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Nigeria: A New Generation Steps Up
October 23, 2020 (2020-10-23)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
“The protest is for our lives, it’s for our future. We want SARS to
end but SARS is just the beginning. They should just wait for us.
We’re not quiet anymore.” [This response appears] typical of the
critical mass of protesters who are around 18-22 years old, are
particularly fearless, and are protesting for the first time. -
Ayodeji Rotinwa, Deputy Editor of African Arguments
Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, returning to Nigeria just
before the EndSars protests began, wrote this earlier this week:
"I arrived home from external commitments just over a week ago to
an extraordinary homecoming gift. It took the form of a movement —
sometimes angry, sometimes entrancing, poignant, sometimes
strident, certainly robust in expectations but always moving,
visionary and organized. That movement demanded an end to brutality
from state security agencies, focusing on a notorious unit known as
SARS. But, of course, SARS merely stood for the parasitic character
of governance itself in all ramifications. ... The movement
involved members of the Nigerian Bar Association, Feminist Groups,
Professionals, Technocrats, Students, Prelates, Industrial
institutions, and Artistes – writers, cineastes, actors, musicians.
It was markedly a youthful movement, its energy, creativity and
resolve diffused throughout the nation through impressive
But then, Soyinka added,
¨But – and haven’t we been here before? — suddenly, virtually
overnight, it all changed. State security services – which specific
branch, we have yet to identify – transported thugs to break up the
protests. The videos exist, they have been widely disseminated –
sleek motorcades with number plates covered – moved to recruit and
disgorge thugs and breeds of hoodlums to break up the peaceful
protests. Those mercenaries set fire to the protesters’ vehicles
where parked, set upon the gathered youths with cudgels and
The day after that commentary (available at https://www.cnbcafrica.com/nigeria/2020/10/21/deja-vu-in-tragic-vein-wole-soyinka-on-nigerias-unrest/), security forces killed at least 12 in demonstrations in Lagos, and the sense of deja vu evoked by Soyinka became even stronger.
Nigerians have a history of resistance to oppression in recent
decades. But the opposition in the 1990s to military dictator Sani
Abacha took years of struggle (1993-1999) to achieve his
replacement by a civilian government. Now, with a new generation
that does not remember military rule, the time may be coming for
the corrupt and brutal system now in place. Previous civil society
protests and ongoing campaigning have made some gains. But the
fundamentals have not yet changed.
The government response gives little hope that change will come
quickly or without much suffering. But the combination of internal
protest, an engaged Nigerian diaspora, and new strategies provide
an indication that a new generation is ready to take the lead.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains three commentaries from Nigerian
sources, the first from a series in African Arguments, the second
an interview with a sociologist at the University of Ibadan, and
the third a statement by 32 Nigerian civil society organizations.
It also includes a selection of other links of particular interest.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Selected Links to Recent Articles
When preparing an AfricaFocus on something that has hit global
news, I can't keep up with the barrage of daily coverage. So I try
to seek out particularly useful articles from reliable sources that
may be worth sharing with you for relevant background, even if you
are keeping up with the news from your usual news sources.
In addition to the three short articles included in this
AfricaFocus, the links below are a small selection of the other
sources that I have found most useful. I won't summarize them, but
simply give enough information for you to decide whether you want
to check them out.
Today's update from BBC News
Commentaries in the Washington Post by global opinion editor Karen
Attiah, who covers global issues and has family roots in both
Nigeria and Ghana.
Short press statement by the Movement for Black Lives in the United States
A short video, plus links to other Nigerian sources and a petition, distributed by Nigerian American diaspora activist Opal Tometi, who was one of the co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter.
Many additional sources recommended by a progressive publication in UK
The key group inside Nigeria providing material support for the protesters. They are raising funds from around the world and have had to move to bitcoin to bypass pressure by Nigerian government on banks in Nigeria
Links to most recent coverage on AllAfrica.com
An eloquent first-hand report by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka
Democracy Now interviews with Nigerian activists
Useful analytical background from African Arguments (in addition to the backgrounder include in full below)
Latest reports from Amnesty International
Coverage by Al Jazeera
Background article - useful summary by Nigerian scholar at Chatham House
Six things you need to know about the movement to end police brutality in Nigeria.
by Ayodeji Rotinwa
Ayodeji Rotinwa is the Deputy Editor of African Arguments.
