End Sars: Nigerian army warning amid anti-police brutality protests

The Nigerian military has issued a warning to “subversive elements and trouble makers” to desist after a week of protests about police brutality.

The warning came as protesters were attacked by unidentified men with machetes in the capital, Abuja.

Demonstrations against police brutality have taken place in cities across Nigeria in the past week.

The protests have continued despite authorities agreeing to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars).

This unit has been accused of extrajudicial killings, extortion and torture, especially of young people.

What did the army say?

The army spokesman Col Sagir Musa said in a Facebook post that “The NA (Nigerian army) hereby warns all subversive elements and trouble makers to desist from such acts as it remains highly committed to defend the country and her democracy at all cost”.

He went on to offer to “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively”.

The statement has been received as a veiled threat by protesters, reports the BBC’s Chris Ewokor from Abuja.

What happened with the attack on the protesters?

On Wednesday, protesters against police violence in Abuja were attacked by a group of unidentified men with machetes.

Witnesses said several hundred demonstrators were gathered in the city centre when the attack took place.

One protester said some of the assailants were later detained and handed over to the authorities.

There are also reports of similar attacks on protesters in Lagos on Thursday.

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Will the army step in?

By Nduka Orjinmo, BBC News, Lagos

If the president accepts the army’s offer to step in, it means the government hasn’t learnt from past mistakes – it would be trying to solve new problems with old solutions that never worked before.

Nigeria’s army has a bloody history quelling civil disobedience.

The army coming in could make everything that has happened in the last week – with the deaths of at least 10 people caused by the protests, and the notoriety of the now disbanded Sars – look like child’s play.

The generation leading the protests has no experience of military rule – which ended in 1999 – and its brutal repressions of civil disobedience, so it’s hard to know how they will react.

But if there’s anything the last week has shown, it is that this group doesn’t give up easily.

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How did the protests start?

The protests started following the alleged killing of a young man by officers from the Sars unit at the beginning of October.

Protesters called for the Sars unit to be disbanded.

Police use water cannons to disperse people protesting against alleged brutality by members of Nigeria"s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Abuja, Nigeria October 11, 2020.
image captionThe police have used water cannon and tear gas to disperse some of the protests

The police closed down the unit and announced a new unit – the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team.

But protesters rejected the announcement, as many see the changes as not enough to reform the police.

The protests have attracted worldwide attention – most recently the CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey tweeted his support for the protests.

Those working in Nigeria’s tech sector have been prominent among those complaining about the activities of Sars officers.

Nigeria superstars Wizkid and Davido have also backed the protesters.

What are the accusations against Sars?

From theft to violent attacks to murder, people have been sharing their experiences at the hands of Sars.

Obianuju Iloanya told BBC Newsday that her brother Chijioke disappeared eight years ago after being arrested by Sars officers.

The family was told by an officer he had been killed but were not shown his body.

The officers later denied arresting him.

“Up to now we don’t know whether he is alive or not,” Ms Iloanya said.

She told the BBC she joined the protests to get justice for her brother.

“I do not just demand for Sars to be ended, I want accountability, I want justice. They cannot just tell us Sars has been ended. We want closure.”

“It’s painful, it’s not enough for us, it doesn’t do anything for us because these officers who might have killed these boys are going scot-free with no justice.”

Source BBC
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