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 towards the brutality of the Particular Anti-Theft Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Power that usually operates in plainclothes. I’ve been serving to talk concerning the #endSARS protests in actual time. Last weekend I tweeted concerning the protest we have been attending in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and shared our location. We have been marching to the police headquarters in Abuja when police began spraying water cannons and throwing tear fuel canisters at us to disperse the group.
Cops ambushed my good friend and I, grabbed my cellphone and smashed it on the ground. I used to be not aggressive, however 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 proper to be unsupervised.
The officers transferred my good friend and I to the police headquarters, and we met their superior. He informed us we have been fortunate that the encounter was within the day relatively than at night time, as a result of if it was at night time, they might have killed us and erased each hint of our existence. Based on Amnesty Worldwide, 10 folks have died and lots of have been injured within the protests thus far.
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 Deliver Again Our Ladies marketing campaign, who got here to the police headquarters and insisted on our launch. There was additionally one dissenting police officer who argued towards the remedy we obtained. If Dr Oby had not come to get us, and there had not been that lone voice of cause inside the police drive, our obituaries could be within the information now.
The issue is institutional. SARS, and the officers working inside it, have the help of the police hierarchy. There isn’t any penalty for any crime by the police and they’re reluctant to punish one in all 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 into a tradition right here. An Amnesty Worldwide report earlier this 12 months documented no less than 82 circumstances of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and Might 2020. We have now challenged this a number of occasions 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 occurring now’s a long-awaited explosion of concern.
On Oct. 11, the identical day I used to be attacked, Nigeria’s authorities introduced that SARS could be disbanded. That is the fourth time that the federal government has introduced the disbanding of SARS. This time round, there’s a alternative, however it’s nothing greater than a change of title and acronym, to the Particular Weapons and Ways Workforce, 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 any particular chief: each citizen is the top of this protest. The outrage now isn’t just 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 susceptible, and even earlier than it, 40% of Nigerians have been dwelling under the poverty line. Throughout the lockdown, folks have been saying they’d relatively be killed by COVID-19 than by starvation.
The folks have been ready for a channel to set free what they’re feeling. Now is a chance for them to protest police brutality and in addition categorical disappointment in a system that has by no means cared about them. There have been years of dangerous governance, nepotism, and widespread corruption, and the federal government has refused to acknowledge these considerations.
The federal government must acknowledge the respectable outrage, and never undermine it. They need to overtly sentence the perpetrators and totally compensate all of the victims. I hope there’s reassurance that there gained’t be enterprise as ordinary. This can be a technology that desires to do issues otherwise, that desires to deviate from the trail of their dad and mom, that may now not settle for the outdated system of governance. The alternate of concepts throughout worldwide borders has proven us new methods of combating the system, and new methods of getting the political institution to take a seat up.
This time round, folks have lastly defied the threats and eventually defied intimidation. Now they’re on the streets, and the federal government is afraid.
As informed to Suyin Haynes