Nigerian Protestors Remain Determined in the Face of Violence
By Dan Roberts
Global Outlook News
The significant and wide-ranging impact of social media has once again been highlighted, this time in order to showcase the injustices and brutality coming from governmental forces in Nigeria. For years, Nigerians have been protesting against widespread police brutality and rising inequality and it seems that with the help and power of social media, Nigerian youth have found their voice as they try desperately to effectuate change in their home country.
The most recent round of protests began peacefully taking the form of marches involving the chanting of slogans such as “enough is enough” and using the hashtag #endSARS on social media, directed at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, otherwise known as SARS. The uproars were sparked by reports appearing on social media of a young individual being attacked by members of SARS who subsequently robbed him of his Jeep. This is not the first instance in which SARS has been implicated in such situations. The squad has frequently been accused of corruption, extortion of innocent citizens, robbery and even committing extrajudicial killings. SARS was originally organized in order to combat armed robbery, an occurrence plaguing Nigeria, but in the process of trying to address this problem the unit offered its members too long of a leash leading to problematic practices to say the least, like for example most of the officers not being required to wear uniforms or identify themselves in any way. In fact, 82 damning cases of police brutality have been documented between 2017 and 2020 in Nigeria leading to widespread calls for the controversial unit to be disbanded.
These cases of police brutality are what led Nigerian youth to the streets in nationwide protest on October 8th, but what began peacefully quickly descended into some of the worst violence seen in the country since 1999 when military rule ended in the African nation. On October 11th SARS was officially disbanded by the Nigerian Government. Demonstrators were seemingly strengthened by this move and continued to protest calling for wider reforms throughout law enforcement, however youthful hope seems to have been turned somewhat sour in the face of growing violence.
On October 20th while enforcing a curfew in Lagos, military and police forces killed 12 people according to human rights group Amnesty International. Witnesses stated that they had heard news of a curfew set in place in Lekki, but many protestors decided to stay despite the news. A few hours later, armed men dressed in military uniform arrived and despite those present showing signs of peaceful protest such as singing the national anthem and kneeling down, the armed men shot at the crowd of people. Many protestors were even more indignant at the reaction of President Muhammadu Buhari, who attracted much criticism due to his failure in controlling security forces and failing to condemn the killings in his first address to the nation after the events in Lagos. Despite the police and military denying any involvement in the killings, protests became increasingly heated leading to lootings and arson as government buildings and police stations were set ablaze by protesters. Protest organizers were quick to condemn any violent behavior, saying that the actions of a few do not represent the peaceful intentions of the majority of protestors, with some even accusing officials of paying armed gangs to turn peaceful protests violent in an effort to delegitimize the demonstrations.
A Hopeful Nation
The escalating violence has led the organizers of the demonstrations to call for people to protest online from the safety of their homes in order to avoid more casualties in their fight for justice. Despite the tragedy of the events in Lagos and the violent unrest currently gripping African’s biggest economy, many Nigerians remain hopeful citing that they will continue to fight for justice and to be represented by government that will put the Nigerian people first.