Africa & World

‘We need to live’: Young Nigerians on why they are protesting

Lagos, Nigeria – For a week now, people across Nigeria have united their voices to protest against police brutality and demand justice for victims.

Demonstrations against police brutality have swept Nigeria over the past week, intensifying demands for reform and accountability.

Mobilised through social media, the youth-led rallies in several parts of the country initially targeted the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious police unit long accused of harassment, extortion and extrajudicial killings.

After days of demonstrations, authorities on Sunday announced the scrapping of SARS and the redeployment of its officers to other police units.

However, the announcement fell short of expectations for many protesters, who have since pledged to continue fighting for accountability, an end to police violence and a complete overhaul of the security apparatus.

Al Jazeera met protesters from all walks of life in the streets of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. Here is what they had to say (some of the comments were slightly edited for brevity and clarity):

Tucker Okolo, 26, chef: "As a young man in Nigeria, I live in constant fear of the police because I am often profiled wrongly by some of the officers. I joined the protest because I want to ensure that SARS is scrapped. I want the police to be reformed, and the right people to be employed for the job." [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Tucker Okolo, 26, chef: “As a young man in Nigeria, I live in constant fear of the police because I am often profiled wrongly by some of the officers. I joined the protest because I want to ensure that SARS is scrapped. I want the police to be reformed, and the right people to be employed for the job.” [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Esther Edim, 20, student/photographer: "SARS and the entire police force are supposed to protect us, but when a police officer comes towards you, you get scared. It shouldn’t be that way. I am out on the street today to protest against such things from happening in our society. I hope for a change and a revolution in the entire police force and in other aspects of the country." [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Esther Edim, 20, student/photographer: “SARS and the entire police force are supposed to protect us, but when a police officer comes towards you, you get scared. It shouldn’t be that way. I am out on the street today to protest against such things from happening in our society. I hope for a change and a revolution in the entire police force and in other aspects of the country.” [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Zilani John, 32, development practitioner: "Too many young people have had their lives cut short by some SARS officers. We need this to end. The right to life is a fundamental human right; we should not have to beg for it. We need to live. This protest is an opportunity for us to make our country work for us and generations to come. I would like to see a reform of the entire police force. I also want the government to improve their welfare as well as pay attention to their mental health. As a Nigerian, I want our government to be responsible for us and make our lives better." [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Zilani John, 32, development practitioner: “Too many young people have had their lives cut short by some SARS officers. We need this to end. The right to life is a fundamental human right; we should not have to beg for it. We need to live. This protest is an opportunity for us to make our country work for us and generations to come. I would like to see a reform of the entire police force. I also want the government to improve their welfare as well as pay attention to their mental health. As a Nigerian, I want our government to be responsible for us and make our lives better.” [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Divine Eze, 29, lawyer/entrepreneur: "When I was 14, some SARS officers stopped me for a random search; when I asked why I was being searched, one of the officers got upset and ensured I stayed for a couple of minutes. The following year, I travelled to my hometown for Christmas and some SARS officials harassed and slapped me right in front of my house. Protesting is the only way we can let the government know about our plight; it is the only way we can correct their notion of us." [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Divine Eze, 29, lawyer/entrepreneur: “When I was 14, some SARS officers stopped me for a random search; when I asked why I was being searched, one of the officers got upset and ensured I stayed for a couple of minutes. The following year, I travelled to my hometown for Christmas and some SARS officials harassed and slapped me right in front of my house. Protesting is the only way we can let the government know about our plight; it is the only way we can correct their notion of us.” [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Zainab Haruna, 31, development practitioner: "I am here to support the #EndSARS movement because it is a cause that I believe in. Young people have the potential to help change Nigeria, but under an oppressive environment because of the criminal justice system and law enforcement officials, they are not able to freely express themselves, they feel unsafe. Our law-enforcement officials are supposed to protect us. We are not supposed to be scared of them. Going forward, I would like a full investigation launched into all the accusations that have been labelled against SARS officers and other officers of the police force because there needs to be accountability for the actions that have been committed by officers of the force. I also want a reform of the entire police force so that we can have a humane police force that works for the people." [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Zainab Haruna, 31, development practitioner: “I am here to support the #EndSARS movement because it is a cause that I believe in. Young people have the potential to help change Nigeria, but under an oppressive environment because of the criminal justice system and law enforcement officials, they are not able to freely express themselves, they feel unsafe. Our law-enforcement officials are supposed to protect us. We are not supposed to be scared of them. Going forward, I would like a full investigation launched into all the accusations that have been labelled against SARS officers and other officers of the police force because there needs to be accountability for the actions that have been committed by officers of the force. I also want a reform of the entire police force so that we can have a humane police force that works for the people.” [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Esia, 24, lawyer: "I am protesting because I am a Nigerian. I have been affected directly and I definitely have a role to play. I am so pained because they have killed our brothers in cold blood for no reason. We are one Nigeria. There are different tribes here and they have all been affected. I want police brutality to end. Nigeria has to be better; if it doesn’t happen, we are all going to suffer for it." [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]
Esia, 24, lawyer: “I am protesting because I am a Nigerian. I have been affected directly and I definitely have a role to play. I am so pained because they have killed our brothers in cold blood for no reason. We are one Nigeria. There are different tribes here and they have all been affected. I want police brutality to end. Nigeria has to be better; if it doesn’t happen, we are all going to suffer for it.” [Etinosa Yvonne/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera

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