Police Brutality Protests Escalate in Nigeria
Violence escalated sharply yesterday in Nigeria after protesters were reportedly shot by members of the Nigerian army in Lekki, a suburb of Lagos. Witnesses told the BBC that 12 people had been killed.
Nationwide protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)—a branch of law enforcement accused of profiling, assault, and abuse—began weeks ago in Nigeria. On 11 October, the government announced the disbanding of SARS, but this is the fourth time the government has declared the disbanding or reform of the force, and activists are not satisfied, Time reported.
Protesters are demanding justice for the families of victims of police brutality, retraining of SARS officers before their redeployment to other police units, and an independent body to oversee police brutality investigations.
SARS was formed in 1984 to address an increase in armed robbery and crime, but since then it has been widely accused of unlawful conduct; Amnesty International reported at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment, and extrajudicial execution in the past three years. The current protests were kicked off when a video circulated online earlier this month showing a man being beaten, apparently by SARS police.
The situation in Nigeria continues to evolve, as security forces and government officials increasingly clash with protesters. Crowds attacked two correctional facilities on Monday, and on Tuesday authorities announced nearly 2,000 inmates had broken out of jail. The Inspector-General of Police said anti-riot police were being deployed across Nigeria, The Associated Press reported. A police station was set on fire in Lagos on Tuesday morning. Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu saying that criminals have hijacked the protests, and that he had “watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the wellbeing of our society.”
Watching these videos is a major heartbreak for me personally and as Governor, I cannot watch as arsonists, hoodlums and anarchists continue to hide under the #EndSars protest to unleash mayhem on the State and wantonly disrupt citizens lives and property. pic.twitter.com/aTJgzApIWL— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) October 20, 2020
Counter-protesters have also waded in—Amnesty International cites footage posted online of dozens of young men armed with machetes, knives, and sticks attacking protesters last week during a sit-in, The Guardian reported.
A 24-hour statewide curfew was imposed by the government on Lagos in response to the growing protests and conflicts. All Lagos schools were closed, and students were instructed to learn using radio, television, and online media instead, according to CNN.
Amnesty International reported late yesterday that there was “credible but disturbing evidence” that security forces in Lagos had fatally shot protesters demonstrating at the Lekki Toll Plaza against police brutality, in violation of a new citywide curfew.
The U.S. consulate in Lagos closed on Tuesday and remains closed today.