The following is a press statement issued by Dr Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, Member of the European Parliament, on the ongoing protests in Nigeria against police brutality:
Comment on #endSARS movement in Nigeria
These last days, the hashtag #EndSARS has been highly visible in social media as well as to us in the European Parliament.
First, Nigerian civil society, then people from other African countries and now European and American civil society joined in the protest against SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad).
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad is a special unit of the Nigerian police accused of being brutal to civilians, especially to youth and people from the LGTBQI community.
#EndSARS is a social movement that began in 2017 in Nigeria and started on Twitter through which Nigerians launched a campaign to call on the Nigerian government to end SARS.
Since its inception in 1992 after armed robberies became commonplace, SARS has abused its power by arbitrarily arresting, kidnapping, harassing, detaining, killing, raping, extorting, stealing money from the citizens they are supposed to protect.
Although some claimed victory after the government of President Muhammadu Buhari announced the dissolution of SARS on 15 October, others noted that similar promises had already been made in recent years and that the government planned to reassign SARS agents rather than scrap the unit altogether.
To date, reports say that more than 30 people have been killed and on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, live gunfire took place at the Lekki Toll Gate with the tragic consequence of two deaths and many injured. Despite this, the Nigerian army was accused of holding back the ambulances, preventing them from treating the wounded.
Protesters are demanding better welfare, good governance and justice for the victims of police brutality.
The government and police violated the rights of citizens protesting police brutality. What Nigeria needs now is change. It is time to deploy sanctions that hold accountable and deter anyone involved in human rights violations.
It is interesting to observe how the Black Lives Matter movement and affiliated organisations and collectives in Germany for instance organize solidarity protests for #EndSARS. It almost seems like a pattern in several countries that civil society becomes more dynamic and connected. Police brutality and abuse of power by police has been in focus since the worldwide protests after the death of George Floyd.
My hope for Nigeria is that the government but also the civil society takes this as a chance to reorganise security for all citizens, including the most marginalised.
Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana
Member of the European Parliament
Brussels, 23 October 2020