Showing posts with label activism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label activism. Show all posts

Monday, March 11, 2024

Omoyele Sowore jailed for 4 years in Nigeria reunites with family

Omoyele Sowore who was detained in Nigeria for four years was reunited with his family in Haworth over the weekend.

Omoyele “Yele” Sowore had been jailed since August 2019 after running for president and organizing a protest in the West African nation.

“I stand today to declare that I am unbowed,” Sowore wrote in a tweet ahead of a celebratory gathering on Saturday.

Sowore lived with his family in Haworth and traveled back and forth to Nigeria prior to his arrest in August 2019. He also operated an independent news site, Sahara Reporters, that criticized corruption in the country.

In 2019, Sowore ran a long-shot presidential campaign in Nigeria and called for a protest following the election. Before the demonstration could occur, Sowore was arrested and charged with treason.

As his legal case took several twists and turns, Sowore’s family spread the word in New Jersey and organized calls for his return.

“During these difficult years, the entire Haworth community has united around the Sowore family and demonstrated what it means to live with Jersey Values, selflessly lending a hand to those in your community who needed help,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) said in a statement.

Sowore said despite his triumphant return, he still plans to return to Nigeria and continue fighting corruption.

“My trip today to reunite with my children and courageous and supportive wife is only for a short while,” he tweeted. “I will return to Nigeria to continue my struggle for the total liberation of our people from the shackles of the current corrupt, self-serving political class.” 

By Joeseph Wilkinson, New York Daily News

Related story: Journalist Omoyele Sowore still remains in detention in Nigeria

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

'The system is rigged': Seun Kuti on reviving Fela's political party

The musician and youngest son of the Afrobeat legend has been galvanised to act after police brutality in Nigeria


“For 60 years nothing has really been solved in this country,” Seun Kuti says. “Healthcare, education, electricity, transportation, welfare – nothing has been accomplished.”

Galvanised by the brutality meted out by Nigerian police against protesters in October last year, the 37-year-old Grammy-nominated musician and youngest son of the Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti resurrected his father’s socialist political party, the Movement of the People. Against a backdrop of widespread and mounting frustration over how Nigeria is run, he hopes the MOP can be a vehicle for change in 2021.

The “weird” past year was, he says, compounded by peculiarly Nigerian challenges. In October Kuti marched alongside thousands of others in the #EndSars protests against police brutality, nursing the wounds of shot demonstrators. The protests, some of the largest in Nigeria for decades, erupted after footage emerged of police brutality by the notorious Sars unit. But the underlying causes were broader, Kuti says. “The people made it known that EndSars was a slogan. How I interpreted it was they wanted an end to oppression, not just a manifestation of it that is Sars.”

More recently, he lost his band leader, Dave Obayendo. “We couldn’t even tell whether it was Covid or not, he wasn’t tested,” Kuti says. “The hospital turned him back. Before they took him to the next hospital, he died in the car.” The rejection of patients by hospitals is rife, he says, sometimes for issues such as a lack of adequate equipment.

The MOP was founded in 1979 by Fela before his sole, failed presidential bid, one episode of an extraordinary life of music and resistance during which he faced near-endless violence and suppression by Nigerian authorities.

According to Kuti, the prospects for anti-establishment parties, though still remote, are better now. “Today it will be easier for such a message to reach the core of Nigerian people than it was in the 70s. The problems are so glaring,” he says. “Elites have imposed this sinister, anti-poor capitalist system, going on for years and years, but are people really in favour of it? How can you be a capitalist with no capital? You’ll begin to see that the system is rigged.”

Kuti hopes the new version of the MOP, which brings together an array of small leftwing activist groups, will more effectively articulate these issues, “giving the masses a voice and building class consciousness”. But he scoffs at the prospect of a presidential run and says the group’s aims are long-term. “No, that’s not me. I’m an artist. But we will have candidates across the country for sure,” he says.

“The military hierarchy has consistently made sure that they are the ones in power, we have to put an end to it. We have to build a mass movement from the grassroots up, giving ordinary Nigerians a platform.”

A bleak sense of deja vu feels hard to ignore in Nigeria. In the 1980s Muhammadu Buhari, who is now the president, was a military dictator and a prime target of Fela’s ceaselessly political songwriting. Then as now, economic suffering, a weakening currency and a flailing anti-corruption campaign were causing widespread dismay.

The killing of scores of protesters by army and police officials in October, including at the Lekki tollgate area of Lagos, was one of several episodes where protesters and critics were attacked, arrested or met with state aggression.

“During one protest a guy came to my house who had a gunshot wound in his side like this,” Kuti says, gesturing to his torso. “People talk about the Lekki massacre but they shot people everywhere, people were shot to death all over Lagos.”

