Contemporary and Social Issues

#EndSars Campaign: Nigerians Call for an End to Police Brutality


Badr Mohammmed Bashir, Nigeria


The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) confers on the Nigeria Police Force the duty to maintain law and order, and keep the peace of the country. The Constitution also provides for Fundamental Human Rights for all the people of Nigeria, including the right to life. The use of lethal or potentially lethal force by police officers is authorized under some circumstances. These circumstances are strictly regulated by the law, meaning that, the police need to have a good understanding of the rules governing the use of force and firearms, as set out under Nigerian laws and international human rights laws.

National and International laws prescribe the circumstances in which the use of force is allowed. In Nigeria, the relevant laws include: the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999); the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Act (both applicable in the Southern States in Nigeria); the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code (both applicable in the northern states in Nigeria); and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) and the Nigeria Police Act. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) is a Federal Law applicable in Federal High Courts. States of the Federation have begun to adopt same to be applied in their respective states after adoption by the State House of Assembly for Administration of Criminal Justice System in the State.


The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a special branch of the Nigeria police created to fight violent crime, is alleged to be responsible for widespread torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment (other ill-treatment) of detainees in their custody.  Established in 1992 by Simeon Danladi Midenda, a retired commissioner of the police who added the word ‘Special’ to the already existing Anti-Robbery Squad, which turned out to be Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In each state, SARS is under the criminal investigations department of the police command. The Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) has a nationwide mandate and is under the Federal Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Abuja. Both are headed by senior police officers, usually at the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) and are commonly called O/C SARS.

SARS is one of the 14 units under the Nigeria Police Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department which was created to arrest, investigate and prosecute people involved in violent crimes such as armed robberies, murders, kidnappings, hired assassinations and other forms of extreme criminality and syndicate fraud.

According to Simeon Danladi Midenda, [1] one major incident that prompted the creation of SARS was when Col. Rindam, a military officer from Plateau State, met his death at the hands of police operatives at a check point in Lagos. Upon discovery of that, the army took to the streets in Lagos in search of policemen. As a result, policemen abandoned the streets in Lagos and withdrew to barracks. Robbers then had a field day in Lagos, operating with impunity. It took two weeks of talks before the military and police authorities succeeded in convincing the army chaps to return to barracks and for the police to come back to the roads. By that time, it was too late. Armed robbers were in control in Lagos and the like of Shina Rambo could not be challenged by any force.

The #EndSARS Agitations:

It could not be said that the Nigerian community did not appreciate the excellent crime combat of the SARS unit as a tactical squad, but the excesses of this unit have gone too long without check. Social media agitation began in 2015, calling on the Police Authority to rid the unit of unscrupulous elements but all cries are to no avail. The then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Ehigiator Arase proposed some reforms especially with regards to the operational modules of the Nigeria Police. These reforms included establishing the Complaint Response Unit (CRU), initiating a review of Force Order 237 [2] and splitting SARS into two operational units, reforms which have been a subject of debate for some years. Many Inspectors-General of Police have made various pronouncements about the need to reform the force and initiate new working methods to restore public trust and confidence in the force. One of these was the creation of the CRU at the Abuja police headquarters in November 2015. The CRU is tasked with receiving and processing complaints from members of the public and providing feedback on actions taken.

According to the Inspector General of Police, ‘the broad objective of the CRU is to entrench police accountability into the Nigeria policing system and to galvanize the citizens towards actively participating in the policing framework of the country.’ The CRU operates seven platforms for public complaints against the police: telephone calls, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, BBN, email and text messages. The CRU also sends officers to investigate complaints and to feed back with documentation and further action. In the first six months of 2016, the CRU received 1,960 [3] complaints of police misconduct from the public, ranging from excessive use of force, extortion, professional misconduct and incivility to members of the public. The CRU office is located at the police headquarters in Abuja but has a representative in the 37 police commands across the country. All officers report to the head of the CRU, who in turn reports to the Inspector General of Police. The CRU lacks the power to prosecute or penalize police officers but can recommend appropriate punishment.

Prior to the establishment of the CRU, the police force had undergone many other reform processes. A number of mechanisms were set up by the Federal Government to monitor police misconduct, including the Police Service Commission (PSC), the X Squad, and the Nigeria Police Council (NPC).

The campaign in the social media which has now snowballed into street protests calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force, has attracted mixed feelings. This is because, while many others have had sour encounters with personnel of the unit, others or their relations have, at one time or the other, been rescued from either kidnappers or deadly armed robbers by the officers of the SARS unit. SARS is a special tactical unit of the Nigeria Police Force which was specially created to combat violent crimes.

