Why Nigerians are protesting police brutality

The inspector normal of police introduced 10 days in the past that the controversial SARS unit was being disbanded and its officers redeployed.

But protests have continued in cities throughout the nation, with some younger Nigerians insisting they’ll proceed to take to the streets till all the police pressure is reformed.

For greater than 1 / 4 of a century, SARS took the lead on the nation’s most severe crimes — armed theft, kidnapping, assault and homicide. But over time it has grow to be infamous for alleged abuses dedicated with obvious impunity.

The authorities promised to overhaul the unit in 2018 following a months-long social media marketing campaign by Nigerian activists protesting alleged human rights abuses by the squad. In January 2019, the police introduced additional reforms to the unit.

But critics say the #EndSARS marketing campaign has resulted in little change.

Human rights group Amnesty International released a damning report in June this yr through which it mentioned it had documented 82 instances of police brutality in Nigeria between 2017 and 2020.

“Detainees in SARS custody have been subjected to a variety of methods of torture including hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions and sexual violence,” the report mentioned.

“Findings from our research indicate that few cases are investigated and hardly any officers are brought to justice on account of torture and other ill-treatment.”

When contacted by CNN earlier this month regarding allegations of misconduct by SARS officers, Lagos state spokesman Muyiwa Adejobi mentioned that every one complaints towards its officers had been rigorously investigated and applicable sanctions utilized to offenders. He inspired folks affected by police misconduct to report the abuses.

How did the current unrest start?

After weeks of outcry on-line from younger folks within the nation over claims of kidnapping, harassment and extortion by SARS, protesters started taking to the streets about two weeks in the past.

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceable, police have been accused of using excessive force against some protesters, allegedly inflicting plenty of deaths and accidents.

Amnesty International mentioned in a tweet Tuesday that “thugs and sponsored hoodlums” had been additionally attacking peaceable protesters throughout the nation.

The #EndSARS marketing campaign gained increased traction globally after worldwide celebrities akin to US rapper Kanye West, singer Trey Songz (actual title Tremaine Aldon Neverson), former skilled footballer Rio Ferdinand and “Star Wars” actor John Boyega spoke out in assist of the protests.

Members of the Nigerian diaspora group additionally organized protests in solidarity with their counterparts at dwelling, with demonstrations held as far afield as Canada, England, Germany and the United States.

As public anger mounted, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, introduced the dissolution of SARS on October 11. In a video the next day, President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the “genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force, and in some cases extrajudicial killings and wrongful conduct, by men of the Nigerian police force.”

Buhari mentioned the disbanding of SARS was “only the first step” in in depth police reform. “We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice,” he added, insisting that “the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hard-working and diligent in performing their duties.”

A new tactical police unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) staff, has been created to “fill the gaps” left by the disbandment of SARS and will probably be skilled by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Reuters reported Monday.

But protesters are demanding wider reforms and additional protections towards the police, together with unbiased oversight and psychological analysis of officers.

Amnesty mentioned many doubt the promised modifications will make a distinction. “Nigerians are skeptical of authorities’ pledge to end police atrocities because the past claims of reforming SARS have turned out to be empty words,” the rights group tweeted Monday.

A 17-year-old died in police custody on Monday in Kano, a metropolis within the north of the nation, after allegedly being tortured, based on Amnesty International.

Many protesters and journalists had been assaulted by police within the capital Abuja on the identical day, the rights group mentioned. Videos on social media present dozens of vehicles belonging to protesters burning and Amnesty mentioned three folks had died.

What occurred in a single day in Lagos?

Violence erupted in Lagos hours after state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu imposed a 24-hour curfew and deployed anti-riot police to town in an try to stop additional unrest.

Eyewitnesses instructed CNN they’d seen a number of demonstrators shot by troopers on the metropolis’s Lekki tollgate on Tuesday night. CNN has not but been in a position independently to substantiate casualties.

One witness on the protests, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, mentioned lights had been turned off and CCTV cameras had been eliminated earlier than “members of the Nigerian army pulled up on us and they started firing.”

“They were shooting, they were firing straight, directly at us, and a lot of people got hit. I just survived, barely,” Ogunsanya mentioned.

Another witness, Temple Onanugbo, spoke to CNN from his dwelling close by and mentioned he heard what he believed had been bullets being fired. He mentioned the sound lasted “for about 15 to 30 minutes.” Onanugbo mentioned he noticed “multiple bodies laying on the ground.”

Protesters throng the streets during a demonstration against police brutality in Ikeja, Lagos, on October 19, 2020.

The state authorities has ordered an investigation into the incident, a spokesman for the governor mentioned.

Amnesty mentioned Tuesday it had obtained “credible but disturbing evidence” of “excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters.”

“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury,” the rights group tweeted.

CNN’s Stephanie Busari, Eoin McSweeney, Vasco Cotovio and Hilary McGann contributed to this report.

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