MOP’s first meeting was due to be held in December at Fela’s old club, Afrika Shrine, a bohemian enclave where he often performed. But scores of armed police surrounded the building and banned them from organising, so the meeting was held elsewhere.

“It just shows that they [the authorities] are spooked,” Kuti says. “They are trying to send a message, but they can’t stop what we’re doing.”

Rolling joints with his own self-branded rolling paper, Kuti describes how the absence of touring over the last year has been hard. “I miss my band, we had plans last year that were cancelled, but I’m hopeful we’ll start things up again this year,” he says. Playing his saxophone, he says, brings him joy.

Although music, family, and new business ventures to offset the lack of performing are time-consuming, political change is front of mind.

“Maybe it can be hard to be hopeful but I’m hopeful, Kuti says. “We want to set up different ways of reaching out to the masses because frankly they are ignored. We can’t bring change without the people, so giving them a voice is the most important thing.”

By Emmanuel Akinwotu

The Guardian

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Nigeria's army admits its soldiers were at Lagos shootings

Nigeria's army has admitted its soldiers were deployed at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos where live rounds were fired last week, killing several peaceful protesters prompting global outrage.

At least 10 protesters were killed in the Lekki plaza shooting on Oct. 20, according to Amnesty International, which charged Wednesday that army troops opened fire on protesters without provocation.

The army had previously maintained that its troops were not at the site of the shooting, but Tuesday night a military spokesman, Maj. Osoba Olaniyi, reversed that position, saying soldiers had been deployed there to enforce a curfew. However, he denied that the troops shot at the protesters.

"At no time did soldiers of the Nigerian army open fire on any civilian," Olaniyi said in a statement.

The military's admission of its presence at the plaza came after Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said security camera footage showed Nigerian soldiers firing at the peaceful protesters at Lekki plaza.

Olaniyi said soldiers were deployed on orders from the Lagos state government, but the governor has said the state has no authority over the national army. Many Nigerians question why the soldiers were deployed at the peaceful protest, in which thousands had gathered at the Lekki plaza.

Amnesty International issued a report Wednesday, citing security camera footage that it said shows army vehicles leaving the Bonny Camp barracks and arriving at Lekki plaza shortly before shots were fired.

"What happened at Lekki Toll Gate has all the traits of the Nigerian authorities' pattern of a coverup whenever their defence and security forces commit unlawful killings," said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty's Nigeria country director.

"Nigerian authorities still have many questions to answer: Who ordered the use of lethal force on peaceful protesters? Why were CCTV cameras on the scene dismantled in advance? And who ordered electricity to be turned off minutes before the military opened fire on protesters?" Ojibho asked.

"Many people are still missing since the day of the incident, and credible evidence shows that the military prevented ambulances from reaching the severely injured in the aftermath," he said.

A judicial panel has begun investigating the shooting. The panel is also investigating allegations of abuse against the police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS.

A widespread .EndSARS campaign erupted in Nigeria in early October after a video circulated showing a man being beaten, apparently by SARS officers. The peaceful, organized protests disrupted traffic in Lagos and many other Nigerian cities. President Muhammadu Buhari's government agreed to disband the SARS unit, but the protests continued with participants demanding sweeping reforms of police and action against corruption.

Although the protests were largely peaceful, at least 56 people have died across the country since the protests began, according to Amnesty, which accused security forces of using unnecessary force. On Oct. 20 the government imposed a curfew, ordering everyone to stay at home and that evening the shootings occurred at Lekki plaza. For two days after that Lagos saw widespread rioting. In order to restore order in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city with more than 14 million people, officials have imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m.

By Sam Olukoya

CTV 

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Nigeria considers social media regulation in wake of deadly shooting

Nigeria’s information minister said “some form of regulation” could be imposed on social media just a week after protesters spread images and videos of a deadly shooting using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Images, video and an Instagram live feed from a popular DJ spread news of shootings in Lagos on Oct. 20, when witnesses and rights groups said the military fired on peaceful protesters.

The protesters had been demonstrating for nearly two weeks to demand an end to police brutality. The army denied its soldiers were there.

Social media helped spread word of the shootings worldwide, and international celebrities from Beyonce and Lewis Hamilton to Pope Francis since called on the country to resolve the conflict peacefully.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed told a panel at the National Assembly on Tuesday that “fake news” is one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria.

A spokesman for the minister confirmed the comments, and said “the use of the social media to spread fake news and disinformation means there is the need to do something about it.”

Officials have said some videos and photos posted during the protests were fake news but have not said that about the shootings.

In the weeks before the shootings, protesters had also used social media to organise, raise money and share what they said was proof of police harassment, which increased pressure on authorities to respond to their demands.

Twitter Inc TWTR.N CEO Jack Dorsey Tweeted to encouraged his followers to contribute, and the hashtag #EndSARS was trending for several days, referencing the widely feared Special Anti-Robbery Squad that they successfully demanded be abolished.

