LMU Students Advocate for the #EndSARS Movement

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

LMU Students Advocate for the #EndSARS Movement 
By Simone Soublet 

#BlackAtLMU organizers are not only fighting for themselves here at LMU and in the United States. They're also fighting for the rights of people in their homelands.


On October 20, 2020, the executive governor of Lagos State, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, issued a 24-hour curfew in order to prevent citizens from exercising their right to protest against Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). That same night, SARS shot into crowds of peaceful protestors, resulting in multiple injuries and deaths. Since then, protests have continued worldwide, and the hashtag #EndSARS circulated worldwide on social media, drawing attention to an issue that has been going on for weeks.


In 1992, SARS was formed to combat armed robbery, fraud, kidnapping, and other serious crimes. The unit has been guilty of abusing human rights, killing and torturing innocent civilians, making random arrests, and many other injustices. Nigerians and many others worldwide have decided that enough is enough.


In the United States, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter circulated widely after Trayvon Martin’s 2012 murder. A few students at LMU have drawn parallels between SARS and the U.S. police.


“The common factor is that Black people are being terrorized by the police. You’d think that in a country like Nigeria, where most of the population is Black, that wouldn't be the case. Well, when you think about the systems that were put in place by the colonizers, when they came to Nigeria, it's not surprising that the police themselves have no regard for life or know that for Black people in general. So, the system’s also putting Black people down and that has to change even though people might not see it that way, because it's a mostly Black country,” said first-year student Odoba Okwuosa.


Student organizations like LMU’s African Student Association and LMU’s Black Student Union did not hesitate to educate and inform others. Though students were grateful for the action taken by these organizations, students felt that LMU as an institution could have shared  information from affiliated accounts. They also believed that faculty, staff, and students from LMU could have checked in and reached out.  


“How many people from LMU are following me and seeing these protests on my story? Not much,” Okwuosa said. “However, people that are following Loyola Marymount University, if they end up putting out information about #EndSARS, it will reach a larger audience. LMU has Nigerian students, so just checking up on them during these times would be really important because it really feels like they should care more about how people are doing. This could be our family members; this could be our siblings that died. The fact that no one has reached out, apart from faculty and students that I personally know, but just the administration themselves hasn’t reached out or said anything is really telling.”


Junior Dorcas Garba expressed frustration when she tried spreading the word about the protests happening in her home country. “To see a lot of people who were all for black liberation and black justice a couple of months ago, now being silent is self-centered. What I'm asking from them is to make themselves aware, to lend their voice, because we saw how passionate people can get. At the end of the day, it's still a human rights issue, you know?”


The protests have sparked change in Nigeria, forcing concessions from the government such as a mass action calling for a complete disband of SARS and wider police reform. However, this isn’t the first time protestors have heard the Nigerian government make these promises. For LMU students and Nigerian protestors, the fight doesn’t stop here.


“The leaders need to go,” LMU sophomore Ike Agoro said. “It’s up to the people to actually take it seriously because people got quiet really quick. People talked about SARS for like two days and just forgot about it. They shared bloody flags and dead bodies for two days. It’s still going on and it’s up to the people to take it seriously and it's up to them to overthrow that corrupt government because they're not doing what they need to be doing.”


“I do think that all of the attention is going to spark some sort of change. Of course, the corruption did not start today, and it didn't start yesterday, and there are so many facets and angles to it, but this is a starting point of where things begin to turn around and I'm glad that youth are leading this movement. So, I do think that eventually things will get better, but this is just step one out of many that needs to be taken,” senior Yolanda Nosakhare added.

A month later, following the #EndSARS protests, SARS has been undergoing reforms and invoking sanctions on Nigerian officials. According to BBC news, this was the result of a petition brought before the U.K. parliament which was signed by more than 220,000 people. However, this vote to impose sanctions does not hold as much power as it should. Now, they are undergoing an independent investigation to bring justice to the protesters who were killed and abused. As investigations are in progress, Members of Parliament in the U.K. continue to press the Nigerian government for the rights to peaceful protests and respect human rights.

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