In February 2020, Super Eagles star John Ogu expressed his anger towards the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) after it allegedly killed a promising young footballer, Tiamiyu Kazeem.
Kazeem was the assistant captain of Remo Stars and was said to have been stopped by SARS while driving around Sagumu area of Ogun State.
According to eyewitnesses, he was allegedly accused of being a criminal by SARS operatives, even though he showed them his identity card.
The situation led to an argument and was taken to the police station. However, on their way, Kazeem questioned the officers where they were going as there was no police station around.
His question led the officers to push him out of the car into an onrushing vehicle, which hit him. He was rushed to the hospital, but he never made it.
Kazeem story is just one of the many people that have been brutalised or lost their lives at the hands of SARS operatives.
In 2016, former Shooting stars player, Izu Joseph lost his life after a stray bullet from gunmen police hit him at a market in his hometown of Okaki in Rivers State.
This is Izu Joseph is a Nigerian football player. He was shot dead by the SARS/JtF four years ago just because of his hairstyle#EndSarsNow#EndSARSImmediately #EndSARSProtest h pic.twitter.com/kGmLV8KnNF
— Seyi Alao (Hattitude) (@alao_seyi) October 10, 2020
Just last year, a young guy named Kolade Johnson was killed by SARS operatives while watching a Premier League encounter between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at a viewing centre.
According to a report from one of the eye-witness, the unit’s officers apprehended a friend of Kolade, and when people gathered to find out what happened, they fired bullets to scare them away.
Two of the bullets fired hit Kolade while he was watching the match. Although he was rushed to the hospital, he died while receiving treatment.
These are just some of the atrocities that have been committed by SARS. Ironically, the unit was established in 1992 after one police officer shot a military man.
On hearing the news that Police have killed one of them, Soldiers came out in mass, looking for Police officers.
Knowing war was brewing, the police force withdrew its officers from checkpoints, and during this period, there was an increase in robbery activities.
With robbery activities on the rise, the Police force tactically established a unit called the Special Anti Robbery Squad(SARS), which has now grown to what it is now.
However, SARS has failed in its objectives and has instead committed crimes against the citizens it was supposed to protect.
SARS operatives have built a reputation for harassing, extorting, kidnapping and killing of Nigerians, especially youths.
A culmination of these events has forced Nigerians to protest on the streets, calling on the Federal Government to disband the unit.
Over the past week, Youths have gathered across different major cities in the country, calling for an end to the notorious police unit.
The movement has gained momentum not just in the country, but worldwide. It was the number one trending topic on Twitter on Friday.
But the movement is still yet to get the attention of the tone-deaf Nigerian Government. However, this could change if the country’s football stars get more involved in the protest against police brutality.
You all can see how Nigerian leaders & police chiefs are responding to the protest. One thing is clear, they are all out dated, inefficient & out of touch. #EndSARS
— Top Boy (@SPINALL) October 10, 2020
Although many Super Eagles stars have used their social media platforms to speak out, they can still do more to create awareness.
Nonetheless, the team play Tunisia in another friendly on Tuesday, which gives them another opportunity to speak out against the issue.
Tweeting about police brutality is good, but taking it to the pitch create more awareness, and that should force the government to act.
— Olanibi Oluwasegunfunmi (@FIRSTMANOLANIBI) October 10, 2020
It should not end after the game against Tunisia. They should take the energy to their respective football clubs and keep speaking on the issue until the government heed to the people’s cry.
Imagine the message it would send if Iwobi takes the #endsars movement to the Merseyside Derby in the Premier League next weekend, or Osimhen displaying an #endsars message if he scores his first goal in Napoli’s clash against Atalanta.
This goes for all the players as speaking out at their respective leagues brings more negative foreign media coverage, and that’s definitely not what the federal government wants.
While FIFA rule forbids players to make political statements, this protest is not politically motivated. It can even be compared to the Black Lives Matters movement, which is also a protest against police brutality.
So far President Muhamadu Buhari has acted tone-deaf. Still, even an incompetent leader will not want such negative coverage from several foreign media, highlighting his incompetencies in dealing with police brutality.
But Super Eagles stars can play a vital role in getting more attention from the world by lending their voices on the pitch.
After all, some of their colleagues have also been on the receiving end of SARS harassment. According to reports, Slavia Praha striker, Peter Olayinka, had to be rescued by one of the Psquare twins when SARS operatives apprehended him.
Former Flying Eagles star, Haruna Lukman, also shared the details of how he got slapped by agents of the criminal unit.
This shows anyone can be a victim of SARS criminal act, but Nigerian football stars can play a vital role in making sure the President Buhari led government puts an end to the unit.