Reuters

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Nigeria looting hits capital

Huge crowds ransacked food warehouses in Nigeria's capital Abuja on Monday in the latest looting to hit the country during a wave of unrest.

Lines of residents could be seen carrying away sacks of supplies meant for distribution during coronavirus lockdowns as authorities struggled to halt the pillaging.

"We are hungry, you understand," a man with a package of noodles in his hand told AFP.

"There is plenty of food in this country but people are suffering. The government is cheating us by parking away this food."

"We are not stealing, it's our food and our right."

The minister for the federal capital, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, told local media that a number of government and private warehouses were vandalised.

The looting comes after days of violent rioting in Nigeria following the shooting of unarmed protesters in largest city Lagos on Tuesday.

The situation has calmed in Lagos and elsewhere but widespread pillaging of government supplies has been reported across the country.

Authorities have slapped round-the-clock curfews on a string of regions and the police chief has ordered the mobilisation of all forces.

Fuelling the anger are accusations officials have horded much-needed food supposed to have been handed out to the poor during lockdowns earlier this year.

A coalition of state governors has denied allegations of graft and said the supplies were held back as a "strategic reserve" in case of a second wave of the virus.

But activists said that authorities needed to be more transparent.

"It's now vital that the federal and state government clarify why the palliatives had not been disbursed, investigate and prosecute anyone implicated in corruption," said Anietie Ewang of Human Rights Watch.

Peaceful protests against police brutality erupted on October 8 and quickly turned into one of the biggest challenges to Nigeria's ruling elite in years.

Chaos spiralled after peaceful protesters were gunned down in central Lagos on Tuesday, sparking international outrage and violent rioting.

Amnesty International said the army and police killed 12 protesters in that incident, and 56 people have died overall since the demonstrations started.

The chief of army staff on Monday insisted soldiers have "continued to exercise restraint" and blamed a "smokescreen of falsehood and deliberate misrepresentation of facts being orchestrated by enemies of Nigeria".

"We will not allow any force, elements or destabilising agents in or outside our country to set our beloved country on fire," General Tukur Yusufu Buratai said in a statement.

AFP

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Nigerian Citizens Justify Massive Looting of COVID-19 Supplies

Amid the ongoing protests in Nigeria over police brutality, mobs of citizens have overrun several government-owned warehouses and looted food meant to be distributed during this year’s coronavirus lockdowns. In the latest incident, a mob looted packages of rice, sugar, salt and noodles Monday from a facility in the Nigerian capital.On Saturday, security officials dispersed mobs at another storage facility under attack in Abuja.

Some protesters were demonstrating in front of a facility in Garki, Abuja, as military and police vans barricaded the entrance to the facility.

Earlier, mobs of people trying to attack the facility and make away with some food items were dispersed after security officials fired their guns into the air.

But many, like David Ojo, remained adamant and said they wouldn't leave until they got some food.

"We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor almost died of hunger because of COVID-19," said Ojo. "He used to work as security guard at a government institution, but he was sacked. What do you want him to do? I gave him beans and rice, he almost died of hunger."

Storage facilities holding tons of relief materials have been burglarized and looted in nine states across Nigeria over the last few days.

A private sector coalition against the coronavirus, known as CA-COVID, had collected tens of millions of dollars' worth of aid for coronavirus victims and given it to the government.

But many state authorities have halted distribution of the aid since the easing of lockdowns.

Some Nigerians accuse authorities of hoarding items while millions of people experience hunger.

Abuja residents like Sunday Chukwu say they didn't receive any government assistance during lockdowns.

"They didn't share anything here," said Chukwu. "Maybe they shared for themselves. But they didn't share for everybody and these ones now they are hiding it so that people may leave it, they'll now gather them, they'll be selling it to the people."

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated hunger for many of the country’s extremely poor, who number some 83 million, about 40 percent of the population, according to the country’s statistics bureau.

Vivian Bellonwu, the head of Social Action Nigeria, says the amount of food kept in storage is an indication of “systemic failure.”

"To think that certain persons could lock down this quantum of food and materials as we are seeing them in their premises, in their custody and watching while people wallow in poverty and difficulty, is really unthinkable," said Bellonwu. "I think that it is quite mean, I think it's highly insensitive and I think that this is a betrayal of trust of the people.”

The Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) on Monday said the looted items in warehouses in some states were being held for vulnerable people, not hoarded.

As security officials monitor facilities across Nigeria more closely, various state authorities are making plans to commence distribution.

By Timothy Obiezu

VOA

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Monday, October 26, 2020

Nigeria seeks to halt looting amid fury over ‘food warehouses’

Nigerian security forces are struggling to contain increasing cases of looting on government-run warehouses across the country, in the latest incident of unrest following widespread, youth-led protests against police brutality.