Impact of SARS in Nigeria 

Prior to the introduction of SARS into the Nigeria Police, most of our communities have become the den of armed robbers. Most nights are unsafe. Travellers could only travel during the day as nights become impossible. Recently were the cases of cattle rustling, kidnapping and YahooPlus. [4] The impact of SARS can be categorized into two fundamental parts- positive impact and negative impact. Under the positive impact, SARS, according to many, has over the years, performed excellently as it has assisted in arresting some notorious criminals in different parts of the country. According to Muhammad, [5] it is instructive to note that the same SARS many people are calling to be scrapped, was instrumental to the arrest of most of the notorious criminals in many parts of the country. He gave an instance of, sometime last year, two suspected notorious armed robbers terrorizing and robbing residents of Ire Akari Street, Ejigbo and Isolo areas of Lagos, snatching and vandalizing vehicles in the area for long, were arrested by operatives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) in Adeniji Adele Road, Lagos Island. This, no doubt, brought a sigh of relief to residents] of the area.

Similarly, in 2015, due to the unabated activities of cultists and other violent crimes, including kidnapers and armed robbers in Edo State, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Idris, dispatched a special crack squad comprising SARS officers to the state to tackle the situation. The situation was, a few days after, brought under control. As record may have it, SARS has been able to arrest more than three thousand suspected kidnappers across the country and in fact, the recent successes recorded in reducing the high rate of crime and criminality, especially kidnapping and other deadly vices in most parts of the country, is largely the handiwork of SARS operatives. [6]

However, since 2014, Amnesty International has documented widespread human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, extortion, rape, torture and other ill-treatment by officers of the SARS. Nigerians in their hundreds marched across major cities in the country, calling on the government to disband SARS as well as to prosecute erring officers found culpable in human rights violations. There have been several attempts made by the Federal Government of Nigeria to reform SARS. On 14 August 2018 [7], the Nigerian Vice-President ordered an immediate reform of SARS, citing the widespread public outcry against their conduct, as the basis for the order. He also directed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to set up a judicial panel to investigate SARS alleged unlawful activities. Hours later, the police authority announced a list of reform measures aimed at increasing SARS’ public accountability for its actions. 

On the Negative impact of SARS, just as there is no perfect human institution or person, one cannot deny the fact that SARS also has some bad elements who have acted over time beyond their line of responsibility [8]. SARS as we have it today, has created space for external influence through the power of money. People with the financial muscle now use their money to control SARS (bad elements) by telling them who to arrest, slap, harass and so on, thereby, shifting them away from the original reason(s) as to why the unit was created. In Nigeria, you can’t move around freely with a starched shirt, flashy nice wrist-watch, a portable nice phone (like iPhone) and car without being harassed and extorted for dressing nice. 


Need for Reform

There is no Police organization in the world without a tactical team/unit. Most of these tactical police unit even in America, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany etc., may be very vicious and abusive of human rights. The unfortunate circumstance Nigeria police force has found itself, is that Nigeria is a third world country that will always be looked upon as incapable of conducting her affairs well.

On September 5 being Wednesday, 2018, the IGP Idris restates ban on SARS operatives from conducting stop and search raids. The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, repeated his warning to Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to stop indiscriminate search of citizens. Certain measures were rolled out to ensure reform, these include:

  • Ordering members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to wear police uniforms with full identification, pending the launch of new FSARS uniform.
  • The overhaul of FSARS operatives had been ordered to desist from attending to civil or commercial matters henceforth and focus strictly on armed robbery and kidnapping cases only.
  • Human rights desk had been created in the 36 states of the federation and FCT under the supervision of Habiru Gwandu (Commissioner of Police in charge of FSARS) and the desks would address cases of infractions against members of the public by FSARS personnel across the nation.
  • The Police will henceforth engage the services of psychologists and counselors in the ongoing screening of FSARS operatives (Agency Report, August 25, 2018). [9]

Islam’s Take on Civil Disobedience

The Qur’an says, ‘Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that you have gained; the commerce in which you fear a decline; or the dwellings in which you delight, are dearer to you than Allah, or His Apostle, or the striving in His cause; then wait until Allah brings about decision; and Allah guides not the iniquitous.’ [10]