African Arguments, October 14, 2020
On 3 October, two days after Nigeria’s Independence Day, a grainy
video was posted to Twitter that purportedly showed an attempted
murder. A shooting at point blank range. Two unarmed men dragged
from a hotel in Delta State by a group of armed men. A gun pointed
to the floor. A loud, familiar crack. Smoke.
To any Nigerian watching the video, the armed group was familiar.
They were members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). This
police unit was initially set up to fight violent crime but is now
accused of perpetrating it instead.
SARS is infamous for targeting well-off young people who they
allegedly suspect of making money through illegal means. If you are
18-35, have an iPhone, tattoos, drive a nice car or carry a laptop,
you could be a target. You could be beaten up, robbed, tortured and
extorted. In some cases, such as that of the as-yet-unidentified
man in the video, you could be killed. Amnesty International says
at least 82 people died at the hands of SARS between January 2017
and May 2020.
No SARS official has been charged for their crimes.
As the video was shared widely across the internet and particularly
Twitter, outrage swelled. The outrage wasn’t new either. Nigerians
had been calling to #ENDSARS since 2017 with Twitter users sharing
their experiences at the hands of the police unit. This time the
issue burned quick, garnering over 28 million tweets and trending
worldwide by Friday 9 October.
This outrage soon turned to protest. Over the past seven days and
in at least 13 Nigerian states, thousands of people – men, women,
queer people, the differently-abled, from varying religions, ethnic
groups and political affiliations – have spilt onto the streets.
Yesterday in Ibadan, even soldiers joined the protesters. They are
demanding an end to the rogue police unit, justice for all deceased
victims of police brutality, and investigations and prosecutions of
Credit: Eric Atie
On 11 October, the Inspector General of Police announced that SARS
has been disbanded. On 13 October, he said a new tactical unit,
called the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT), would replace
it. No one is convinced. Between 2017 and now, the police has
claimed the unit would be “re-organised”, “overhauled” and
“reformed” but with little effect.
Here are six aspects of the movement you should know about:
1) Police brutality at protests against police brutality
The Nigerian police have been enthusiastic in proving why a
people’s movement against police brutality is necessary. At
protests across the country, they have opened fire on unarmed
peaceful protesters, attacked them with wooden clubs, teargassed
them, and hit them with water cannons. They have vandalised
vehicles, broken windscreens, and slashed tyres. They have left
fractures, dislocations, bleeding and death in their wake.
According to Amnesty International, ten people have died in the
protests so far.
One protester told African Arguments that while she was being
beaten up, the policemen asked: “Who paid you?” and “after this,
will you come out again?” This highlights two things. The police do
not think the protests are genuinely motivated. And they appear to
be counting on the show of force to intimidate protesters into
staying home. It has not worked thus far.
2) Disinformation and misinformation
If you’ve no access to social media and depend only on traditional
print media, like most Nigerians above 40, you may not have a fully
accurate picture of the protests. Several media outlets have
engaged in an apparent obfuscation of the facts.
Guardian Nigeria, for instance, published a now-deleted post on
ethnic rifts amongst protesters. This is a well-known fault line
used by politicians to sow divisions and, in this case, is not
true. In fact, Nigerians seem to have united across divisions of
ethnicity, geography, religion, gender and sexuality.
Many national publications have also parroted the police’s line in
reporting on the protests. On Monday 12 October, for example,
protests in Surulere, Lagos, turned violent when the police opened
fire. Eyewitness statements and videos show the police attacking
the demonstrators. A bystander, Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo, was fatally
Several newspapers, however, echoed the police account of events
with some, such as Pulse and Vanguard, running near-identical
pieces. With little context about the motives of the
demonstrations, they suggested the protesters were in fact
responsible for the violence and published claims that the
demonstrators had laid siege to a police station to free jailed
suspects, killing one policeman and injuring two. This incident has
not been corroborated beyond the police account and the man charged
with the alleged murder was soon released.
