Nigeria’s army has warned it could step in against “subversive elements and troublemakers” as the protests against police brutality continues
Nigeria’s army has warned it could step in against “subversive elements and troublemakers” as the protests against police brutality that have erupted throughout the country over the past week continue.
Thousands of mainly young people have taken to the streets to protest against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly known as Sars, long accused of unlawful killings and abuse, and against wider police brutality.
At least 10 people have died and dozens injured in the demonstrations, which have been met with force by police units.
In response to what has become one of the most significant protest movements in Nigeria in decades, the authorities this week announced that Sars would be dissolved.
A new unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team, was announced. But protests have continued to escalate, with many demanding the government commit to prosecuting Sars officers and compensating victims.
As the violence intensified, the army warned on Thursday morning that it was “ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively”.
“All officers and men are directed never to be distracted by anti-democratic forces and agents of disunity,” a statement said.
Public fury over police brutality in Nigeria and the government’s response to allegations of human rights abuses by security forces have driven the protests, in a country where experiences of abuse by officers are widespread.
What began as a campaign to #EndSars has evolved into #EndSwat, and calls for urgent reforms across Nigeria’s security forces.
One group attacked protesters outside the Lagos state government building on Thursday, prompting outrage that the attackers could seemingly move freely against protesters in what is normally a well-policed area.
Blocking major highway across the country is one of the ways the protesters have used to catch the attention of the country. Protesters shut the third mainland bridge in Lagos on Friday.
The bridge, which connects the mainland part of the state to the island, is one of the busiest in the country.
Around 5:30pm on Friday, protesters chanting “End SARS!” prevented free flow of traffic on one section of the bridge, leaving people who are returning from work stranded.
More than £100,000 has been raised to send food, water and first aid supplies to protestors, and to cover medical fees for the injured.
Hundreds of lawyers have volunteered to represent those arrested. Public figures around the world have spoken out in support of the protests, including Marcus Rashford, John Boyega and P Diddy.