A recent poll released by Abuja-based think-tank, Africa Polling Institute [API], revealed that 61% of Nigerians support the #EndSARS campaign against police brutality in Nigeria. Thirty five (35) percent were not in support of the protests and 4% claimed to have been oblivious to the existence of such protests.
Though the protests were initially focused on the abolition of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), they soon became a call for reform politics and governance in the country.
According to 60% of the respondents, the protests represented a collective objection to bad governance in the country and not just about the atrocities of a unit of the NPF. Only 27% of those in support of the #EndSARS protests did so solely because they saw the protests as a campaign against police brutality.
Of the 39% of Nigerians who are against the protests, 55% opposed the protests because they were hijacked by hoodlums while others either thought SARS was needed in the society to fight crime [21%] or there was no need to keep protesting after it was disbanded [15%].
The poll, conducted in October 2020, featured 1,114 interviews done in English, Pidgin, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo languages. To achieve a result representative of the national polity, quotas were assigned to ensure all senatorial districts were adequately covered.
The protests found that educated Nigerians were more likely to be in support of the #EndSARS campaign, as 70% of citizens with a tertiary education or more declared solidarity with the campaign. 91% of respondents living in southern Nigeria also voiced support for #EndSARS, compared to 35% in Northern Nigeria.
What is perhaps most surprising the demographics are broken down is that the youth actually support the protests the least, compared to other demographics sampled. Only 53% of those aged 18 to 35 were in support of the protests; meanwhile it got the backing of 70% of citizens aged 60 and above and 65% of citizens between the ages of 36 and 60. The exact implication of this, considering the youth sparked and led the protests, is up for debate. Perhaps, the youth in rural areas and the North of the country opposed the protests.
Respondents were asked seven questions concerning the protests and police brutality: had citizens experienced police brutality? What form of police brutality had they experience, if any? Did citizens support the #EndSARS protests? Why did they support or disagree with the protests? Will SWAT put an end to police brutality? Why did the protests linger even after SARS was scrapped? What are the policy options to address what protesters are demanding?
As for the creation of the Special Weapons and Tactics [SWAT] unit to replace the now-defunct SARS, Nigerians uniformly are not at all impressed; 77% believe it will be not be effective in putting a stop to the menace of police brutality while 15% think it will and 8% feel it is too early to make a judgment about effectiveness. In the South, 92% of citizens are critical of SWAT, while 63% of Nigerians in the North expressed similar sentiment.
The report by API concluded that the poll proves the multiple “dimensions of disconnection” between the citizenry and the government and that the protests are a fallout from the myriad of systemic failures owed to the country’s ineffective governance.