The storage facilities hold tonnes of relief materials including food meant for distribution during lockdowns previously enforced to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.


While the distribution programme had been temporarily halted across several states in the country in recent months, it emerged this week relief items were still stored in some of these facilities, as well as the private homes of politicians.

The news angered many in the country with the biggest number of people living in extreme poverty globally.

“The food items belong to Nigerians. Why are they hiding them? This is wickedness. How do you hide food from hungry people?” asked Ibironke Babalola, a resident of Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

“There are many families who are struggling to even get just one meal a day, yet we have food in warehouses that were kept by some politicians,” the 41-year-old told Al Jazeera.

Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters have taken to the streets across Nigeria this month to demand an end to police violence and other sweeping reforms.

Amid rising tensions, criminals this week vandalised public buildings and damaged property while others took advantage of the unrest to attack the warehouses holding food items and other supplies.

On Saturday, police officers in the capital, Abuja, shot sporadically into the air and used tear gas to disperse residents who had approached a warehouse.

It was a different scenario in the southern city of Calabar where security forces were unable to stop the ransacking of homes of local politicians, where the attackers suspected some of the COVID-19 relief materials were being kept.

In Ilorin, in central Kwara state, security officers faced difficulties in containing attacks on a government facility in recent days. The state governor has declared a 24-hour curfew to prevent further escalation of violence.

Authorities in Adamawa state, in the country’s northeast, also imposed a round-the-clock curfew on Sunday after looters attacked a large food warehouse.

Home to more than 200 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s top oil exporter.

But according to the National Bureau of Statistics, almost 83 million people, or 40 percent of the population, live below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) a year, with millions depending on daily income for survival.

Some states which have previously suspended handing out coronavirus relief materials had pledged to resume distribution of the food items to poor residents – but some were unconvinced.

“Big fat lie,” said Effiong Zachariah, an Abuja resident.

“Some of the food items people found in the warehouses had gone bad,” the 35-year-old told Al Jazeera. “It shows you how wicked our people are. What would it cost them to share these rice and other items amongst the poor? People are hungry and they need to eat,” he added.

“The government should ensure that the warehouses still having food in them should be opened and the food distributed to avoid further clashes between security forces and poor Nigerians looking for food.”

Government officials have issued statements urging looters to stay away from warehouses and called on the police to arrest and prosecute those breaking the law.

On Saturday, Muhammed Adamu, inspector general of police, said he had ordered the “immediate mobilisation” of all police resources “to bring an end to the wanton violence, killings, looting and destruction of public and private property, and reclaim the public space from criminal elements masquerading as protesters in some parts of the country”.

Meanwhile, some government agencies warned looters against the consumption of some of the stolen items.

“Some people even made away with pre-fermented corns preserved for planting. All these items are poisonous and not fit for consumption,” Akin Omole, Ekiti state’s commissioner for information and civic orientation, said in a statement.

“We, therefore, appeal to our people not to consume these items because they can kill,” Omole said.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil rights organisation, expressed disappointment at the non-distribution of food items to poor Nigerians and called for an urgent inquiry.

“Unless promptly investigated, the allegations of hoarding and diversion would undermine public trust in any efforts to bring the spread of the pandemic under control, exacerbate the negative impact of the crisis, and deny those most in need access to basic necessities of life,” SERAP stated.

According to SERAP, “the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in several states and the apparent failure to timely, effectively, efficiently and transparently distribute the palliatives to the poorest and most vulnerable people have continued to deny many citizens the much-needed support.”

By FidelisMbah

Al Jazeera

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Nigerian president leaves protest shootings out of speech

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari spoke to the nation about the unrest that has gripped the nation in recent days but without mentioning the shootings of peaceful protesters at Lekki toll plaza on Tuesday night that prompted international outrage.

The military opened fire without warning on thousands of peaceful protesters singing the national anthem Tuesday night, killing at least 12 people, according to Amnesty International.

The shootings have been widely condemned but Buhari did not speak of them at all during his Thursday address, instead urging calm.

Demonstrations began early this month with calls for Nigeria's government to shut down the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit known as SARS. The squad was launched to fight crime, but it carried out torture and killings, according to Amnesty International.

But on Tuesday night security forces fired without warning into crowds of thousands of protesters singing Nigeria's national anthem, killing 12, Amnesty said. The Nigeria military has denied shooting at the protesters.

Violent unrest erupted Wednesday in Lagos as mobs vandalized and burned police stations, courthouses, TV stations and a hotel. Smoke billowed from several locations in the city as police battled angry crowds with tear gas and gunfire.

Looting and gunfire continued in Nigeria's second-largest city on Thursday.

