Issue Police abuses in Nigeria$1,26,720 Funds raised through cryptocurrency for the movement
For 3 weeks, tens of thousands of Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest police brutality. The wave of protests is now the biggest display of people power in the country.
Rogue police unit that brutalised the young
SARS was set up in 1984 at a time when Nigeria, Africas most populous country, was battling rising cases of carjacking, armed robbery and kidnapping.
Initially, the squad was a success cases of violent crime dropped rapidly but it soon developed a reputation for brutality.
In June this year, Rights group Amnesty International released a report documenting at least 82 cases of harassment, extortion, rape, extrajudicial killings and torture between January 2017 and May 2020. Nigerians said SARS frequently targeted young men with tattoos, dreadlocks, expensive cars or phones.A death that breathed new life into protests
A new wave of protests began earlier this month after a video allegedly showing SARS officers shooting a man in Delta state before driving off in his car began circulating. The police denied the incident. The man who shot the video was arrested, provoking more anger.
Youngsters mobilising through social media began demonstrations, calling for SARSs disbanding. The turnouts at the protest sites were a surprise. Worn down by weak governments and corrupt leadership for decades, and divided along religious, ethnic and class lines, Nigerians do not often join in mass protests.
At least 12 were killed in Lagos on Oct 20
As the protests grew, the police banned SARS from routine patrols and ordered them to wear uniforms. But with protesters demanding accountability and justice for victims of police abuse and showing no signs of backing down, President Muhammadu Buhari stepped in and disbanded the squad on October 11. He promised citizens that it was just the first step towards extensive reforms in law enforcement agencies.
Two days later, the police announced that a new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team would fill the gaps arising from the dissolution of the defunct SARS.
But the following week, Inspector General of Police Muhammed Adamu said all SARS officers would be redeployed to other police units.
That fuelled the anger. Led by the countrys youth, the protests galvanised into a broader, anti-government movement demanding better governance.
The demonstrations have been the biggest in Nigeria in recent years, rivalling protests in 2012 over fuel price increases during President Goodluck Jonathans tenure.
But in recent days, the unrest turned violent.
All police resources have been deployed to quell protests
The police responded with force, including tear gas, water cannons and live rounds. Videos circulating on Twitter showed men armed with knives, clubs and other weapons attacking demonstrators.
Amnesty International said the army and the police have killed at least 56 people across Nigeria since nationwide protests picked up pace on October 8.
A shooting on the night of October 20 at a toll plaza in Lekki, in the countrys financial capital Lagos, where people had gathered for two weeks in defiance of a curfew, marked the worst violence since the protests began. While people were protesting peacefully and singing the national anthem, the lights suddenly went out and shooting began. Witnesses said more than 20 soldiers in uniform arrived and opened fire as they approached the protesters.
There was no official word on the toll, but Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said 30 people were wounded. Some witnesses saw soldiers removing bodies.
Amnesty International said 12 people died in the attack at Lekki as well as at another peaceful gathering in Alausa in the district the same day, and 26 others across the country.
Fresh violence broke out, prompting the authorities in three states to put millions under curfew. On October 24, the chief of police ordered the immediate mobilisation of all police resources to put an end to the unrest.
(L-R) Hillary Clinton and Jack Dorsey
The hashtag #EndSARS has been trending not just in Nigeria but across the world for several days. Protests have been held in London, Berlin, New York and Toronto. Celebrities like Beyonc, Rihanna, Kanye West, John Boyega and Diddy, and, and Manchester United footballer Odion Ighalo have voiced their support online.
On October 14, the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, tweeted, asking for donations to the protesters. Two days later, he tweeted a new Twitter emoji, showing a raised fist in the colours of the Nigerian flag, designed especially for the protests.
On October 20, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged President Buhari and the Nigerian army to stop killing protesters.
What protesters want
Immediate release of all arrested protesters
Justice for those killed by the police and compensation for their families
An independent body to investigate and prosecute police misconduct within 10 days of a claim
An independent psychological evaluation of disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed
Increased salaries for police so they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property.
SWAT a smokescreen?
The Nigerian government had pledged to reform, disband or investigate SARS on multiple occasions, including a promised Senate investigation in 2017 and an overhaul and investigation in 2018. Nigerians and observers said little changed. Protesters said SWAT teams could simply become SARS under a new name.
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