the scrapping of SARS, but the protests continue for a variety of reasons, one of which is the lack of public trust that these announcements will result in meaningful and lasting change.

A few people have asked why we were calling for an end to SARS if they would simply be reintegrated into other police squads. I wrote this to address that question and to share some other thoughts on what else is required to begin the long journey of rebuilding public trust in the Nigerian police.

We know people act differently in groups than when they are alone and there is research to prove it (here, here). There are many reasons for this, three of which I would like to highlight: groups produce conformity, normalize behaviors, and intensify attitudes. All three are pretty straightforward. I am more likely to get drunk when I hang out with a group that gets drunk (conformity). In these circumstances, I am more likely to think getting drunk is normal (normalize behaviors). Over time, I am likely to begin drinking more than when I first begun and become more certain that it is right to be drunk (intensify attitudes). While I chose a negative example, this also works in positive ways and people can improve their life outcomes to some degree by changing the groups they belong to.