[Updated] The “End Police Brutality” Campaign in Nigeria Is Very Different From the One in America
Sorry, I am taking a break from my usual posts about success and finance to talk about this. I will be back to that shortly. But I feel the need to address something that concerns the country I currently live in. Pictures are attached at the end of the article.
If you follow international trends, then you must have noticed the #endsars campaign currently on in Nigeria. And you may very well think it is the same or similar to the #defundthepolice campaign in the USA. That is because they both have #EndPoliceBrutality in common. But the two campaigns are very different. At least, the Nigerian youths are not looting stores and burning houses.
Update: The events of this protest has updated since this article was first published. So, this is a short summary of how it went. Thugs with sticks and knives started coming to disrupt the protest. They destroyed cars and wounded a few people. But the protesters soon learned the lesson of being in groups so that became difficult for the thugs.
Later, the thugs started showing up in serious numbers to disrupt the protests especially in the capital city of the country. It was caught on video that black SUVs that appear to be government-owned came to pick those thugs after they were done. One of them had been caught and was beaten (and he was taken to the hospital afterward by the protesters). The thug confessed that someone paid them #1,500 (less than $4) to distrupt the protest.
The protest gained so much momentum that it has being triggered in major cities across the country. And this was when it happened — the Lekki Massacre.
On Tuesday, 20th of October, the governor of Lagos (the top city in the country) ordered a curfew at about 12 noon which will take effect from 4pm. Note, this was a weekday — a working day. Like any crowded city in the world, every sane person knew that it was impossible for people to be in their houses and locked in by 4pm. Soon afterwards, people tweeted that a person from the government came to remove the security cameras from the Lekki Tollgate (which is a major highway in the city). It is also the center where protesters gather.
It must be noted that prior to this there were no damages whatsoever on life and property except by the thugs that were paid to disrupt the protests.
Shortly before 4pm, a division of the Nigerian army was recorded entering Lagos with armored tanks on trucks. Shortly before 4pm, the governor moved the curfew to 7pm. Before 7pm at the Lekki Tollgate, the army opened fire at prostesters. They were not shooting upwards, they were facing the crowd and shooting.
The most touching part was that the crowd were not armed — not even with sticks and stones. They had the Nigerian flag in their hands and they were singing the national anthem, while the army sprayed them with bullets. They thought they would cover their tracks because of the security cameras that were not present, but a person on the scene began broadcasting on Instagram Live.
Soon Nigerians everywhere noticed it and watched as their people were massacred for demanding fair treatment from the government. There were several deaths. And many wounded. Among those deaths was a young man in his compound who was hit by a bullet and bled to death. He was a product manager.
The Nigerian army denied their presence the next morning. The governor of Lagos said people were wounded but no one died. Meanwhile, the videos of massacred people already circulated through social media especially Twitter. The dead body count was said to be over 70. But no media house reported this incident except one that isn’t very popular (and quickly grew in popularity).
Since this incident, burning and looting began. Not as a result of the protest but as a result of the massacre. The targeted areas were the houses and businesses affiliated with the politicians in power. The government is reporting the looting and burning to be by the protesters but none of that happened until the Tuesday massacre. And there is a school of thought that the thugs are being paid to burn houses and property to justify the prior use of the military. And also, buildings with security cameras where evidence was likely to be retrieved from was burnt too.
The protesters served food and drinks during the protests, even to the police officers who sometimes showed up to intimidate the event. And many of the prominent young people who made contributions to the protests disavowed the looting and burning. Even though the protest had no leader.
The equivalent of the Lekki massacre is for the governor of New York to announce a curfew in New York at 12 noon that will take effect by 4 pm. Then, a division of the US army should be sent to the Manhattan expressway with armoured tanks. The security cameras on the highway should be taken out by the government’s order on the same afternoon. Then, the US army should open fire in all directions on everyone around both protesters and non-protesters, while the protesters sat on the floor, with the US flag, singing the US national anthem.
Lagos is the New York, San Fransisco, and California of Nigeria.
I had to watch a movie to sleep, even though I avoided most of the clips. I can’t post any here, it is too strong. If you are curious, you will find them on social media (hopefully they won’t get censored). Many people couldn’t sleep. But now, everybody has an unanimous view about the administration, the government, and the president. I have never seen the country this tense and angry. There is no telling what will happen next. But certainly, it can’t end here.
The campaign is not against the police force. In fact, one of the demands of the campaign is to increase the salary of the police. The members of the police force are paid so low that most of them have become beggars on the road. It has now become an entitlement that they must extort interstate drivers since their vehicles will mostly lack something.
Like the protest in America, it is generally based on ongoing oppression of certain groups of people by members of the police that use excessive and unnecessary force on suspects. The case also got escalated in Nigeria due to a video of a death. But that is pretty much where the similarity stops.
This protest is not championed by cybercriminals. This is the biggest farce of all. Yes, there are young cybercriminals in the country. But there are also a large number of young people doing honest work. Most of them are web developers, tech entrepreneurs, musical artists, graphic designers, creatives, writers (like myself), and so on, who have built an online reputation for their skill or expertise.
The number of these young honest workers outweighs the number of people who can be alleged as cybercriminals. But with the growing popularity of remote work and some young people making a lot more than the older generation, there is an unspoken suspicion on young successful people.