3) A new wave of fearless Gen Z protesters
“The protest is for our lives, it’s for our future. We want SARS to
end but SARS is just the beginning. They should just wait for us.
We’re not quiet anymore.”
“It’s fine to believe we have been lazy. We accept that we have
been lazy. But it’s one day a man wakes up, and we have woken up
and we are not ending this.”
When two young women were asked what the protest was about, these
were their responses. They appear typical of the critical mass of
protesters who are around 18-22 years old, are particularly
fearless, and are protesting for the first time. Their lack of
experience, however, should not be taken as a lack of knowledge.
When police have fired teargas, for instance, some protesters have
swung into action to defuse the chemical weapon’s effects.
“It struck me that they may have picked up a few lessons from the
Hong Kong protests,” Stanley Achonu, a civil society advisor
present at the protests, told African Arguments. “There was
something surreal about those – I don’t want to call them kids –
protesters that was different. I have been to every protest since
when Yar’adua was president [2007-2010]. This one is clearly
When the police have used water cannons, live ammunition and tried
to disperse protesters, the demonstrators haven’t gone home
battered and defeated. Even while some were wounded, they simply
regrouped. On Sunday 11 October in Abuja, the protesters were
dispersed and attacked at least twice, regathering and regrouping
“They are not following any playbook. They are following theirs.
They are not beholden to the generation that came before them. They
are just looking forward,” says Olabukunola Williams, Executive
Director of Education as a Vaccine, who was also at Sunday’s
“A lot of people driving and leading this protest are not from
civil society. They have their own businesses, they work in
tech…they’ve become the unofficial leaders of sustaining the
4) Leaderless, open-source protests
In January 2012, there was a massive wave of protests in Nigeria.
The #OccupyNigeria movement spread across the country protesting
against an increase in fuel prices. Though the demonstrations
started sporadically, trade and labour unions soon assumed
leadership and were invited to closed-door meetings with the
government. Before long, the unions struck a deal. They called on
protesters to go home, while the government deployed tanks onto the
The consensus among many was the unions sold out the #OccupyNigeria
movement. Today’s protesters seem determined to learn from this
The #ENDSARS movement has started organically and sporadically with
no clear leaders or organisers. Among other things, this has made
it more difficult for the government to quell them. Some high-
profile figures – such as musicians Davido, Falz and Small Doctor –
have joined the protests. However, while welcoming their support,
people have been adamant that they do not represent them.
On 12 October, Davido was invited to a meeting with the Inspector
General of Police. He was accompanied by D’banj, a musician alleged
to have previously exercised his influence with the police to
kidnap and coerce a young woman that had accused him of rape.
Davido was set the task of establishing an independent panel to
monitor police activities. The protesters were clear, however, that
the country’s highest-ranking police officer asking one private
citizen to hold the body responsible is no solution.
Some protesters have even resisted attempts by the anti-police
brutality campaigner Segun Awosanya, who was also at the meeting,
to speak for the movement. Awosanya, who galvanised the #ENDSARS
protests in 2017, claimed that the movement is his to lead and
accused others of hijacking it in a now-deleted Twitter thread.
5) A feminist coalition
While the movement has no leaders, a feminist coalition has taken
it upon itself to fundraise, organise legal support, and provide
medical care and food for the protesters. Awosanya called this
group a “cult” that wants to hijack the movement in order to
“weaponise it against the state”.
There is no evidence of this. Instead, the coalition – along with
others – has disbursed money to protesters across the country,
organised lawyers for those arrested, provided ambulances and first
aid, and insisted that protests be peaceful. For their troubles,
the coalition had its donation link deactivated on 14 October. By
whom, it is not yet clear. The group said it is “under attack” and
that “our members’ lives are also being threatened”.
6) More protests
The movement shows no signs of losing energy or intensity. More
protests are scheduled for today [October 14] and will continue
until the government is seen taking concrete action and not just
making pronouncements with regard to protesters’ demands.
