Nigerians protest police brutality amid reform talk

Thursday, October 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Police brutality. Photo/Courtesy

Lagos, Wednesday

Protesters blocked two main roads in Nigeria’s biggest city Lagos on Wednesday, as more demonstrations were held against police brutality despite fresh promises of reform from the government.

Widespread anger over abuses by the police’s notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) erupted onto the streets earlier this month, drawing crowds in cities across Africa’s most populous country.

The government on Sunday announced it was scrapping SARS and has pledged broader reforms to Nigeria’s law enforcement.

The inspector general of police said on Tuesday that a new Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team would “fill the gaps arising from the dissolution of the defunct SARS”.

Closed-door meeting

But the announcement which followed a closed-door meeting was met with scepticism, with the hashtag #EndSWAT quickly trending online along with #EndSARS.

Hundreds of people huddled in the beating rain in front of a key toll gate in the sprawling economic hub of Lagos on Wednesday as they sought to keep up pressure for change.

“Half of my staff have been harassed (by police) in the past two years,” restaurant owner Aderonke Bamgbade told AFP.

“I’m here to support my team. We can no longer sit in the comfort of our homes and complain.”

The centre of the city of 20 million was largely empty as residents stayed home after days of protests worsened the nose-to-tail traffic.

Demonstrations were also reported in the capital Abuja on Wednesday.

The government’s move to scrap SARS has been a rare concession to popular protests in a country dominated by an entrenched ruling elite.

The authorities have pledged a raft of measures including the release of arrested protesters and citizens and an agreement to set up within a week an independent body to probe abuse.

There has been a promise to offer psychological evaluation and training to disbanded SARS officials prior to re-deployment. But frustrations run high among Nigeria’s younger generations as they face the brunt of abuses and a lack of opportunities, and many insist they will keep protesting.

The United Nations resident coordinator in Nigeria Edward Kallon said the “government’s commitment to dismantle the outfit and reform the police is welcome”.

“The process may take time. I appeal to the youth to remain peaceful,” Kallon said on Twitter.  - AFP

More on World