On October 3, a young man who was arrested by the police in Ughelli, Delta State, allegedly falling off from a moving police vehicle and was feared dead.
The incident sparked protest in the state and spread quickly like wildfire across the country, though it was later discovered he was still alive.
The protest tagged ‘#EndSARS’ was staged after years of rampant brutality by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
The protest had hitherto begun years ago as an online agitation morphed into a nationwide agitation that has quickly swept across Nigeria in the past two weeks.
The youths who are usually at the receiving end of the police brutality came out in their thousands, occupied different places across the country demanding for the complete disbandment of the police tactical unit.
There were both online and physical protest and some notable sportsmen and women added their voices to the ongoing #EndPoliceBrutality protest that is sweeping through some parts of Nigeria.
While some of them have physically joined the protest, others have dedicated their social media handles to demand an end to indiscriminate killing and harassment by the now-defunct Special Anti-Robber Squad (SARS).
It will be recalled that the Super Eagles celebrated their only goal, by taking the knee in their 1-1 stalemate with the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia during the international friendly match on Tuesday, October 13th. The unique celebration was done in recognition of the #EndSARS protests.
Anthony Joshua and Odion Ighalo have also condemned the Nigerian government after reports claimed soldiers killed protesters in Lagos on Tuesday.
World heavyweight champion Joshua has called for change while Ighalo, following United’s 2-1 Champions League win over PSG, released a video message criticising the country’s government.
Joshua said: “The situation has escalated, the violence and killings are horrendous. All because of people saying they want to live in peace?
“I pray God opens the gates for the heroes of Nigeria! This was never a trend for me! It’s real life and I want to learn how to make lasting change.
“I’m looking at hospitals to support, along with food and care packages in the time being. Change will happen.”
Ighalo posted his tweet from the Parc des Princes pitch, having been an unused substitute on Tuesday night.
Ighalo said: “The Nigerian government, you guys are a shame to the world for killing your own citizens, sending military to the streets to kill unarmed protesters because they are protesting for their own rights? It’s uncalled for.
“You people will be remembered in history as the first government to send the military to the city to start killing their own citizens. I am ashamed of this government, we are tired of you guys and we can’t take this anymore.”
Former Shooting Stars and Kano Pillars’ attacking midfielder, Tony Edjomariegwe who currently plays in Morocco with Moghreb Tétouan, claimed in a Facebook post that SARS officials demanded $1,000 when he was in the country last year for the holidays.
“I remembered last year I came back and was stopped by Sars and they told me I was a suspect asking me to call my coach, captain and president of my team. They even asked me which police station I reported to when I came into the country.
“Even after seeing all evidence of me and my job on YouTube and Google, they still took me to a police station and ask me to come behind the station while smoking all sorts of stuff weeds and the rest asking me to pay 1000$. It’s pathetic and annoying seeing the harassment extortions and killings. We nor do again oga president,” he wrote.
Football superstars Wilfred Ndidi and Asisat Oshoala have also added their voices to the #EndSARS campaign.
The two players wondered how wearing dreads or dyed hair would be a crime and jointly called for an end to police brutality.
Ndidi, on his Twitter account, wrote: “#EndSARS for the safety of Nigerians… we are scared to visit home because the people who are meant to protect us are killing us. Looking good with dreads is not a crime…”
Oshoala, on her Facebook Page, wrote: ”Some of us have good paying jobs and still like our HAIR like this…..DREADLOCK no be crime, to apply DYE for HAIR no be crime.
”And THANKS to everyone that wished me happy birthday yesterday….LOVE ALWAYS #EndSARS #EndPoliceBrutality.”
In an interview with the BBC, John Ogu, shared his experience with SARS saying: ”Everyone has a story about this SARS. You’ll be driving your car and SARS will pull up in front of your car. At first, you’ll think that they’re armed robbers because of the way they are dressed, the manner of how they talk.”
International female basketball player Chiney Ogumike was not left out as she said “Our YOUTH are our FUTURE. It takes ALL of us working together to protect our future. OZUGO.
Nigerian track athlete Blessing Okagbare shared her support on Instagram for the protest declaring that enough was enough.
“The people have spoken! The majority have spoken! Enough is Enough! #EndSWAT #EndPoliceBrutality,” she wrote.
Crotone striker Simeon Nwankwo also showed solidarity with the #EndSARS movement seeking an end to police brutality in Nigeria and comprehensive police reforms.
The 28-year-old striker after scoring against Juventus celebrated by a raising a T-shirt to show his support for an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
Super Eagles striker, Victor Osimhen after scoring his first goal for Napoli raised up a T= shirt to show his support for an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
“The power of the people is always stronger than the people in power. Remember DAT #ReformNigeriaPolice,” he tweeted.
Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa wrote on Twitter: “In a world where genuine love for ourselves seems to be so scarce, I sincerely pray that the right thing is done to put an end to the strife. #EndNorthBanditry #EndPoliceBrutality.”
Musa was also joined by Leon Balogun who expressed his displeasure that police who are meant to protect citizens are now being accused of brutalizing them.
“The reasons for the #EndSARSProtests have just come to my attention via very disturbing images & tweets. It is never good when those charged with protecting the citizens are now terrorising, extorting or even killing the same citizens. I support #EndSarsProtests #EndSars Flag of Nigeria Broken heart,” he tweeted.
Nantes Fc forward, Moses Simon went beyond the disbanding of SARS as he demanded the government to end banditry in the northern part of the country,
“The essence of law enforcement agents is to protect lives and properties of citizens. If the citizens they swore to protect are now their preys, then the purpose of its formation is defeated. #EndSARS #End BANDITRY Going on in the north #Togetherwestand,” he tweeted.
Originally published for Daily Trust