Nigeria Disbands ‘Brutal’ Police Unit Following Student Killing

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Photo by Al Jazeera via YouTube.

Reflecting mounting global concerns about police behavior, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to “end police brutality” in his country, reports BBC News.

Buhari’s pledge came after two days of around-the-clock protests sparked by a video showing a college student being killed by officers of Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The group has been accused of brutality and abuse of power in the past, but the allegedly unprovoked killing of Jimoh Isiaq, a student at Ladoke Akintola University Ogbomoso, during a peaceful protest has set many over the edge, PM News Nigeria reports. 

The police department and Commissioner of Police originally denied police involvement in the killing,  but the Chief Security Officer and Governor of Oyo State Seyi Makinde confirmed that the young man was shot during a peaceful protest, PM News Nigeria detailed. 

Following the incident, the president announced SARS will be dissolved “with immediate effect.”

The statement was supported by the Nigerian Police Force, and the Minister of Police Affairs who said, “I urge Nigerians to see the disbandment of SARS, as government’s commitment to deepening relationship between Nigerians and the police, for better service delivery.”

Eyewitnesses filmed police officers using live bullets and high-pressure water hoses to disperse crowds, according to the Guardian.

Then, on Monday morning, President  Buhari addressed the nation in a televised statement, saying, “We also deeply regret the loss of life of the young man in Oyo State during the recent demonstrations.”

The president  concluded, “I have directed that the circumstances of his death should be thoroughly investigated.” 

Following his press conference, thousands of Nigerians took to social media to express their discontent over the situation, many of them saying it’s too little too late. 

#EndSARS

The social media firestorm surrounding the resurfaced #EndSARS hashtag is not a new concept, as many Nigerians have been using it since 2018. But, because of the newly emerged video of Jimoh Isiaq being gunned down by officers from the SARS unit, it’s regaining attention, the Guardian detailed.  

Many people are using its newfound popularity to take the opportunity and share personal stories of police brutality from the unit’s officers. 

One Twitter user said she was threatened by the task force during a protest. Another user said she was beaten and her glasses were broken after she was confronted by SARS officers accusing her of stealing her own personal belongings.  

Twitter user Naira Banks said this is not just Nigeria’s problem, as everyone needs to remember, “All Black Lives Matter all the time, period.”

Banks continued in her thread that has over 13,100 likes, writing “People in Nigeria are still peacefully protesting and are still dying.” 

The Nigerian government would rather let people die than change the entire system,” she concluded. 

‘Disbandment Not Enough’

Others on Twitter were quick to point out some holes in the President’s plan to disband the unit, noting that all of the officers servicing will be deployed to other police commands, and that a new police arrangement for tackling robbery will “be announced soon,” according to the official Twitter for the Nigerian Police Force. 

Photo by Nigeria Police Force via their official Twitter.

Many have seen this as adding fuel to the fire, saying that redeploying existing officers into other units is just “another disguise to bring them into play again,” and that Nigerians “don’t want them just rebranded and placed on [their] streets again, please.”

Amnesty International’s director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, told the Guardian that the Nigerian Police Force’s announcement “falls short of demands for accountability and justice for abuses committed by the unit and police in general.”

Ojigho concluded, “The police authorities must state strongly the concrete steps they will take to ensure all officers alleged to have committed human rights violations are investigated and brought to justice.”

Ikechukwu Onanuku, a musician in Lagos, who led chants of a thousand protesters, told the Guardian “We won’t stop, we’ll be here tomorrow and the next day and next year until there’s change.”

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR staff writer.

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