#EndSARS: What it feels like to be in the shoes of a young Nigerian
The Conversation, October 21, 2020
Researcher in criminology, victimology, electronic frauds and
cybercrime, University of Ibadan
Partners: University of Ibadan provides support as an endorsing
partner of The Conversation AFRICA.
Following weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality,
led by young Nigerians who complain of being targeted by the
police, Adejuwon Soyinka asked Oludayo Tade, a sociologist, to help
us understand what it feels like being a young Nigerian living in
the country today.
Q: Why have the protests been driven by young Nigerians?
A: The immediate trigger of the protest has to do with the
brutalisation of young Nigerians by the trigger happy and
extortionist Special Anti-Robbery Squad, now disbanded. Members of
the unit extorted and abused the privacy of the young people
through negative profiling. Most of those killed by the police
tactical team are young and have not committed any crime.
Efforts by families and friends of these victims to get justice
have mostly hit brick walls. While the ‘uniformed offenders’ walk
free, the victims are left to mourn their losses.
Young Nigerians have been at the receiving end of bad governance
since the return of democracy in 1999. Their education is poorly
funded, with poorly equipped laboratories, uninhabitable hostels
and unmotivated lecturers. About 14 million young Nigerians are out
of school, partly because of insecurity and education
affordability. About two million young Nigerians write the
university matriculation examination every year. But only about
500,000 get admitted to university. Over 90% apply to public funded
institutions, most of which suffer from infrastructural decay.
In addition, young Nigerians are the worst affected by
unemployment. There are 21.7 million unemployed Nigerians with the
youth accounting for 13.9 million of this number.
There is increasing hopelessness and dashed hopes. Young Nigerians
watch a system where the ruling class takes all.
Q: What does it feel like being a young Nigerian living in Nigeria
A: Young Nigerians are called the iPhone or Twitter generation.
President Muhammadu Buhari has described them as being lazy cohorts
who are looking for free things. Apart from this presidential
framing, any successful young person is falsely labelled as
involved in internet fraud. This is what the disbanded police unit
feasted on, pouncing on anyone on the road carrying laptops, having
iPhones or driving posh cars. They do this not to prevent crime but
to harass and threaten; to frame them with robbery or threaten them
with death. Cases abound of such behaviour.
Thus, it seems to be an offence to dress well, look nice and have
items such as a laptop.
More broadly, young Nigerians live largely on the margins of the
Q: Why is this particular protest different?
A: It coincides with people reaching boiling point on many issues
which the Nigerian state has failed to address. The economy has
been on lockdown due to COVID-19. But intimidation and killing by
the police hasn’t stopped during the pandemic.
This protest is coordinated online combined with people gathering
physically. It is superbly organised.
A number of groups have been part of the demonstrations. There are
students who have been at home due to a seven month strike by the
Academic Staff Union of Universities to force government to fund
public universities properly. Then there are unemployed youth who
have graduated from the universities but either have never had a
job or have lost their job during the pandemic. Lastly, there are
the victims of police brutality, their families and relations who
have also mobilised.
Q: This protest is largely organised by young Nigerians who have
never experienced military rule. Is this material?
A: Democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999 – more than 20 years ago –
but things have not improved. This generation is the internet
generation. They hear of stories of Nigeria’s glorious past from
their parents and in literature but are served with a bitter
present. They also know what happens and what citizens of other
countries enjoy. They do not need to have encountered military
experience to speak up against a system that is not working or
meeting their needs and aspirations.
Q: What would you consider as important takeaways from this
A: The first is that the way in which the protest was organised
suggests there is a future for the country. The protesters showed
empathy and created job opportunities. They showed the importance
of taking care of people by providing food and drinks for
protesters. They treated the injured and provided support for the
They also crowdsourced for funding and they accounted for the
money without needing to set up a committee as their government
And they showed that religion, party politics and ethnicity are
divisive tools used by the ruling class to keep people divided
while they exploit them.
Secondly, they used their protest to show their love for Nigeria.
They show why people need to speak up against the tyranny of the
Thirdly, the protest has woken up many from their slumber to act on
the need to reform the Nigerian police.
Lastly, a new wave of rights-demanding citizenship is rising in
Nigeria. If sustained it could reset the country and make the
government responsible, responsive and accountable.
