Over the last month, Nigeria has been rocked by nationwide protests over police brutality following claims of violence, sexual assault and kidnapping by a special unit called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). 

Here, Global G.L.O.W. partnership coordinator Joyce from Nigeria Reads provides more detail surrounding these protests, and highlights the important role youth in the country have played in creating change and paving the way for a better future for all. 

Tina Ezekwe, a 16-year-old secondary school pupil, died after she was struck by a police bullet in Iyana-Oworo area of Lagos. The young girl was reportedly killed by a police officer who shot to disperse a crowd that had gathered after the shooting of a commercial bus driver who refused to pay a bribe. Over the years, there have been so many cases of police brutality and mindless murders of innocent citizens.

“Police are your friend,” a slogan used by the Nigerian police force has become a contradiction. Slogans like this have lost their meaning on Nigerians due to the inhumane treatment we suffer at the hands of our supposed “friends”.  Police brutality has been a serious challenge we have been battling in Nigeria. The police force, who have been entrusted with protecting lives and property, have abused their power. They often use force beyond the limit permissible by law, infringing on the rights of innocent civilians and causing a lot of harm and pain to people here.

We have heard of cases of victims who have experienced sexual assault, injuries and death, often the result of stray bullets and possible mistaken identities. Over the years, there has been an insatiable feeling of distrust as cases like this keep occurring. Relationships between the Nigerian police and citizens are largely characterized by suspicion, prejudice, brutality and violence.

Recently, the youth of Nigeria decided to stand up for their rights and hold a peaceful protest for the government to disband the special unit of the police force called SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad). This unit has been known for their harassment, extortion and killing of innocent people.

The protest remained peaceful for 12 days, during which time the undeterred youth took to the streets daily to voice their demands for a better living situation. The people of Nigeria felt that the government would have remained silent while we continued to lose young and vibrant future change-makers who had been victims of mistaken identities profiled for their looks – the color of their hair, having a new iPhone, looking good or driving a nice car.

Police have used excessive force on unarmed protesters since demonstrations began, which has resulted in the loss of life and disruption of calm within the affected states and the federal capital where our Global G.L.O.W. clubs are held.

GLOW Club members have become too afraid to come out for meetings. Parents are concerned because this situation has created an opportunity for hoodlums to take advantage and exploit hard working citizens, evading shops and plazas, looting goods and vandalizing public property. A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in some parts of the country and a Major National Examination (NECO) has been postponed indefinitely. This all comes just as we were beginning to see hope after the lockdown in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social media has played an enormous role in this fight by amplifying our voices with the trending #ENDSARS, which has emboldened youth to unify and fight to disband the notorious SARS unit. They also seek justice for all deceased victims of police brutality with adequate compensation to the families and the establishment of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all police misconduct within 10 days.

It is important to note that the protest in its early stages was peaceful and well-coordinated. Young people volunteered to provide logistical, medical and legal help – the latter two for injured and arrested protesters respectively, this shows how much enthusiasm the younger generation has towards national security, peace and wellbeing (mentally and physically).

We hope for a better nation and environment, that will enable growth and development in all areas of life – but especially for the Girl Child. We won’t relent but we will keep ‘fighting’ for this cause and for the betterment of the human race. We strongly believe in this process and we will surely conquer.