Police officers in the Nigerian southwestern city of Ogbomosho shot at protesters, killing one and injuring another during a nationwide protest that has rocked Nigeria, with citizens calling for the disbandment of police unit, the Special Anti-robbery Squad.
Popular Nigerian musician Ugochukwu Stephens known as Ruggedman took to his official twitter handle and accused officers in the state of killing peaceful protesters, calling on the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, to speak up against the killings.
There were more protesters in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital as hundreds of young people gathered at the state secretariat to demand an end to SARS.
Many young people trooped to vent their frustration, moving out in groups, and wielding different banners with inscriptions calling for the ban of the police unit.
It wasn’t different in Abuja, the nation’s capital, as protesters gathered in front of the Force Headquarters making the same demands.
They strongly asked to meet Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, chanting “End SARS Now, End SARS Now”, and vowed to remain at the premises until they met with the police boss.
In Delta, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, Kaduna, Anambra, and in a number of other states, young Nigerians have taken to the streets to demand that the country’s leaders disband special police unit and reform the nation’s police.
This is not the first time SARS has come under scrutiny, and faced opposition from a large number of Nigerian youths.
In September 2019, a Lagos-based software engineer was accosted by men of the force who seized his belongings, threatened to shoot him, and demanded a million naira in exchange for his freedom.
At the time, there were increased reports of software engineers and other such technology workers whose laptops and mobile phones would be forcefully searched and who would then be labeled Yahoo Boys (an informal term for internet fraudsters), manhandled, and extorted.
Recent protests have however gained huge momentum in Nigeria and beyond with #EndSARS trending in the US, UK, and Canada.
Nigerian-born British actor, John Boyega was among the international celebrities who lent their voices to the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.
Boyega also announced on Twitter that an anti-SARS protest would hold at the Nigeria High Commission in London, UK on Sunday. He posted an illustration via his handle, @JohnBoyega, showing protesters carrying placards with the inscriptions, “EndSARS, EndPoliceBrutality, and EndSARSProtest.”
“Nigeria High Commission, 9 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5BX. Closest station in Charing Cross. Sunday, 11th October; 12:00 pm,” the actor tweeted.
Despite several arrests, shooting of protesters, and reassurances from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday to “conclusively address the concerns of Nigerians,” determined citizens in their thousands are on the third day of a nationwide protest demanding the proscription of a police unit called the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) widely accused of unlawful arrests, torture, and murder.
The #EndSARS protest was reignited last week after the reported shooting of a young man in front of a hotel in Delta State by some SARS operatives went viral. Reports suggest the SARS operatives drove his Lexus Jeep away.
The police have said the man who was shot didn’t die.
Last Sunday, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, banned SARS, and other tactical police units focused on armed crimes from ‘stop and search’ activities, including the setting up of roadblocks, and said officers would always be uniformed.
According to the police boss, a dedicated complaints unit has in recent years improved accountability for police abuse. Also, the country’s Minister of Police Affairs Muhammad Dingyadi on Wednesday said “fault lines in police operations are being addressed, to emplace, technologically driven operations devoid of personal contact, except when it becomes necessary.
“This will lock up opportunities for systemic abuse by a few deviant policemen,” the Minister stated on his official twitter account.
However, a history of unmet promises for change has fuelled cynicism in Nigeria and a sense that the armed police units are beyond reproach.
The director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said that because of a lack of accountability, “horrific acts of impunity by SARS and similar tactical police units have continued unabated.”