Nigeria Mobilizes Entire Police Force Against Police Brutality Protesters

Temilade Adelaja/Reuters
Caption: Protest in Capital Lagos, a epicenter of youths that has held the largest protests in the nation over the past month. Credit: Temilade Adelaja/Reuters

Temilade Adelaja/Reuters Caption: Protest in Capital Lagos, a epicenter of youths that has held the largest protests in the nation over the past month. Credit: Temilade Adelaja/Reuters

April McBride

Nationwide protests against police brutality, specifically against SARS (The Special Anti-Robbery Squad) have been taking place across Nigeria since October 3. These protests were set off by a video of a SARS police officer shooting and killing a teenage boy after taking his Lexus SUV in Delta state that went trending on Twitter. Anger and frustration after decades of  police violence erupted over these last 4 weeks. The protests have left at least fifty-six protestors dead and hundreds more have sustained injuries. The police have also been destroying protestor’s cars, spraying them with water, using teargas, and arresting masses illegally. Even after all the efforts by the entire Nigerian police force to stop protesting, they were not successful. 

 

On October 11 Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu announced the complete disbandment of SARS. Adamu stated, “We just disbanded (SARS) (…) so protesters should calm down and give us time to fix the problem> The general public will be part of the process of getting a new outfit”. He confirmed that there will be a new unit with new training procedures. The protests haven’t stopped though, there have still been sustained active protests since the announcement. A day after the disbandment another innocent protester was shot and killed and many people were still injured, as well as the illegal arrests still continuing. 

 

This has raised the question on whether SARS is truly being overturned or if it is just changing names. This is the fourth time that SARS has been banned. It has been banned in  2017, 2018, 2019 and now in 2020. This is the first time the word disbanded has been used. Even so, after decades of documented brutality it is doubtful that Nigeria will make change past an attempt to stop protestors.

 

It took president Muhammadu Buhari over two weeks to make a comment on protests and in his speech failed to mention fatal shootings. He stated to protestors, “Resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos. (…) For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and law and order”.

 

Protestors are now past disbanding SARS and have adopted five new demands to ensure that this time the Nigerian government is serious about ending brutality. They are sharing their demands on social media with #5for5. The first is to release all detained protests around the country. Second is compensation and justice for families of victims of all police brutality. Third is the investigation and prosecution of police officers who were involved in crimes against the people. While prosecuting protests are demanding an independent body oversee investigation and trials to be broadcasted live, these three are to be done immediately. Fourth is to increase police salaries. In 2010 it was reported that the SARS have extorted over 60 million in US dollars from illegal stop and searches. This corruption would not be happening if police had adequate salaries to feed their family.  The last point is a psychological evaluation of disbanded SARS officers before redeployment. Protests will continue to organize until these five demands have been issued.