Thousands of people took to the streets on Monday in Nigeria as pressure mounted on the government to follow through on a promise to disband a feared police unit, leaving two more demonstrators dead.
One person was killed by security forces on Saturday in Ogbomoso, in the southwestern Oyo state, while another died on Monday during clashes between police and protestors in Surulere, in Lagos state, the government said, adding that both incidents would be investigated.
“There is no excuse for shooting anything (not to talk of live bullets) at peaceful protesters. The Police MUST find the shooters and make them face justice in full,” special assistant to the president, Tolu Ogunlesi, said on Twitter.
At least two other people were killed since the protests began last week, initially targeting the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
On Monday, around 2,000 people blocked a main highway in the country’s biggest city Lagos, demanding that the government make good on an announcement Sunday that SARS was being scrapped.
The decision to dissolve the unit, which has been accused of unlawful arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings, followed widespread protests that saw police use tear gas and water cannon.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday insisted that the “disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms”.
“The purpose of law enforcement and the purpose of policing is for the safety of lives and livelihood of Nigerians,” he said.
But protesters in Lagos and the capital Abuja vowed they would keep up the pressure after previous pledges to disband the unit and punish officers responsible for abuses were not honoured.
– ‘We’re not scared’ –
“We are not scared to take to the streets,” said protester Fareedah, 27, as traffic backed up in Lagos. “They have said they would end SARS four times in four years. Nothing came out.”
Ajebola Ayoade, 31, said the younger generations were fed up after decades of intimidation and brutality by law enforcement.
“We are starting what our fathers couldn’t do — because they were intimidated, we are oppressed,” he said.
“Look at our country, infrastructure zero, electricity zero. They didn’t give us education, but we are not illiterate, and we know our rights.”
Rights group Amnesty International said the government needed to ensure any abusive officers were prosecuted promptly.
“A clear and concise timeline for the implementation of the reforms to end police atrocities is key to safeguarding trust between Nigerians and the authorities,” Osai Ojigho, Amnesty’s Nigeria director, said in a statement.
The eruption of long-standing anger over police brutality has been fuelled by an online campaign that has drawn support from some of Africa’s biggest stars.
Afrobeats icon Davido said he was set to meet the inspector general of police after giving the campaign his high-profile backing.
“SARS ending is a great start but the task is far from completed!” the musician tweeted on Sunday. Daily Mail.