I have been harassed by the police in a city that is in the native region of my parents. They searched through all my belongings. They took my phone and demanded I unlock it. You can imagine how my mind was spinning when they asked where I work. How could I explain that I work over the internet without getting myself in trouble?
This has happened to several of my friends. But the worst part is the special squad they call SARS — special anti-robbery squad. Thankfully, I have never had any experience with them. But they extort, torture, and even kill young people. This happens a lot. They would just abduct any young person who looked fresh (which in their eyes is suspicious) and torture at will. Some victims have even said their crime was that they were carrying a laptop.
This doesn’t just happen to guys. A lady narrated that she was going to be sexually assaulted but quick-thinking helped her. She lied she was going for HIV treatment. They still demanded a handjob.
In America, it is easy to pin the blame on “white supremacy” and Trump. In Nigeria, there is no Trump or “white” to blame for it. This is why the silence of activist groups that love to jump on such a cause is not surprising. Unlike America where these issues oddly escalate in an election year, the year 2020 is not an election year in Nigeria. In fact, the last election was just in 2019. The next one will be in 2023.
The #endsars campaign began as far back as 2017. And each year from 2017 to 2020, the government has announced the banning or reformation, of SARS. In fact, the current vice president banned SARS in 2018, as acting president. Then, the president was in London for medical treatment.
The major reason the protest is full-blown right now is that the promises the government is making now are the very same promises they made each year from 2017 to 2020. They are still insisting on “police reforms”. But the young generation is sick of the lies. They want an executive order or legislation. And the government is oddly hesitating to take an action like this.
Personally, I do not believe in protests especially in a country like Nigeria. The country has a peculiar history of failed protests. But this one seems different because it is led by the younger generation. The cause is very legitimate — they want normal police officers to be paid better but the extortionist SARS unit should be truly disbanded.
There is a disturbing fact about the SARS unit. You must be an ex-convict to become a member. So the question is — why is the government empowering ex-convicts with weapons and authority to harass young people? And why is it that they just cannot disband the unit? Why is that so hard?
The government has announced that the unit has been disbanded. But the young generation is smarter now. It’s just the same old story. So they are not buying it unless they see legislation or executive order. And more so, the young people have found ways to check for confirmation from those closest to the government. Someone got a piece of information from an aunt (whose husband is positioned quite highly in the force) that the government is just trying to get the young people to calm down and nothing is going to change. They are telling the SARS members to lay low for a while.
A couple of people have already died from the protest. This includes a man (not part of the protestors) who was stuck in traffic because of the protest and was trying to see what was going on. He was hit by a stray bullet from the police. Yes, it was a policeman that shot into the crowd.
The disinformation campaign has also been launched on a massive scale. The mainstream media declared that protesters were not killed, and there have been some deaths. Many were arrested but lawyers and influential figures have stepped up to get most people bailed out.
Life is already too hard and unfair for a young person from Nigeria trying to succeed. The government has been a big failure in terms of creating a thriving economy for the younger generation. The younger generation is fending for themselves in the wild world, yet they are being persecuted if they become successful by any means.
Most cultures in Nigeria believe in flaunting their success. This is why successful Nigerians are big spenders. And so, if a young person cannot enjoy and flaunt their success in their communities, there is a big problem. The government is not helping, and now they are tormenting people trying to make things happen for themselves.
On the other side of things with the cybercriminals, these SARS unit do not actually arrest them. Instead, they extort them because they know that they have the money. It is the young people who challenge them (and do not accept their pander) that they harass, torment, and in some cases, kill. The recent protest started as a result of someone who was killed. Someone nearby recorded the encounter and the video went viral.
In the sane world, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. These officials just take laws into their hands towards regular everyday people. Sometimes they would kidnap young people for days without allowing them to contact anybody. This just has to stop and the young generation is not caving in.
The protests have been a bit violent on one side. The police have been using force thus far. But if the young protesters should resort to weapons it will definitely be the start of something very nasty.
Personally, I still don’t buy into the protest. The Nigerian government does not set up agencies to solve problems. Instead, they do it to settle powerful people. So until the powerful people responsible for the SARS members get exposed, the disbanding won’t be for real. The order of an acting President has already failed to disband them.
Worse of all, a governor decided to join the #endsars protest. The problem is that the governor is expected to be able to push legislation or make an executive order. But the governor is joining the protest. Now, the governor is going to meet with the President who is also “determined” to see the end of this issue. So, who exactly are they protesting to?
This is the biggest problem with Nigeria. The real leaders are in the shadows. My opinion is that those leaders in the shadows need to be called out into the open. Let everything come into the light and there will be a smooth resolution. But as long as the people backing tyrants in the police force are unknown, it is doubtful if there will be any reasonable solution.
To be clear, Nigerians don’t want to abolish the police even though the police force has several problems. They want the unit of police known as SARS (which only consists of convicted criminals) to be fully disbanded. (I guess your country doesn’t give weapons and authority to ex-convicts to “safeguard” the country). Now, an announcement has been made that “SARS” is banned and “SWAT” has been created. But everybody sees through it — they only changed the names.
No persons have been called to account thus far.
Just in case you still have your doubts, I’ll let some pictures and tweets do the talking from this point. And may add to it if need be.