The government of Nigeria is currently weighing if it should cut access to the internet amid ongoing anti-police protests, local media reported on Wednesday.
“With Nigerians not backing down on protests for the reform of the police force and total disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), there are speculations that the government might shut down the internet,” Nigerian newspaper the Guardian reported.
Nigeria’s federal police founded SARS in 1992 as a special unit to combat rising rates of violent crime across the nation. Since its founding, Nigerians have regularly accused the unit of abusing its authority.
Graphic footage of SARS’ alleged abuses emerged online in Nigeria last week, sparking outrage and protests in the capital, Abuja, and across the country calling for the unit’s dissolution. In response, Nigeria’s government officially disbanded SARS on October 11.
“However, the protesters are not relenting despite the dissolution of the notorious police squad but have continued to protest noting the government’s ineffectual promises of police reforms and investigations in the past,” the Guardian reported on Wednesday. “The campaigners have also been able to organize funds to cater to their welfares during protest using digital payment platforms,” allowing the movement to continue unabated.
The anti-SARS movement originally began online before spilling onto Nigeria’s streets last week, with the hashtag “#EndSars” trending across social media in the country. Nigerians are now “speculating that the government in order to mute the campaign may clampdown on social media like its counterparts in other African countries have done in the past,” according to the report.
“Between 2016 and 2018, the authorities in South Sudan, Cameroon [and] Ethiopia … also shut down the internet in their respective countries” in response to either anti-government protests or inter-ethnic tension, the Guardian recalled. The governments of Zimbabwe, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo also forced internet shutdowns in 2019 to quell anti-government stirrings or allegedly influence elections.