Looting gangs stormed through parts of Nigeria's largest city Thursday, spreading violence for a second day in Lagos in the wake of two weeks of peaceful protests against police brutality.

Plumes of smoke rose from a prison where gunfire could be heard, and a resident of the neighbourhood where the Ikoyi Correctional Center is located, Tunde Oguntola, said he heard gunshots as soldiers and police officers put down what appeared to be an attempted jailbreak.

Police spokesman Olamuyiwa Adejobi told The Associated Press later Thursday that an incident inside the prison "has been put under control as our men have moved in there to assist prison security." He did not describe the nature of the disturbance or say if anyone had been killed.

Gangs continued to vandalize properties in Lagos, he said. The police spokesman distinguished the "hoodlums" from the thousands of demonstrators who had been peacefully protesting police brutality on the city's streets.

"They are looting properties, looting shopping malls and attacking ATM machines," Adejobi said.

Scores of rioters broke into a warehouse and stole food. Gunfire was heard in several parts of Lagos. By the afternoon, eight people with bullet wounds had been taken to Ikeja General Hospital, said a medic who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to journalists.

In other parts of the sprawling city of 14 million, the streets were empty and shops were shuttered, as residents largely obeyed a government curfew meant to curb the chaos. Protesters active on social media disavowed the violence, saying their demonstrations had been hijacked by criminals.

The .EndSARS demonstrations began early this month with calls for Nigeria's government to shut down the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit known as SARS. The squad was launched to fight crime, but it carried out torture and killings, according to Amnesty International.

The government has agreed to disband the unit, but the protesters broadened their demands to include more widespread reforms to end human rights abuses and pervasive government corruption.

Nigeria has massive oil wealth and one of Africa's largest economies, but many of the country's more than 200 million people live with high poverty levels and without basic services because of rampant graft, according to rights groups.

The protesters who were on the streets earlier blocked traffic throughout Lagos and other cities in Nigeria but were peaceful, although 10 people died during the demonstrations, according to Amnesty International, which accused authorities of using unnecessary force.

But on Tuesday night security forces fired without warning into crowds of thousands of protesters singing Nigeria's national anthem, killing 12, Amnesty said. The shootings drew international outrage and new attention from around the globe to the protests.

Violent unrest erupted Wednesday in Lagos as mobs vandalized and burned police stations, courthouses, TV stations and a hotel. Smoke billowed from several locations in the city as police battled angry crowds with tear gas and gunfire.

President Muhammadu Buhari -- who has been largely silent about the protests engulfing his country -- was set to address the nation Thursday night.

Activists in the U.S.-based Black Lives Matter movement issued a statement Thursday in support of Nigeria's anti-police brutality protesters.

"We join others around the world in demanding the Nigerian government end the attack on protesters and we call for justice for those who have been injured and killed by all Nigerian forces," said the statement from the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 grassroots groups that make up the broader Black American liberation movement.

Following a summertime surge of U.S. and international protests over the killing of Black people by law enforcement, the BLM activists said the reason Nigerians were demanding an end to SARS is the same reason Black Americans have called for the defunding of police.

"The epidemic of police violence against Black people in a country led by Black faces proves what we have said time and again: violence imposed by law enforcement is about more than a few bad apples, the institution itself is irredeemable and exists to use violence to maintain a false sense of order in an unequal and unjust society," the statement read. "We are one movement, one people, and we stand with the people of Nigeria."

Also Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement strongly condemning "the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury."

"We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law," the State Department said.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office in the Netherlands was closely following the events around the current protests in Nigeria and the reaction of Nigeria's law enforcement and security agencies.

"Any loss of life and injury is concerning. We have received information alleging crimes and are keeping a close eye on developments, in case violence escalates ... I call for calm and restraint."

By Sam Olukoya

CTV

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Nigerians in Toronto worry for safety of relatives as police, protesters clash back home

The Nigerian community in Toronto is watching with growing worry and anger as violent clashes between police and protesters continue to escalate in Africa's most populous nation.

"My family is not safe. My mother, my sister, my father, my brothers ... just because the government failed what it's supposed to do," said Olalekan Taiwo, who moved to Toronto a few years ago from the west African country's largest city, Lagos.

"It's chaos right now. The killing is so massive," Taiwo told CBC Toronto Thursday.

Nigeria came into the global spotlight after two weeks of nationwide protests. A video showing officers from a police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) killing a man in Delta state sparked outrage. Police denied the incident happened but the violence has led to renewed anger, with thousands of Nigerians taking to streets to call for law enforcement reforms and an end to police brutality.

"It's overwhelming, and I'm a little traumatized," said Chelsea Coker, another Nigerian local in Toronto. "I haven't slept in two days."

