Protests across Nigeria against police brutality have continued for the ninth straight day. As more cities across the country see larger crowds and more vigorous demonstrations, there have been cases of the use of force against protesters during the initial days of the protests. Numerous protesters have been arrested.
One of the young people at the forefront of efforts to raise funds to sustain the protests is Feyikemi Abudu who, along with the group, the Feminist Coalition, has raised over N62 million (about $165,000) to provide food, medical aid, legal aid, and other necessary support for protesters.
“Everyone was just mobilizing themselves and all we ended up doing was saying where you can donate to,” Abudu told ARISE news. “We were a group of volunteers…people were requesting what they need and we just send the funding or help them get an ambulance or security.”
Protesters have called for police reforms and the prosecution of those responsible for brutality. Late Thursday, the Nigerian government conceded to some of these demands with the creation of judicial panels in all the 36 states to investigate allegations of police brutality. The panels will receive and investigate complaints of police brutality, including those linked to the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad(SARS). The panels will also investigate incidents of police using excessive force against protesters since demonstrations started last week.
Abudu, who has also been protesting on the streets of Lagos, said the concession is “a good step” but questioned the need for a panel.
“There are other immediate actions you can take without needing a panel or judicial committee,” Abudu said. “I think it’s a good step for more long-term investigation of what’s happening but what everyone is looking for is simple- there’s accountability to be had for the damage that has been done so far and those actions can be taken even outside of these judicial panels.
“So that’s one step that they’ve taken but there’s a few more things that they have to do,” she added.
The protests are unprecedented; Nigerians have never seen thousands of the country’s youths gathering on the streets in such unparalleled numbers, openly for fundamental reforms. The protests have also been largely decentralized- there’s no single face to point to as leader or mobiliser of the highly organised demonstrations. Yet the youth turn out in their thousands daily.
“There doesn’t need to be a leader because the demands are there and the government can take actions on their own,” Abudu said. “The charge for them is to speak to everybody and make decisions that are in favour of everybody, not for them to look for a representative that can talk to them directly.”
The protests which erupted due to the alleged human rights abuses of SARS have quickly ballooned into calls for transparency and accountability from the government. Abudu is eager to see the movement continue long after street protests have died down.
“What has happened is that we have fired up a group of people who before now didn’t understand the power that they have,” Abudu said. “I think it’s going to fundamentally change the way we relate to some of the injustices that are happening in the country.
“We realise that we have a voice and people have to answer us. We can hold the government accountable. I think people have woken up.”
By Rita Osakwe