“Stand up, countrymen, the call of Nigeria obey …The Nigerian national anthem sounded early on Tuesday night, sung by protesters as they waved the country’s green and white flag in Lekki toll plaza in Lagos – where largely peaceful protests against police brutality took place for two weeks in the largest of the country’s city.
The protests began online, after an undated video showing what appeared to be SARS operatives attacking a man was circulated widely on social media.
Supported by celebrities from the West African country’s music scene, such as Nigerian American singer Davido and Wizkid, and with online support from beyond, including Kanye West and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, the protests in line have emerged on the streets – with thousands of calls for #endsars in Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere.
“Where are we going in Nigeria? Sixty years. I am disappointed, we cannot continue like this, ”said one protester, referring to the time when the country gained independence from Britain.
“We’re not here for trouble, we’re just here to protest. ”
President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved SARS last week, but the protests continued, with Nigerians wary of previous pledges to do so and taking the opportunity to campaign for broader social change.
Despite previous government promises, corruption is still rampant, the majority of the country remains poor, and infrastructure (from electricity to roads and clean water) is lacking, despite the billions of dollars generated from oil revenues.
Protests can be dangerous in a country with a history of draconian military rule and violent repression, but there was hope that was in the past that free speech and free speech might prevail.
The violent response shocked a country well accustomed to unrest – from the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast to banditry and kidnappings that have left Nigeria apparently still on the brink of a security crisis.
However, Cheta Nwanze, senior partner of SBM Intelligence, a political consulting firm, said: “It was not a far corner of the country. It was in the commercial capital of Nigeria. ”
His colleague, Tunde Ajileye, said: “Protests may simmer after this crackdown, but they are by no means over. Moreover, the structures that pushed them are now in place and will continue to confront the Nigerian political elite to demand better. This is what they fear most and why their response has turned from ignorance to violent repression. ”
Nigerians call for police reform and an end to police brutality and corruption.