In the city of Lekki, Nigeria, protests agains the corrupt Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) law enforcement unit in Nigeria turned deadly after officers began firing into a crowd of thousands on Tuesday. At least twelve were said to be dead, and riots and looting escalated in the wake of the killings. Muhammadu Buhari, president of Nigeria, officially disbanded the SARS unit earlier in October, but protests and riots have continued for weeks as people call for greater change amid corruption. Adding to the disorder, it was reported that nearly 2,000 prisoners had escaped from a prison in Benin City after armed citizens overpowered the prison guards on Monday. Fifty-six people have been killed since the protests began on October 8th.
People in Lekki sitting on the floor, signing the national anthem & waiving the Nigerian flag just a few minutes before fire was opened on them.— Moe (@Mochievous) October 20, 2020
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State in which Lekki is located, condemned the actions and apologized for both the government’s “action and inaction.” The country’s president has yet to address the event, and that attack was called “fake news” by the nation’s army. “Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences,” stated the County Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho. The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, agreed, stating that the cameras and lights being cut immediately before the shooting began suggest a “premeditated, planned, and coordinated” attack.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that it was imperative for law enforcement “to act at all times with maximum restraint” while also “calling on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence.” “The Nigerian government must urgently investigate reports of brutality at the hands of the security forces and hold those responsible to account,” said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
However, it is argued that the government’s “accountability” is anything but that and that the disbanding of one corrupt law enforcement unit has simply lead to the creation of others by the government in the past.
“By now, to anyone clued into Nigerian politics, two things are clear. First, the frustrations expressed in the streets of Nigerian cities, from Lagos to Port Harcourt to Abuja, are about far more than the crimes of a police unit. Second, Nigerian youth are rediscovering their power, picking up the mantle of the cultural and political resistance that in the past helped snatch the country back from the jaws of military dictatorship.”Annie Olaloku-Teriba, London-based British-Nigerian Independent Researcher