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Nigeria: Has the #EndSARS movement come to an end?

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Wednesday, 9 June 2021 15:41

A protester is detained by police officers following a planned protest at the Lekki Toll Plaza In Lagos Nigeria, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

The American #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement picked up its pace internationally in 2020 following the death of George Floyd. A few months later, Nigeria's #EndSARS campaign also flooded social media waves. In both instances, the second round is what finally brought about some changes that have even been applauded. But at the end of the day, has anything really changed?

On 20 April 2021, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the George Floyd case.

Many celebrated this as a win for the #BlackLivesMatter (#BLM) movement but Tiana Day – an activist and founder of nonprofit ‘Youth Advocates for Change’ – says: “It is a big step in the right direction, [but] at the end of the day there are still thousands of innocent black people killed for nothing.”

“There is so much more to do in order to achieve liberation for black people, and the equity we are fighting for,” she tells The Africa Report.

In the midst of Covid-19, George Floyd’s murder on 25 May 2020 brought back mass protests throughout the US and globally. The need to stamp out the historical and endemic murder of African-Americans by local police forces took precedence over the pandemic.

There are parameters to use to judge failures or successes of a government. Governments exist to protect people. The Nigerian government has done the opposite of that.

Later that year, Nigerians also retook to the streets through the #EndSARS movement, (first round was in 2017) to demonstrate against police brutality.

Five days after Nigeria celebrated its 60th independence anniversary on 1 October 2020, a leaderless protest against police brutality took place, galvanised by the youth and a feminist coalition.

READ MORE Nigeria at 60 

The protests stopped after 20 October 2020, when the military and police officers shot and killed unarmed protesters in Lagos. A judicial panel was formed to look into the atrocities, but to date, their findings have not been made public. The infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has not been disbanded, and on the surface, it appears nothing has changed.

There are debates as to whether social movements enlighten people universally or are culture-specific. Day says: “The work is very similar through intersections of social justice. We’re all fighting for justice; they [different social movements] do relate in a way.”

Although the guilty verdict in Chauvin’s case was a positive step, it would be premature to conclude that the BLM social movement is a success and the struggle for justice has come to an end. The same applies to the #EndSARS campaign which is no longer visible on the streets, but is still on-going.

But the real question is, how can a social movement be deemed successful?