The police unit was disbanded on Oct. 11 but protests persist, and so does the violence. On Tuesday, there were reports of police shooting into a crowd of protesters, killing several people. Since then, the country has seen an escalation in demonstrations with looting and fires erupting across the streets.

On Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari spoke to protesters directly and put Lagos under a round-the-clock curfew enforced by police roadblocks, as smoke rose from a flashpoint area in Lagos where soldiers shot at protesters the previous evening, witnesses said. The Lagos state governor said 30 people were hurt in the shooting at a toll gate in the Lekki district.
Calls on Ottawa to step in

Protests in Toronto supporting those in Nigeria have also flared up as the local community calls on the Canadian government to take action. Another protest is planned for Saturday at Yonge-Dundas Square beginning at noon.

"No one should ever have to die exercising their human right; no one should ever have to die for peace; no one should ever have to die for prosperity of a nation," said Patience Evabagharu, one of the organizers behind the Toronto demonstrations.

"It is our human right to do peaceful protest."

Evabagharu is with the City Youth Council of Toronto, a non-profit aimed at engaging youth in civic participation in the city.

"We are saying no to SARS, we're saying no to bad governance. We're saying no to corruption. And we stand in solidarity no matter where we are in the world."

CBC Toronto reached out to Global Affairs Canada, who referred us to the Minister of Foreign Affair's tweet from Wednesday.

"I contacted my counterpart from Nigeria to express Canada's deep concerns following reports of excessive use of force, injuries and deaths, during the ongoing protests," Fran├žois-Philippe Champagne tweeted.

"Those responsible for human rights violations and abuse must be held accountable."

Members of the local Nigerian community in Toronto say they're not giving up.

"We in the diaspora, we have the opportunity because we're safe to speak with everyone who cares to listen to help people back home," said Coker.

CBC

Related stories: Video - Is SARS gone or has it been rebranded?

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Video - Waving flags, they sang Nigeria’s anthem. Then they were shot at

 

Nigerian protesters have defied a curfew during a face-off with security forces, as demonstrations against police brutality threaten to paralyse the nation. The rights group Amnesty International says at least 12 people were killed in Lagos on Tuesday night, blaming the violence on the military. The protests started two weeks ago over a police unit accused of murder, extortion and disappearances. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from the capital, Abuja, Nigeria.

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Nigerian forces killed 12 peaceful protesters, Amnesty says

Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday that Nigeria's security forces fired upon two large gatherings of peaceful protesters Tuesday night, killing 12 people calling for an end to police brutality.

At least 56 people have died during two weeks of widespread demonstrations against police violence, including 38 on Tuesday, the group said. The Nigerian government did not immediately comment about Amnesty International's allegations.

The .EndSARS protests began amid calls for Nigeria's government to close the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS, but has become a much wider demand for better governance in Nigeria.

Despite the growing violence, the Nigerian protesters defied a curfew and faced off with security forces Wednesday as gunfire rang out and fires burned in Lagos, a day after shots were fired into a crowd of demonstrators singing the country's national anthem.

The security forces opened fire without warning on the protesters Tuesday night at the Lekki toll plaza, Amnesty said in its report, citing eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports.

"Opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people's rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Soldiers clearly had one intention - to kill without consequences," said Osai Ojigho, country director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

Amnesty said it has received reports that shortly before the shootings, CCTV security cameras at the Lekki toll gates, where protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and electricity was cut to prevent evidence emerging of the violence.

Some of those killed and injured at the toll plaza and in Alausa, another Lagos neighbourhood, were taken away by the military, Amnesty alleged in the report.

"These shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions. There must be an immediate investigation and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through fair trials," said Ojigho.

Amnesty's report backs up posts and images on social media that have shown widespread violence against protesters.

Amid global outrage, Nigeria's military denied responsibility for the Lekki shootings, posting a tweet that labeled several reports as fake news.

More gunfire rang out across Lagos on Wednesday and into the night, including at the Lekki toll plaza, where young demonstrators rallied again despite an order for everyone to stay off the streets. At the sound of the shots, some protesters were seen on a live broadcast by The Associated Press running away, though it wasn't clear if the crowd was fired upon.

Police also fired tear gas at bands of demonstrators and smoke was seen billowing from several areas in the city's centre. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily when their offices were burned by unidentified attackers.

"People are aggrieved over the deaths. They are aggrieved by police violence and they are going out on the streets to show their anger," said Lagos resident Michael Oladapo Abiodun, who said he has supported protesters on social media.

Demonstrations and gunfire were also reported in several other Nigerian cities, including the capital city, Abuja.

In response to the .EndSARS movement, the government announced it would disband the unit, which Amnesty International says has been responsible for many cases of torture and killings. But that has failed to satisfy demonstrators, who are now demanding more widespread reforms to end human rights abuses committed by security forces of all stripes and pervasive government corruption.