Obedience to leaders has been mandated upon Muslims. [11] Allah says, ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those appointed in authority over you’. [12] The concept of obedience to leaders is further strengthened by the command of the Holy Prophet (sa) when he responded to a questioner who asked, ‘if I find myself under an unjust ruler is obedience still compulsory upon me? The Prophet (saw) replied after the third time, yes, you are mandated to obey him. The Prophet (saw) added in another narration ‘If someone orders you to commit a sin, you should not obey. Obedience is due only in what is just and good.’ No obedience is owed to a created if it entails disobeying the Creator. [13] A great deal is reported to have been advised by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) regarding obedience to leaders or rulers among people. In another narration he was reported to have said, ‘It is obligatory upon you to listen to the ruler and obey him in adversity and prosperity, in pleasure and displeasure and even when another person is given (rather undue) preference over you’. [14]

In Sahih al-Bukhari, ‘It has been narrated on the authority of Hudhaifa b. al-Yaman who said: Messenger of Allah, no doubt, we had an evil time (i.e., the days of Jahiliyya or ignorance) and God brought us a good time (i.e., Islamic period) through which we are now living Will there be a bad time after this good time? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Yes. I said: Will there be a good time after this bad time? He said: Yes. I said: Will there be a bad time after good time? He said: Yes. I said: How? Whereupon he said: There will be leaders who will not be led by my guidance and who will not adopt my ways. There will be among them men who will have the hearts of devils in the bodies of human beings. I said: What should I do, Messenger of Allah, if I happen to live in that time? He replied: You will listen to the Amir and carry out his orders; even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should listen and obey.’ [15]

On one occasion, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) quoted a narration of the Holy Prophet (sa) in which it is stated, ‘After me, you will see injustice, rights suppressed and others given preference over you. You will see matters that you will disapprove of. When asked what was the commandment in such circumstances, the Prophet (sa) replied, ‘Pay leaders their dues and ask God for your rights! He further said, whoever disapproves of something done by his ruler should be patient, for whoever disobeys his ruler even with a span of a hand will die the death of ignorance.’

His Holiness (aba) further advised, ‘It is my hope and prayer that all those who value humanity understand the grave situation the world is facing work towards bringing mankind together and developing true peace in the world. Certainly, politicians and people of influence should endeavour to persuade their governments to focus on peace-building efforts, rather than inflaming conflicts and taking us further towards the abyss. At this time, the world must focus on reconciliation and bringing people together.’ [16]

His Holiness (aba) further further stated, ‘Laws of a country are made to protect people from injustices and to create ease. Every true Muslim is obligated to follow the laws of the land and so if anyone has any fears or reservations they should know that Islam does not permit Muslims to engage in lawlessness or to create disorder. Any Muslim who acts against this principle is guilty of violating the true teachings of Islam and unjustly tarnishes its name.’ [17]

Alternative to Protests – Voting 

It appears that in Africa, election process has yet been fully appreciated. An informed and aware population, who can participate in political processes, hold the state to account, and exercise rights and responsibilities effectively, is considered today as strengthening the quality of democratic governance. Elections have the potential to deepen the quality of democratic governance, but they are a relatively blunt instrument of representation, and they have important limitations. More interactive mechanisms to encourage citizen engagement with the state are based on increased dialogue, collaboration and participatory decision-making. [18]

While freedom of speech and assembly are central pillars of democracy, recognized as intrinsically valuable, it is unclear how effective the exercise of these freedoms is in bringing about change. Though there are numerous historical episodes where political change has been associated with political demonstrations, such as the French Revolution, the Civil Rights movement, and the recent Arab Spring, it is unclear to what extent these protests caused change. [19] Islam however, recommends peaceful means of changing power. 


In the Holy Qur’an Allah says, ‘Indeed Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you…’ [20] although some Muslims opine that it is unlawful for anyone to participate in electoral process as they claim that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) has said anyone who holds himself out and canvasses for votes will not enjoy Allah’s support. However, some Muslim thinkers and scholars have also held different views. 

