‘I Really Thought My Life Was Going to End.’ Inside the Protests Taking on Police Brutality in Nigeria

I had by no means been brutalized by the Nigerian police earlier than final Sunday. A brand new wave of demonstrations started in early October, with protesters talking out in opposition to the brutality of the Particular Anti-Theft Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Pressure that always operates in plainclothes. I’ve been serving to talk concerning the #endSARS protests in actual time. Last weekend I tweeted concerning the protest we had been attending in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and shared our location. We had been marching to the police headquarters in Abuja when police began spraying water cannons and throwing tear gasoline canisters at us to disperse the group.

Law enforcement officials ambushed my buddy and I, grabbed my telephone and smashed it on the ground. I used to be not aggressive, nevertheless it didn’t cease them from beating me up, from ganging up on me and hitting me. I used to be saying my final prayers. I actually thought my life was going to finish. It made me understand the hazard of a system that has given savages the precise to be unsupervised.

The officers transferred my buddy and I to the police headquarters, and we met their superior. He instructed us we had been fortunate that the encounter was within the day relatively than at evening, as a result of if it was at evening, they’d have killed us and erased each hint of our existence. In accordance with Amnesty Worldwide, 10 individuals have died and tons of have been injured within the protests up to now.

An alarm was raised about our disappearance on social media, and one of many issues that saved us that day was Dr Oby Ezekwesili, the organizer of the Convey Again Our Women marketing campaign, who got here to the police headquarters and insisted on our launch. There was additionally one dissenting police officer who argued in opposition to the therapy we obtained. If Dr Oby had not come to get us, and there had not been that lone voice of motive inside the police power, our obituaries can be within the information now.

The issue is institutional. SARS, and the officers working inside it, have the assist of the police hierarchy. There isn’t any penalty for any crime by the police and they’re reluctant to punish considered one of their very own. They don’t wish to settle for that there’s rot within the system. Through the years, the police have been in a position to kill harmless residents with none justice, and police brutality has turn out to be a tradition right here. An Amnesty Worldwide report earlier this yr documented no less than 82 circumstances of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and Might 2020. We now have challenged this a number of instances earlier than within the streets, and nothing has occurred. The political management has stopped listening to the lots. We had Occupy Nigeria in 2012, and there have been calls to disband SARS since 2017. What’s taking place now’s a long-awaited explosion of shock.

On Oct. 11, the identical day I used to be attacked, Nigeria’s authorities introduced that SARS can be disbanded. That is the fourth time that the federal government has introduced the disbanding of SARS. This time round, there’s a substitute, nevertheless it’s nothing greater than a change of identify and acronym, to the Particular Weapons and Ways Crew, or SWAT. It’s similar to an outdated wine in a brand new bottle.

The present #endSARS protests stand out as a result of there isn’t a particular chief: each citizen is the top of this protest. The outrage now is not only about police brutality alone—it’s a results of years of individuals being undermined by the system. The federal government has not acknowledged that grievance. This pandemic has left Nigeria weak, and even earlier than it, 40% of Nigerians had been residing beneath the poverty line. Throughout the lockdown, individuals had been saying they’d relatively be killed by COVID-19 than by starvation.

The individuals have been ready for a channel to let loose what they’re feeling. Now is a chance for them to protest police brutality and in addition specific disappointment in a system that has by no means cared about them. There have been years of unhealthy governance, nepotism, and widespread corruption, and the federal government has refused to acknowledge these considerations.

The federal government must acknowledge the authentic outrage, and never undermine it. They should overtly sentence the perpetrators and totally compensate all of the victims. I hope there may be reassurance that there received’t be enterprise as traditional. This can be a technology that wishes to do issues otherwise, that wishes to deviate from the trail of their dad and mom, that can not settle for the outdated system of governance. The trade of concepts throughout worldwide borders has proven us new methods of preventing the system, and new methods of getting the political institution to sit down up.

This time round, individuals have lastly defied the threats and at last defied intimidation. Now they’re on the streets, and the federal government is afraid.

As instructed to Suyin Haynes


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