In the last few days, several celebrities tweeted with the hashtag #ENDSARS. While SARS might be the acronym for SARS (several acute respiratory syndrome) and is the official name of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), SARS here stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a controversial police force in Nigeria.
Leading celebrities including former Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand and Star Wars star John Boyega have tweeted with the hashtag.
What is SARS?
SARS stands for Special Anti-Robbery Squad which was set up in 1992 to combat armed robbery. Critics say it targets young men by accusing them of being online fraudsters or sometimes even forces them to take out money from ATMs, behaving like a de facto militant organisation.
It was set up in 1992 to combat armed robbery incidents but has since been accused of arbitrary arrests, tortures, extortions and extrajudicial killings. SARS officers are often found working in plain clothes and using unmarked cars.
There have also been claims that the unit targets women and women are raped in detention.
The organisation has come under the scanner again after a video went viral of a SARS officer shooting a young Nigerian and taking away his vehicle a Lexus SUV.
This has led to nation-wide protests with END SARS becoming the buzzword. Three years ago, Nigeria’s police had re-organised the outfit after condemnation but now activists and Nigerians want an end to that organisation.