5 Things To Know About The Riots Against Police In Nigeria
A police unit in Nigeria called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad — known by the acronym SARS — has been accused of consistent police brutality against citizens. Sound familiar? Now the people of Nigeria are speaking out, protesting and calling for SARS to be disbanded.
Here are five things to know about the riots against police in Nigeria.
1. Peaceful at first
The protests in which thousands marched throughout Nigeria started out peacefully last week but turned deadly amid clashes between protesters and police. At least one person is believed dead during protests on Oct. 10. “While the marches were meant to be peaceful, protesters attacked a police station, leaving at least one policemen dead,” IOL reported.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades on protesters. The protesters have accused the security forces of also using live ammunition.
2. #EndSARS protests explained
A video of SARS officers beating a man to death in Ughelli in Delta State, not far from the capital, Abuja, set off the initial protests on Oct. 8. Police have denied the accusations.
“Dubbed the #EndSARS protests, the rallies brought Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, the capital Abuja, as well as smaller cities to a standstill,” IOL reported. The hashtag #EndSARS campaign started on Twitter and was retweeted by millions of Nigerians, including prominent musicians and athletes. And now, many worldwide have picked up the cause.
3. Deadly history of SARS
Human rights groups in Nigeria have long complained about abuses carried out by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Founded in 1992 in an effort to combat robbery, SARS officers have been accused of extra-judicial killings, torture, and extortion.
According to activists, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad randomly “targets men with dreadlocks, tattoos, or those driving expensive cars, threatening to arrest them unless they pay a bribe,” IOL reported.
The latest protests aren’t the first against SARS. Earlier this year, riots erupted in southwest Nigeria when a local footballer who had been arrested by the unit died in custody.
4. Government response
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised that his government will hold the police accountable.
“I am being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the police are fully accountable to the people,” he said in a statement.
In a televised statement, Buhari vowed that “The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms. We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct are brought to justice.”
5. Kanye West, Ice Cube, other stars speak out
Hip-hop artists and business moguls Kanye West and Ice Cube have joined a growing list of international celebrities speaking out in support of large protests against police brutality in Nigeria.
“I stand with my Nigerian brothers and sisters to end police brutality, the government must answer to the peoples cries #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria,” West tweeted on Oct. 12.
Ice Cube tweeted, “I stand with the people of Nigeria as they fight against police brutality. #EndSARS”
Singer Trey Songz, former professional footballer Rio Ferdinand, Chance The Rapper, Cardi B, and “Star Wars” actor John Boyega are also among those showing support to the protesters in Nigeria, CNN reported.
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“Police brutality here in America often is an abuse of power driven by race,” Trey Songz tweeted Oct. 10. “To be brutalized, extorted, and murdered by your own people is unimaginable. Prayers up and I’m researching ways I can help. #EndSARS”.
Gospel singer Kirk Franklin, using the photo of one of the Nigerian protesters, posted a message of support on Instagram. “For over 20 years, Nigeria stood with me, now I stand with you. #endsarsnow.”