Though Nigeria has massive oil wealth, and is one of Africa's largest economies, many of its more than 200 million people face high levels of poverty and lack basic services -- because of rampant graft, according to rights groups.

The protests drew increased international attention after videos were posted on social media in which gunfire could be heard echoing over protesters as they sang the national anthem at the Lekki toll plaza in the darkness Tuesday night.

It's not clear in the videos who was firing, but many agree with the Amnesty report that Nigeria's military is responsible. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said "there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces."

Lagos governor Obajide Sanwo-Olu has ordered an investigation into the military's actions at Lekki plaza. He said that 25 people were injured and one person had died from blunt trauma to the head.

President Muhammadu Buhari -- who has said little about the protests engulfing his country -- did not mention the Lekki shootings in a statement Wednesday but issued a call for calm and vowed police reforms.

Buhari's statement said the dissolution of the SARS unit "is the first step in a set of reform policies that will deliver a police system accountable to the Nigerian people."

Nigeria's spiraling crisis has drawn international attention, and denunciations of the violence by foreign dignitaries and celebrities, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden and Beyonce.

Anti-riot police are being deployed across Nigeria and security has been strengthened around correctional facilities, the inspector-general of police announced. On Tuesday, authorities said nearly 2,000 inmates had broken out of jail after crowds attacked two correctional facilities a day earlier.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Video - Is SARS gone or has it been rebranded?

 

Nigeria authorities say they have abolished a notorious police unit after a week of huge protests sparked by a viral video that showed two officers shooting a man - but demonstrators are not convinced by the move.

The protests, during which Amnesty International says at least 10 people were killed, have continued. Activists say disbanding the Special Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was not enough and that campaigning will continue until there is root and branch reform of the police force and an independent investigation into abuses.

President Muhammadu Buhari insists “extensive police reforms" will take place. The country's top police officer has promised to investigate allegations of abuse involving SARS officers and ensure former officers go through a medical and psychological evaluation before being reassigned. Protesters, though, are sceptical. 

An announcement that a new unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics team (SWAT), would be formed to replace SARS prompted activists to claim the unit was simply being rebranded. The #EndSars movement on social media was quick to launch a second campaigning hashtag, #EndSwat. 

SARS has been around since 1992 and has repeatedly been accused of corruption, torture, arrests and extrajudicial killing. The #EndSars hashtag was first used in 2017 when other videos of alleged abuse went viral. 

Amnesty International documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial killings between January 2017 and May this year - the victims mainly men aged between 18 and 35. 

In this episode of The Stream, we'll discuss the latest developments in this-fast moving story, ask why it has galvanized Nigerians both at home and abroad, and look ahead to what may happen next.

Al Jazeera 

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Soldiers open fire on Nigerian protesters in Lagos, witnesses say

Soldiers opened fire on Nigerian protesters in the Lekki district of the commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday, shooting at least two people, three witnesses told Reuters.

Protesters have demonstrated for more than a week over allegations of police brutality in Nigeria.

"They started firing ammunition toward the crowd. They were firing into the crowd," said Alfred Ononugbo, 55, a security officer. "I saw the bullet hit one or two persons," he said.

Lagos state government said it would open an investigation into the shooting, which witnesses said took place around 7 p.m. local time.

"There have been reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza," Gboyega Akosile, a spokesperson for the governor, said on Twitter. "The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident," he said in another tweet.

A Nigerian army spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Inyene Akpan, 26, a photographer, said more than 20 soldiers arrived at the toll gate in Lekki and opened fire. He said he saw two people being shot.

Akinbosola Ogunsanya, a third witness, said he saw around 10 people being shot. He also said he saw soldiers remove bodies.

A Reuters witness heard sirens and gunfire.

Authorities on Tuesday imposed a round-the-clock curfew on Lagos, which contains Africa's biggest city, in response to the protests, which the state governor said had turned violent.

The national police chief also ordered the immediate deployment of anti-riot forces nationwide following increased attacks on police facilities, a police spokesperson said.
Amnesty calls reports 'credible'

Amnesty International said late Tuesday there was "credible but disturbing evidence" that security forces had fatally shot protesters in Lagos.

The Lagos state commissioner for information, Gbenga Omotoso, said in a statement Tuesday night only that "there have been reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza following the 24-hour curfew imposed on Lagos."

"The state government has ordered an investigation into the incident," he said.

Video shown on Nigeria's Channels Television appeared to capture audio of live rounds being fired at the scene.

CBC

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Official warns protests in Nigeria could speed up COVID-19 transmission

As tens of thousands of demonstrators continue to take to the streets across Nigeria against extra-judicial killings and brutality by police, a senior official warned that mass gatherings may speed up COVID-19 transmission in the next two weeks.

