THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE POLICE REFORMATION IN NIGERIA
A CASE STUDY OF 2020 ENDSARS PROTEST
1.1 Background of the study
For any country to quell mostly internal insurrection, aggression, and combat crime as well as maintain peace and protect lives and properties of the citizens, there is need for the establishment of the security department whose personnel execute their functions not arbitrarily to the laws of the country but with severe adherence to rules and constitutional provisions of the country. This need in Nigeria led to the establishment of SARS.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was founded in late 1992 by former police commissioner Simeon Danladi Midenda when Col. Rindam of the Nigerian Army was killed by police officers at a checkpoint in Lagos in September 1992, later leading to the arrest of three officers. When the information reached the army, soldiers were dispatched into the streets of Lagos in search of any police officer. The Nigerian police withdrew from checkpoints, security areas, and other points of interest for criminals; some police officers were said to have resigned while others fled for their lives. Due to the absence of police for two weeks, the crime rate increased and SARS was formed with only 15 officers operating in the shadows without knowledge of the army while monitoring police radio chatters. Due to the existence of three already established anti-robbery squads that were operational at that time, Midenda needed to distinguish his squad from the already existing teams. Midenda named his team Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). After months of dialogue the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force came to an understanding and official police duties began again in Lagos. The SARS unit was officially commissioned in Lagos following a ceasefire by the army after settlement and was one of the 14 units in the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, which was established to detain, investigate, and prosecute people involved in crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crimes.
With the way that the world has been made a global village where information about countries, their activities and that of their officials are easily accessed anywhere in the world on the internet through the mass media made people to easily criticize activities and actions of the government when they are not pleased with it. Information is now at the tip of the people’s finger which has helped the public not to be eluded with the happenings around them.
The advent of the internet in the 1990s led to major developments in the world of communication. Today the Internet has taken a firm place in people’s lives. It is difficult to imagine a young man who at least once a day did not check for updates in social networks and did not leaf through the news lines. The modern reality requires us to stay in touch and keep abreast of the recent happenings around the globe. Social Media are interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. There is no doubt the emergence of the internet has immensely contributed to the introduction of social networking sites (SNSS). The coming into being of these sites revolutionized the world of communication and today we celebrate its improvement ranging from education to entertainment. Recent study have shown The evolution of the internet has led to its usage as the best of communication whereby two-third (2/3) of the internet world‘s population visit social networking sites (SNSs) thus serving as communication and connection tools. These networking sites are referred to as social media (Boyd and Ellison, 2007).
Social networking has become a common international trend which has spread its reach to almost every corner of the world. The use of Social media sites has exploded and evolved into an online platform where people create content, share it, bookmark it and network a prodigious rate.
Online technologies have continued to erase the line between the traditional media and their audience. This significant success has been facilitated by the two-way communication system which social media provides than the one-way broadcast method of the traditional media. Social media have given masses a voice which the traditional media though committed to achieve has not yet totally achieved. With the continuous improvements in information and communication technologies and increasing possibilities for ubiquitous internet connectivity, more freedom is anticipated for using social media whenever and wherever one wants. Relating to freedom, and as indicated by Nielsen (2012), social media (appearing in the form of MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, Mebo, Twitter and others) continue to alter the way in which humans access, generate, share and use information (Cabral, 2011). With the possibility for more freedom (i.e. of connectivity and access) regarding networking online anywhere and at any time, it is not difficult to note that social media use will remain a regular aspect of humans everyday life since it facilitate speedy information dissemination around the world.
1.2 Statement of the problem
One of the events that accompanied the later part of year 2020 after the covid 19 pandemic and the enactment of the company and allied matters act (CAMA 2020) by the President of the federal republic of Nigeria is the uproar in the country by the citizens on the EndSARS protest. EndSARS (or #EndSARS) is a decentralised social movement against police brutality in Nigeria. It was a call for the federal government of Nigeria to scrap the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a controversial unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of abuses. The protests started in 2017 as a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ENDSARS to demand the Nigerian government eliminate the force which after experiencing a revitalization in October 2020, mass demonstrations were occurring throughout Nigeria in major cities, and the hashtag has had over 28 million tweets. Nigerians have shared their experiences and video evidence of how members of SARS engaged in kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, humiliation, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings, and extortion in Nigeria all over the internet and social media. SARS officers have been alleged to profile youths based on fashion choices, mount illegal road blocks and searches, conduct unwarranted temperature checks, arrest without warrant, rape women, and extort young Nigerians for driving exotic vehicles and using laptops and iPhones. All this uproar has led to killings of protesters, burning and destroying of public and private properties in the country. As the protest was at the peak of it, the Nigerian government on Sunday, 11th October 2020 announced it was dissolving SARS and to carry out a reformation of the police force to serve the citizens better. This study therefore, seeks to ascertain the role social media played in the 2020 EndSARS protest towards the reformation of police force in Nigeria.
1.3 Objective of the study
The primary aim of this study is to find out the role of social media in the police reformation in Nigeria: a case study of 2020 endsars protest. Specifically, the study seeks to:
- Find out how social media contributed to the 2020 EndSARS protest in Nigeria.
- To ascertain if social media played a significant role in the reformation of police in Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions guide this study
- How did social media contribute to the 2020 EndSARS protest in Nigeria?
- What significant role did social media play in the reformation of police in Nigeria?
1.5 Significance of the study
This study will help government and policymakers align and realign laws and policies to fit into the demand of the populace to create an environment that will promote and protect the rights of the citizens, rule of law, protection of lives and properties as stated as the major function of the security personnel and restrict the abuse of power of security personnel in the country. Also, this study will serve as reference materials for further studies.
1.6 Scope of the study
This study is limited to the contribution of social media to the 2020 EndSARS protest and police reformation in Nigeria. The study will examine residents from Lagos state, Nigeria.
1.9 Definition of terms
Social media: Social media are forms of electronic communication that facilitate interactive social networking base on certain interests. Social media include web and mobile technology. It is a group of internet-based applications that builds on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.
Internet: The Internet can be defined as interconnected computer networks that use the standard internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide. It consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks that range from local to global scope that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies.
Media: media are all those media technologies that are intended to reach a large audience by mass communication. They are messages communicated through a mass medium to a number of people. According to “Wikipedia” Media are the communication outlets or tools used to store and deliver information or data. The term refers to components of the mass media communications industry, such as print media, publishing, the news media, photography, cinema, broadcasting, and advertising.
Reformation: making changes to something with the intention of setting it back on the right path.
SARS: The Special Anti-Robbery Squad was a Nigerian Police Force unit created to deal with crimes associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and firearms.
Protest: a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.