What’s Going on in Nigeria?
After a summer of incessant protests against police violence , including the assassinations of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, more Americans are beginning to understand this aspect of systemic racism. Of course, this is not only a problem in the United States, and over the past two weeks, protests in Nigeria over police brutality have spilled over into violence by the country’s military. Here’s what you need to know about demonstrations and what you can do to support the protesters.
Why are there protests in Nigeria?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the latest round of protests in Nigeria, which began in early October, called for the ban of the Anti-Robbery Special Squad (SARS), a police unit long associated with violent harassment. SARS was established in 1992 and tasked with fighting Nigeria’s violent crimes such as murder, kidnapping, assault and armed robbery. In fact, the unit only exacerbated these problems and faced allegations of violence against civilians , including rape and murder.
The #endSARS campaigns began in 2017 , and while the Nigerian government announced changes to the unit – in both 2018 and 2019 – this has yet to happen. Then, on October 4, 2020, a Twitter user posted a video that they claimed showed a SARS officer shooting and killing a young man, sparking protests this month.
On October 11, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police announced that SARS would be disbanded, but again no action was taken. According to CNN , some of the protesters have made it clear that they will continue to demonstrate until the entire police force is reformed, including independent oversight and psychological evaluations of officers.
What happens at the protests?
Many demonstrations in the past few weeks, especially in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, have resulted in violence, including several demonstrators shot to death by military personnel, eyewitnesses told CNN . Since the beginning of the protests, at least 56 people have died across the country, according to a report by Amnesty International .
Some 38 protesters were killed on 20 October alone and hundreds were seriously injured when “the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality,” according to Amnesty International . And as reported by CNN , the Nigerian army dismissed reports of violence against protesters – including cases where they were shot – as “fake news” and declined to comment further.
With protesters planning to continue demonstrating until the government actually implements promised police reforms, and apparently military violence is the way the Nigerian government is managing the demonstrations, there is no end in sight.
How to help protesters in Nigeria
Given that most people – even outside the global pandemic – will not be able to fly to Nigeria and personally join the demonstrations, you may be wondering how you can support this cause from afar. In a Global Citizen article, Akindare Okunola provides some advice:
While we have no shortage of our own problems in the United States, Okunola says it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on while getting information from a trusted source:
As with many other online movements, there is a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation around the #EndSARS movement, so getting accurate information is important. Since the #EndSARS movement started online, hashtags are a good place to start.
Reading is a good start. There are also tutorial videos that can help.
Engage in online activism
# Activism gets a bad rap when some people, companies and organizations use it as a method of demonstrating virtue, but in situations like this – when the action is far away and additional awareness may be required – Okunola says it can be a valuable tool. Not sure where to start? Okunola offers several suggestions:
Easily distributed broadcast templates and flyers were created in several local languages to further enhance the message; and a flyer showing that the five requests that activists want to satisfy are several ways to gain an edge in sharing information about what’s happening across all social media platforms.
Mass protests come at a cost, so if you have the funds to spare, you may want to consider donating to one of the fundraisers created to support the demonstrators by providing food, medical and legal services, security and other assistance.
The most visible major fundraisers, according to Okunol, were spearheaded by the Feminist Coalition , which raised more than 70 million naira (about $ 180,000) in various currencies, including bitcoin. And, as always, do your homework before donating. For example, the Feminist Coalition provides detailed public reports on funds received and distributed.