In the verse above, Muslims have been clearly instructed to fulfill the trusts that have been placed in them. This includes trusts and oaths that have been undertaken at a personal level and those trusts that are collective. In terms of personal trusts, a person should not seize the property or rights of others or fail to fulfill the responsibilities he owes to other people. In terms of collective trusts, one important aspect is the duty of citizens to elect representatives of the state who they consider to be of the greatest value to their nation. When it comes to elections or nominations, a person should not vote automatically for his ally or party member, rather they should consider who is the most qualified and suitable for the task at hand. Thereafter, those who are elected and handed the keys to government or power should exercise their duties with honesty, integrity and justice. [21]

With regards to Muslims participating in politics, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) said, ‘Islam emphasises that there should be democratic freedom and teaches that when appointing leaders, those people should be chosen who will fulfill their responsibilities and trusts with integrity. This requires them to work for the betterment of the people and the country and to discard personal interest for the sake of the greater good. Islam teaches that one’s affiliation to any party should not be the deciding factor in appointing a leader, rather, those people should be elected who help the people and the country to progress further.’ [22]

The Fourth Successor to the Promised Messiah (as), Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), clarifies the position with regards to what system of politics is recommended for Muslims, when he said, ‘as far as I am concerned, Islamic teachings do not reject any political system of the world, but Islam leaves it to the choice of the people and historically established traditions prevailing in any country. What Islam emphasises is not the form of government but how the government should discharge itself.’ [23]


From the foregoing, it is obvious that revolt against a constituted authority is prohibited in Islam. Although, protests may lead to more grassroots mobilization, to a large extent it does not achieve the objective of the protesters as much as voting in elections would do. The only reason why a Muslim can revolt or protest a ruler is where the ruler commands disbelief. The SARS protests-turned-riots, although may be assumed by many unsuspecting victims as genuine cry for police reform, but, to those who knew better, it was more than just cries for reforms. The agitations of members of BIAFRA, the LGBTQ, and the syndicate fraudsters have now been brought to bare. Unconfirmed reports have it that these protests have been sponsored across major cities by these elements, also backed by the opposition who have found their ‘incarceration’ too unbearable. The Nigerian community has yet grown to protect herself from the hands of criminal elements without the assistance of members of the police force. Possession and use of guns in Nigeria is restricted and therefore banning SARS would give criminal elements free days to terrorize the citizenry. Citizens have alternatives to protest and destruction of public properties, especially when their voices are not heeded by the government – vote in a new responsive and responsible government in a peaceful election.

About the Author: Badr Mohammed Bashir, LLB, LLM, BL, (PhD) is a Law teacher at the Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, Kano. He serves as an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Nigeria and is the National Secretary for Outreach.


[1] Nnadozie, E. (2017, December 23). How I founded SARS in the Police- RTD CP Midenda. Vanguard News (Online), Retrieved from

[2] Force Order 237, ‘Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against person except in self defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury to prevent perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life’.

[3] Nnadozie, E. (2017, December 23). How I founded SARS in the Police- RTD CP Midenda. Vanguard News (Online), Retrieved from

[4] YahooPlus are ritual killers who took to the streets of Nigeria carting away with ladies undies and babies diapers for money rituals. They also engage in killing of people by severing their private organs.

[5] Muhammad, B.B. (2017, December 07). SARS: The Untold Story.  Leadershipngr (Online), Retrieved from

[6] Ibid, supra

[7] Torture And Other Violations By Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars)Amnesty International Nigeria 2020

[8] Muhammad, B.B. (2017, December 07). SARS: The Untold Story.  Leadershipngr (Online), Retrieved from

[9] Agency Report (2018, August 25). Police announce six new steps to reform SARS. Premium Times (Online),Retrieved from headlines/ 281316-police-announce-six-new-steps-to-reform-sars.html

[10] The Holy Qur’an 9:25

[11] Sahih Muslim Kitab Imara Hadith No. 20 Chapter 8, on matter on obedience to the ruler Number 4519

[12] The Holy Qur’an 4:60

[13] Sahih Muslim Kitab Imara Hadith No.20, Chapter 8, on matter of obedience to the ruler… Number 4541

[14] Sahih Muslim, Ibid No. 4524

[15] Sahih al-Bukhari Book 61, Hadith No. 3649

[16] Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the laying of foundation stone for new Mosque in Raunheim, Germany, 20thApril 2017

[17] Ibid

[18] Alina R.M. ‘what is political voice, why does it matter, how can it bring about change? A development progress discussion paper 2014

[19] Madestam, A., D. Shoag, S. Veuger, and D. Yanagizawa-Drott. 2013. “Do Political Protests Matter? Evidence from the Tea Party Movement.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 128 (4) (August 11): 1633–1685. doi:10.1093/qje/qjt021. Available at 

[20] The Holy Quran 4 : 59

[21] M.M.A The current Caliph of the Muslims, 28 October 2016, at a lecture at York University in Toronto, Canada

[22] Germany’s foundation laying, April 2017

[23] MTA, ‘Islam’s Response to contemporary Issues, Islam International Publications Ltd. 1992