Killers of #EndSARS Protesters Must Be Held To Account
October 21, 2020
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
October 21, 2020
#EndSARS Protesters. Photo credit: Al Jazeera
We, the undersigned coalition of civil society organisations, are
deeply shocked by the killing of peaceful protesters across Nigeria
yesterday. The attempt to fight for justice over police brutality
has again revealed the brutal nature of the Nigerian state. At the
last count, not less than 40 Nigerians have lost their lives as a
result of violent attempts to crack down or disrupt the ongoing
protests against police brutality. There is also documentary
evidence, which indicts a combined force of sponsored thugs and
members of the Nigerian security forces for the deaths of innocent
protesters. Particularly disturbing is the massacre of unarmed and
very peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos yesterday.
The sight of the Nigerian flag stained with the blood of the
nation’s youth, in a month the country celebrated sixty years of
independence, is a gory sight to behold. These killings are totally
unacceptable, just as they stand condemned.
It is pertinent to recall that this coalition previously warned the
Nigerian authorities about the danger of deploying the military to
confront unarmed protesters. We therefore strongly condemn the
needless loss of the lives of young Nigerians as a result of the
blatant refusal to heed warnings that the government should NOT
bring in the military to quell a protest by citizens demanding
police reforms and good governance. This coalition further condemns
the lack of restraint, and the level of impunity displayed by the
Army Officers who obeyed this unlawful order to unleash maximum
force on protesters.
It is disheartening that members of the armed forces, who are
supposed to be servants and protectors of the people are the very
elements firing live ammunition on protesters, resulting in the
death and injury of scores of citizens. We reiterate our initial
point by stating that the grievances driving the protests are
legitimate, and also condemn the activities of hoodlums, who have
perpetrated acts to cause mayhem and undermine the essence of the
peaceful protests. This coalition stands with other Nigerians in
affirming our constitutional right to protest.
We call on all friends of Nigeria to sustain pressure on the
government of President Muhammadu Buhari to rein in members of the
armed forces carrying out these killings of unarmed protesters. We
demand the investigation of perpetrators of the ongoing atrocities
targeted at unarmed protesters.
We call on the National Assembly to hold an emergency session to
address the killing of protesters and hold a national public
hearing to investigate the abuse of power and killing of peaceful
protesters by security agencies and the failure to arrest thugs and
hoodlums who attacked the #EndSARS protesters and innocent citizens
across different states.
This coalition calls on the International Criminal Court to open
investigation to ongoing crimes against humanity being committed
against the peaceful and unarmed #EndSars protesters in Nigeria. We
also demand an open trial of all those involved in previous acts of
police brutality, human rights abuse and crackdowns, which have led
to the needless deaths of defenceless citizens.
Finally, the events of Tuesday October 20, 2020 is a reminder that
our democracy is fragile and we the people must defy the odds and
fight for a democracy generations to come will be proud of. We
stand with Nigerian youths who defied the odds to make their voices
heard. We mourn with Nigerians who have lost loved ones since the
#EndSARS movement. We urge the youth to remain peaceful. The
struggle has just begun, and the people of this country must brace
up to take their destinies into their hands.
1. Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
2. Enough is Enough (EIE)
3. Partners for Electoral Reform
4. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
5. Centre for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD)
6. YIAGA Africa
7. Global Rights
8. Project Alert
9. Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC)
10. Paradigm Initiative (PIN)
11. Rule of Law and Accountability Centre (RULAAC)
12. HEDA Resource Centre
13. African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
14. Community Life Project (CLP)
15. Protest to Power
16. Social Action
17. Right to Know
18. Lawyers Alert
19. International Press Centre (IPC)
20. Private and Public Development Centre
21. South Saharan Social Development Organisation
22. Partners West Africa- Nigeria
23. Centre LSD
24. Connected Development (CODE)
25. Stakeholders Development Network (SDN)
27. CWCW Africa
28. Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA)
29. Invictus Africa
30. Alliance for Credible Election (ACE)
31. Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA)
32. Resource Centre for Human Rights (Chriced)
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