Op-Ed: Andrew Akpan, a Nigerian based in South Africa, reflects on class divides among Nigerians and how that has affected the way in which #EndSARS protesters are perceived and treated.
I have personally experienced two incidents with the Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), one of which was notably traumatising. While driving with a friend, we were stopped by the police unit and although I wasn't the driver of the vehicle, I was asked to step out of the car. Once I was out of the car, one of the officers advanced towards me to search my pockets. Before I could ask him what he was doing and why, he landed a big stick on my knee—without so much as an explanation. One could say that I was quite lucky compared to the many other horrific stories of torture, maiming and even death suffered at the hands of this rogue unit.
This kind of story is precisely what energised Nigerians to take to the streets of major cities and demand the disbandment of SARS, for weeks on end. The government's subsequent response to the protests unfortunately culminated in the military shooting and killing at least 38 peaceful and unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. What followed this event was a widespread breakdown of law and order through the destruction of public and private properties.