On 10 December, a Nigerian police officer shot and killed a young keke (tricycle taxi) rider in Port Harcourt. Nigerians are now calling for a ‘second wave’ of End SARS protests. On 8 October, young Nigerians took to the streets and social media to campaign against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Force. Over several years, evidence of systematic brutality and corruption was mounted against the notorious police unit. Though the government disbanded SARS in October, police brutality and impunity persist in Nigeria.
End SARS protests
The officer shot the unnamed man following a dispute over a 100 naira bribe, the equivalent of about 20p. The officer has been arrested and detained. Young people have taken to the streets of Port Harcourt to protest the injustice.
In early October, young Nigerians rose up against extortion, harassment, and extrajudicial killings at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Although the state disbanded the unit, End SARS protests continued; as did police brutality. On 20 October, the Nigerian army shot at peaceful protesters. At least 12 protestors died at the Lekki toll gate massacre. Activists called for the International Criminal Court to hold Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari to account for crimes against humanity.
Following the massacre, and the deaths of at least 51 civilians during protests, Buhari said the violence was a result of “hooliganism“. While framing protestors as criminals without a cause, the president failed to address the massacre that took place two days prior.
In spite of curfews and the ban on peaceful demonstrations in certain states, anti-SARS protests resumed in Osun and Lagos on 7 December, with activists calling for the disbandment of the government’s Panel of Inquiry against police brutality. Following protests in Osun, Nigeria’s Department of State Services arrested protest leader Emmanuel Adebisi for allegedly impersonating an army captain. This is the latest is a series of cases of the Nigerian authorities targeting dissidents.
President Buhari’s response
On 9 December, Buhari tweeted that he is “disgusted” by overseas media coverage of anti-SARS protests for its bias in favour of protesters. In a thread, he went on to say that Nigeria’s government is “investing heavily” in weapons and military equipment. He concluded by saying: “We must all work to boost intelligence-gathering”.
We are investing heavily in weapons and equipment for our military. They have already received armoured cars and other equipment, and aircraft, and more will come in. We will continue to give them all the support they need to fight criminals. We must and will secure Nigeria.
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) December 8, 2020
On 10 December, Human Rights Day, a number of prominent international celebrities and campaigners including Angela Davis, Alicia Keys, and Greta Thunberg signed an open letter to Buhari calling for an independent investigation into the Lekki toll gate massacre and for peaceful protests to continue.
Buhari’s blatant lack of remorse and disregard for protesters’ lives is extremely concerning. It’s clear that while he remains in power, militarism, surveillance, poor governance, and police brutality will prevail in Nigeria. In the face of a hostile government, the End SARS movement continues to fight against impunity and injustice, and towards a brighter future.
Featured image via Tobi Oshinnaike/Unsplash
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