Thousands protest for third day against brutality of Nigeria’s SARS police unit
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By Sam Olukoya
Lagos - Nationwide protests against police brutality have gripped Nigeria for a third day running.
At least one person was believed dead on Saturday amid clashes between protesters and police. While the marches were meant to be peaceful, protesters attacked a police station, leaving at least one policemen dead.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades on protesters, who in turn accused the security forces of also using live ammunition.
Thousands marched, calling for the disbanding of the police's Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known by the acronym SARS. Dubbed the #EndSARS protests, the rallies brought Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, the capital Abuja, as well as smaller cities to a standstill.
A video of the unit's officers beating a man in Ughelli in Delta State, about 600 kilometres from the capital, sparked initial protests on Thursday. Police denied accusations that the man had been beaten to death.
Rest In Peace Jimoh Isiaq!' He was murdered by trigger-happy @PoliceNG officers while participating in peaceful #EndSARSProtests in #Ogbomosho earlier today. We will never forget you😪✊ pic.twitter.com/8pEdfSMhLa— Tee Jay (@SkepticTman) October 10, 2020
It was the latest in what human rights groups say is a series of abuses carried out by SARS. The unit was founded in 1992 in a bid to combat robbery. Since then its members have been accused of extra-judicial killings, torture and extortion.
The campaign started on twitter with the hashtag #EndSARS retweeted by millions of Nigerians, including prominent musicians and athletes.
Some of us have good paying jobs and still like our HAIR like this.....DREADLOCK no be crime , to apply DYE for HAIR no be crime.— ASISAT M.O.N (@AsisatOshoala) October 10, 2020
And THANKS to everyone that wished me happy birthday yesterday....LOVE ALWAYS 🙏🏾#EndSARS #EndPoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/JltDmtGfFB
SARS randomly targets men with dreadlocks, tattoos or those driving expensive cars, threatening to arrest them unless they pay a bribe, activists say. Earlier this year, riots broke out in Sagamu in south-west Nigeria when a local footballer arrested by the unit died in custody.
The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre said it has documented abuse cases against SARS from across the country and forwarded them to police, to no response.
Nigeria was failing to fulfil its obligations to insure investigation of complaints of police misconduct, the centre said in a statement.
In response to the protests, police have promised to curtail some of the unit's powers. Demonstrators however demand it to be disbanded, saying the SARS officers' conduct is an extension of the impunity Nigeria's security forces enjoy.
On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari assured Nigerians that his government will hold police accountable.
"I am being briefed regularly on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct, and ensure that the police are fully accountable to the people," he said in a statement.