How Local, Foreign Brands Responded To #ENDSARS Protest-TECH Central Nigeria
The #ENDSARS peaceful protest in Nigeria started in 2017 as a Hashtag. A few months later, it called for its first reforms which saw the removal of police officers from strategic areas. From 2017 to date, the SARS unit has undergone several reforms including the infamous announcement by the Vice President (who was acting President when the President was on a medical trip) in 2019 that saw the unit renamed as FSARS (Federal Security and Anti-Robbery Squad).
A few months later, this reformed appeared to be a mere change of name as I had the first encounter with these brutal men. I was on my way home from the National Youth Service Corps campaign (NYSC). A mandatory program for all Nigerian graduates) when our vehicle was stopped in the middle of nowhere. I was not in Uniform as our camp commandant had warned us to avoid wearing our ceremonial wears especially when traveling. They stopped us, we were only two guys in the vehicle other passengers were ladies. They took us to separate corners as the driver and other passengers looked on. They asked for my phone, they checked some information I had on it, my email and other things I didn’t know.
Afterward, I was made to open my luggage, they scattered my clothes looking for incriminating materials. We were in a bush, everywhere was quiet, I couldn’t fight for my right, I had heard stories of people being killed or missing for arguing with them even in open places let alone a place so quiet. After the questions we were allowed to go, thank GOD I didn’t have my laptop with me neither do I have iPhone.
So, when the #ENDSARS protest started in October, I knew I had to lend my voice. I participated both physically and online. The first week of the protest was peaceful. At the place I participated in, youth cooperated with the police, we blocked some parts of the roads and allowed vehicles to move at intervals. At other protests grounds, protesters were seen sharing their refreshments with policemen.
However, the second week was different. The government had disbanded SARS and adopted the #5of5 demands but protesters wanted to see substantial progress before leaving the streets. As the government begins to feel the heat with the protest affecting economic activities; according to reports, some businessmen, politicians, and government institutions began to sponsor hoodlums to disrupt protests and damage properties to discredit the peaceful protest.
As hoodlums took over the protest what started as a peaceful protest turned into violence, and after the Lekki massacre, hoodlums started looting, burning properties, and attacking officers.
ENDSARS protest and how brands responded:
During the protest, while Capitalists like Tony Elumelu, Aliko Dantoge tried stopping the protest through meetings and offers to strategic influencers, brands like the Chicken Republic were supportive, distributing foods to peaceful protesters.
At the early stage, funding the peaceful protest was difficult, Feminist coalition which eventually got the biggest fund and coordinated a large part of the peaceful protest had it Flutterwave account blocked by CBN forcing them to turn to Bitcoin.
Twitter became the biggest supporter of the #ENDSARS protest. With Jack endorsing the Feminist Coalition account and endorsing its call for funding. Many influencers were verified and a unique icon was developed for online protesters.
A brand that owns a chain of supermarkets across the country had one of its supermarket looted by hoodlums, yet it pledged to support unity and good governance in Nigeria. SPAR was praised for making such a move.
Coca-Cola company donated #20 million to support peaceful protesters who were injured.
Network providers came under attack after it was reported that all ISP went off during the Lekki Massacre. It was a suspicious coincidence and customers didn’t spare any.
Jumia paused its services for hours with a strong message on its site in solidarity for the country.
Few hours after the Lekki Massacre, a viral picture of an unarmed protester who was shot while holding the National flag went viral with bloodstains all over it. Facebook soon flagged the image as fake news mistaking it for a fake viral CNN report. The company, however, apologised a few hours later. Many protesters considered it insensitive, but it was a huge flaw in its algorithm.
Access bank came under attack after a report went viral that snipers were spotted at the top of its building in Lagos. The company, however, debunked the rumour stating that it was one of its staff conducting routine checks on its facilities. The company went on to make a financial commitment to support youth and businesses in Nigeria.
Now more than ever, we remain committed to our purpose of impacting of lives positively.
In light of the recent occurrences, we will be supporting Nigerian businesses with 50 Billion Naira interest-free loans and grants.
Stanbic IBTC also made a financial commitment to support businesses and properties were looted and destroyed.
How Tech Companies Responded to #ENDSARS:
Several tech companies supported the #ENDSARS peaceful protest, some companies raised funds and awareness through social media content to promote the #EndSARS campaign online.
BudgIT, Bolt, Rise Vest, PiggyVest, GIG Mobility, Eden, Buy Coins, Bundle Africa, Softcom, Bamboo, Paystack, Flutterwave all made financial commitments to ensure safety for victims. They also created awareness against police brutality.
The lack of trust, undefined objectives and ineffective communication prolonged the peaceful protest for days. While the government was taking action it didn’t communicate its intentions clear enough. This was because government institutions in Nigeria operate in silos with so much hostility. For instance, strategic visitation by the Minister for Youth and Sports was not well communicated, the health expenses covered by the government for protesters as well as intelligence sharing that eventually lead to the Lekki Massacre were costly mistakes.
Every brand that supported the #ENDSARS peaceful protest was on the Twitter trending table with consumers pledging allegiance, as many of them said “na brand wey support us we go give our money (this simply means it’s the brand that supports us we will patronize). Like friends, consumers are often loyal to brands that support them in crisis.
By Tomori Uriel, Cofounder of CareerEdu