In the first two weeks of the COVID-19 lock-down in Nigeria in March 2020, NHRC reported 18 cases of extrajudicial killings by Nigerian security forces. In the months that followed, more reports surfaced on the Nigerian twitter sphere – videos and images embedded in twitter threads – of members of the Nigerian security forces exercising excessive use of force, abuse of power and not adhering to rules of engagement.
Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an arm of the Nigerian Police created to fight violent crimes is often the culprit in these reports of kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, humiliation, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings and extortion of Nigerian citizens.
Chimamanda Adichie describes the unit as random, vicious and vilely extortionist. The unit has remained notorious over the years for stopping and searching civilians, looking for clues that indicate they are internet fraudsters. Such things as dreadlocks, iPhones, laptops, nice cars and tattoos are considered clues and are implicative. These civilians are then arrested and made to pay outrageous sums to bail themselves. Often, such civilians who are not able to bail themselves immediately are murdered in custody, and nobody is ever held responsible for these crimes.
In A Collection of Poetry and Reflections on the #ENDSARS Protest Curated by Jumoke Verissimo and James Yeku, Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún reminds us of the Ezu River, the site of the discovery of floating bodies numbering about 35 had on 19th January 2013.
The Pobin Project was launched by Nigerian writer Kemi Falodun, to document the stories of victims from as far back as 1981, to serve as a data resource to aid in understanding the magnitude and devastating impact of police brutality in Nigeria.
In October 2020, young Nigerians, having had enough, took the call for an end to the vicious police unit to the streets, from Twitter – where the hashtag #EndSARS has amassed over 28 million tweets.
The #EndSARS protest was a nationwide decentralized peaceful movement against police brutality, with the youth and the young women of Feminist Coalition at the forefront, mobilizing medical aid and legal aid for protesters who were injured or arrested during the protests. In the poem Where I Come From, Chika Unigwe pays homage to the young women organizing, leading, pushing the protests in Nigeria.
The street protests were brought to an abrupt end on October 20th, when the Nigerian army opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate. The exact number of casualties isn’t known, as eyewitnesses reported that the army went away with some of the bodies. The events of 20.10.20 drew criticism from people around the world who condemned the shooting of peaceful protesters by the Nigerian government and the army.
In The address President Buhari could have given, Adichie gives a humane alternative to the apathetic speech given by the president days after the shooting.
The Women’s Prize Winner of all Winners, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour on PBS on Friday the 13th of November, noted that the government seems unable to fully understand that in a democratic system dissent is not treason, as in the aftermath of the protests, the Nigerian government has taken to arresting, seizing passports and blocking bank accounts belonging to protesters.
Chigozie Obioma, in a video posted to Instagram, urged Nigerians to remain questioning and unsatisfied with bad governance. He urged that make it a duty to expose corrupt practices in the society.