A new report released by a research think-tank, Africa Polling Institute, on the #EndSARS protests, has revealed that six in 10 Nigerians (61%) expressed support for the recent protests.
The report says the nationwide poll was conducted in October 2020 to elicit the opinions of citizens on the recent nationwide #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.
“A total of 1,114 completed interviews were captured in the poll out of 3,771 calls made, representing a response rate of approximately 30 percent. The sample consisted of 51 percent male and 49 percent female respondents, whose ages were 18 years and above,” it says.
According to the report titled, ‘The EndSARS Protest: Beyond Police Brutality in Nigeria’, it says “The findings revealed that at least six in 10 Nigerians (61 percent) said they were in support of the protest. On the other hand, 35 percent said they did not support the protest, while 4 percent said they were simply unaware of any protest.
“The data further showed that there was more support for the protest amongst more educated Nigerians, as citizens with tertiary education and above (70 percent) expressed more support than those with no formal education (15 percent).
“Furthermore, there was more support from citizens resident in southern Nigeria (91 percent), than from citizens resident in northern Nigeria (35 percent). Interestingly, the data also revealed significant support from more elderly and adult Nigerians aged 60 years and above (70 percent) and 36 to 60 years (65 percent), than youths aged 18 to 35 years (53 percent).
“This finding highlights an important point signifying that, even though the protest may have been championed by the youth, they enjoyed significant support from the much older demography, who seem to opine that young people are finally waking up to lend their voice to the call for a better Nigeria.”
The report also states that findings from the poll indicated that the protest gained significant support from citizens, not just as a campaign against police brutality (27 percent), but it was more of a public outcry for better governance in the country, as expressed by 60 percent of respondents.
“Further findings revealed that protesters initially refused to back down due to public distrust towards government (43 percent), failure of government to fulfil past promises (28 percent), massive unemployment in the country (14 percent), public dissatisfaction with the current administration (12 percent), and idleness of student protesters resulting from the protracted industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“In addition, 77 percent of Nigerians do not believe that the newly established Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit will put an end to incidence of police brutality. Nigerians therefore urged the authorities to promote good governance and undertake a comprehensive reform of the Nigeria Police Force.”
Personal Experience of Police Brutality
“Respondents were asked if they had personally experienced any form of police brutality in the last five years. From the findings, it was revealed that 18 percent affirmed that they had personally experienced police brutality, as against 82 percent who said they had not.
“Expectedly, more male (26 percent) than female (10 percent) respondents experienced police brutality; while more citizens resident in southern Nigeria (24 percent) experienced police brutality than citizens based in northern Nigeria (13 percent).”
Form(s) of Police Brutality Experienced
“Regarding the forms of brutality experienced by citizens, 41 percent expressed that they were financially extorted. This was followed by 25 percent who said they were harassed and intimated, while 19 percent said they were stopped, searched and unlawfully arrested, and 15 percent said they were physically assaulted.”
Reason for Supporting the Protest
“Citizens were further probed on why they approved or disapproved of the #EndSARS protests. From the findings, the six in 10 Nigerians who said they supported the protest highlighted the following reasons: it is a public outcry for better governance in Nigeria (60 percent), it is a fight against police brutality in Nigeria (27 percent), and a demand for the respect of civil rights (10 percent).
“Conversely, the 35 percent who did not support the #EndSARS protests stated the following reasons: the protest was hijacked by thugs and hoodlums (55 percent), SARS had been helpful in curbing robbery and violent crimes (21 percent), and SARS had already been disbanded (15 percent).”
SWAT and Police Brutality
“The poll also sought to capture the views of Nigerians on the newly established Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit which serves as a replacement for the disbanded SARS Unit.
“Nigerians were asked if they think SWAT will put an end to cases of police brutality in Nigeria. Overwhelmingly, 77 percent do not believe SWAT will put an end to police brutality in the country. On the contrary, 15 percent affirmed that SWAT will put an end to police brutality, while 8 percent reckoned it was too early to determine the performance of SWAT.
“Further disaggregation of the data revealed that there were more young citizens aged between 18 and 35 years (14 percent) who were of the opinion that it was too early to tell whether or not SWAT will eschew police brutality in its operations. Again, there were more citizens resident in southern Nigeria (92 percent) who passed a negative judgement on SWAT, much more than citizens in northern Nigeria (63 percent).”
Reasons why the Protest Lingered
“Lastly, the poll sought the opinion of Nigerians as to why the protesters remained adamant to calls for them to back down from protesting since the government began addressing some of their demands. From the findings, 43 percent of Nigerians highlighted the issue of trust deficit between citizens and the government; stating that the increase in public distrust towards the authorities was mainly responsible for why protesters refused to back down.
“This was followed by failure of government to fulfil past promises (28 percent), massive unemployment in the country (14 percent), public dissatisfaction with the current administration (12 percent), and idleness of student protesters resulting from the protracted industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). ”
Based on the recommendations, “in concluding the poll, Nigerians were asked to proffer policy options that the federal government can undertake to respond to the demands of protesting youths.
“The findings revealed that Nigerians want the federal government to focus on policies aimed at: promoting good governance for better citizens’ welfare (38 percent), undertaking a comprehensive police reform (36 percent), involving younger citizens in the governance process (25 percent), sanctioning erring police and military officers (23 percent), and enabling state policing (22 percent).”