Protesters are being killed during anti-police brutality demonstrations in Nigeria. As well as providing information on what we know so far, here’s a list of resources for protesters in Nigeria and how others can support them during this time.
What’s happening in Nigeria?
Nigerians began demonstrating 7 October, calling for the ban of a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that has been long accused of violent harassment. The protests erupted after a video showed a SARS officer allegedly shooting a man before driving off. Peaceful protests, organised under the hashtag #EndSARS, spread across the country, according to President Buhari, at least 69 people have died, mainly civilians but include police officers and soldiers. According to Amnesty, hundreds more have been injured due to the police and military using excessive force on protesters. Demonstrations in solidarity with Nigerians have been organised in major cities throughout the US and Europe.
What is SARS?
SARS — the Special Anti Robbery Squad — is a branch of the Nigeria Police Force, their officers carry guns but do not wear Nigerian police uniforms or badges. Since their creation in 1992, they have been known for engaging in illegal acts and torturing the citizens of Nigeria, bribing, extorting, harassing, kidnapping and even killing citizens. Over the years, Amnesty International and other rights groups have documented their brutality, there have been public records of SARS units committing acts of corruption and malpractice across the country. The report by Amnesty International in 2016 found Sars is “responsible for widespread torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment…such methods include severe beating, hanging, starvation, shooting in the legs, mock executive and threat of execution”. However, despite these alarming records and findings, the Nigerian government failed to take action and the police force repeatedly denied the accusations.
Who is leading the #EndSARS demonstrations?
Nigerian’s youth population have been the main organisers of the #EndSARS movement with the streets of Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos being the centre of the protests. Protest groups have raised more than $250,000, setting up helplines for protesters in trouble, covering medical aid and providing private security.
What happened at Lekki Toll Gate?
Now listed on Wikipedia as the Lekki Massacre, on the night of 20 October 2020, hundreds of Nigerian protesters gathered for the 13th straight night of demonstrations at Lekki Toll Gate. According to the testimony of people present, shortly before 7 p.m, public lights went out, leaving the street in darkness. Nigerian soldiers emerged from gun trucks and as demonstrators began to sing Nigeria’s national anthem, the army fired live rounds at unarmed protesters. They left several people dead and social-media feeds began filling with images of bloodstained flags, prompting international condemnation from around the world.
How are officials in Nigeria reacting?
President Muhammadu Buhari called for an end to the protests in a TV speech. During a virtual meeting, President Buhari said his administration was committed to meeting the demands of the protesters. But he said his government would not fold its arms and allow criminals who had hijacked the protests to continue to perpetrate “hooliganism”. The president told the meeting that 51 civilians, 11 police officers and seven soldiers had been killed in the unrest, however, it was not immediately clear whether these figures included the protesters allegedly killed by security forces in Lagos previously.
24 hours after the shootings, Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said on Twitter that “forces beyond our direct control” had “moved to make dark notes in our history” and confirmed he had visited “victims of an unfortunate shooting incident” in hospital.
The city was placed under a 24-hour curfew amid the mass protests. But the state government said the curfew would be lifted on Saturday between the hours of 08:00 and 18:00 (07:00-17:00 GMT). Feminist Coalition, an organisation that has been raising funds for protesters that stated that they have been penalised by the Central Bank of Nigeria, having organisation bank accounts deactivated, is now urging people to stay at home and advised people to follow any curfews in place in their states.
I’m a protester in Nigeria, where can I get help?
If you’re part of the protests in Nigeria, perhaps you can help provide information on missing person(s) during the protests and curfew by using this form.
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