BY- SHILVIN MARANDI
A ban on protests about police brutality was announced on Thursday, by the Nigerian government, in the country’s capital of Abuja, citing concerns over COVID-19 safety measures.
Demonstrationsagainst police brutality have taken place in the country for eight consecutive days as young Nigerians get to the streets in protest and social media was stormed by the #ENDSARS protests.
In early October, a young man wasallegedly killed bythe officers from the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) unit, following which thenationwide protests started.This was one of the many instances were the SARS unit has been accused of extrajudicialkillings, theft, extortion and torture of prisoners.
The protesters demanded for the dismantle of the SARS unit.In the beginning of protest the government seemed to be listening to protesters as it instantly disbanded the SARS unit, however it did not reform the unit instead announced a new unit – the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit that would replace them.In response, the demonstration continued aspeople rejected the announcement and demanded for more thorough reforms, which has been promised by the president.
In a Facebook press release post, the Nigerian army (NA) has issued a warning to “all subversive elements and trouble makers to desist from such acts” after a week of protests about police brutality.Nigeria’s army signaled it was ready to intervene and aid government. It has a bloody history quelling civil disobedience.
The protesters have received the statement as a veiled threat.According to the protesters, over the past two days they were attacked by agroup of unidentified men with wielding machetes and other weapons, in both Abuja and the country’s biggest city, Lagos.
The accusations against SARS are coming in light as more people are sharing experiences at their hands.
The right of the people to protest has been recognized by the government, however it cites concerns over complete violation of COVID-19 safety measures as the main reason for Thursday’s ban on protesting that they are putting their lives and the lives of others citizens in “legitimate concerns.”
The Minister of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory Administration said the public safety measures on COVID-19 have been violated by the protesters, which endangered the lives of others residents.
The president MuhammaduBuharihas vowed an “extensive” reform of Nigeria’s police service.Theauthorities has also promised to meet several of the protesters’ demands including to free all those protesters who have been detained.
Nonetheless the protesters are skeptical, as several vows made in the past are still unfulfilled.