The prediction was due to a total disregard for the preventive measures against the virus exhibited by thousands of citizens protesting in the ongoing #Endsars campaign across various cities in the country, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the Federal Government and chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, told the media in Abuja on Monday.

Thousands of Nigerians in the past days took to the streets across the country to protest against reported police brutality, harassment and extra-judicial killings by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit for anti-robbery purpose.

According to Mustapha, any mass gathering that does not adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions that have been put in place, which include wearing masks, social distancing, keeping personal hygiene and avoiding mass gatherings, could become super spreader events.

"So I can say with a definitive voice that two weeks from today, get everybody that congregated in those places...we would definitely be contending with an increase in infections," Mustapha told reporters.

According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, the country's tally of COVID-19 infections has hit 61,558 with 118 new cases on Monday. 

 Xinhua

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Nigerian Protesters Shut Down Africa’s Largest City, Escalating Standoff With Government


Tens of thousands of protesters brought the largest city in Africa to a standstill on Monday, mounting the biggest demonstration in a two-week campaign against police brutality and escalating a standoff with a government that has pledged to restore order.

Groups of placard-waving protesters blocked major roads across Lagos, Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital and home to an estimated 20 million people. The city’s Ibadan expressway, the country’s busiest road, was blocked by groups chanting: “We want change.” Protesters closed off the city’s airport and stormed the terminal. In a city infamous for hourslong traffic jams, columns of Lagos residents could be seen walking along emptied streets and causeways.


The Lagos protests were the largest of a series of demonstrations on Monday across the West African nation of 206 million people that appeared to significantly raise the temperature between demonstrators and the government.

Nigeria’s army deployed to several intersections in the capital, Abuja, at sites of a planned protest, while police fired tear gas, days after local authorities issued an executive order banning demonstrations in the city. Over the weekend, Defense Minister Bashir Magashi warned protesters against breaching national security and the information minister, Lai Mohammed, said the government wouldn’t “fold its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy.”

Protesters in Lagos accuse the government of deploying agitators to create a pretext for a crackdown, a charge the government denies.

“I know they will try to bring the military to make us scared,” said Gbenga Abioye, a student taking part in a Lagos protest blocking access to Murtala Muhammed airport, where young people sang with raised fists as the national anthem blared through tinny speakers. “We aren’t going to fight. But we will stay on the streets.”

The escalating rhetoric raises the prospect of a showdown between President Muhammadu Buhari and a protest movement that has evolved from a single-issue campaign into a more diffuse protest against alleged government corruption, economic mismanagement and nepotism.

The protests have flared in a context of profound economic malaise, as a an oil-price crash and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic have slammed Nigeria’s economy, which is failing to keep pace with rapid population growth. More than 55% of Nigerians are underemployed or unemployed and youth unemployment is even higher, according to official statistics. More than 90% of Nigerians work in the informal sector, meaning the government’s lockdown of major cities to slow the spread of the new coronavirus deprived tens of millions of people of the cash they need to survive.

Mr. Buhari, a former general who briefly ruled Nigeria at the head of a military junta in the 1980s before returning as elected civilian president in 2015, has deployed the army against other protests in recent years, including in 2018, where government forces killed 45 Shiite Muslims marching to support a jailed cleric. He has urged the protesters to give the government time to address their concerns.

The current protests began with demands to ban a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, which was long accused of extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings. The largely peaceful protests, organized under the hashtag #EndSARS, won the backing of celebrities and business leaders around the world, including the rapper Kanye West and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, who urged people to support protesters by donating bitcoin.

Nigerian diaspora communities in the U.S. and Europe have attended street protests in solidarity with a movement that has sought to bridge the country’s traditional sectarian and economic divides.

“This protest is different because it is the first time Nigerians are speaking with one voice and the government cannot find anything to divide us,” said Chalse Inoji, a popular Nigerian comedy actor, who was marching wrapped in a Nigerian flag. “EndSARS is a rallying point for all of the years of bad governance, maladministration and institutional highhandedness. We are asking for a total reformation of our political system.”

Nigeria’s government agreed to disband the police unit and establish a new elite police force—SWAT—whose officers would be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross. But tensions have continued to rise on the streets across the country, as protesters vow not to withdraw until promises are delivered and the government releases those arrested at the recent demonstrations.

In Edo state, authorities imposed a curfew after hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in the melee of protests. Elsewhere, groups of men armed with clubs and bats attacked groups of protesters camped at strategic intersections.

The protests are being driven by the youth in Nigeria, a country with an average age of 18 and one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, projected to overtake the U.S. to become the third-largest by 2050. The demonstrations fit into an emerging global pattern of youth-led calls for change from Hong Kong to Sudan and Chile.

Nigeria’s youth-led protests “could start to redraw the political landscape,” said Amaka Anku, an analyst at Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy.

“The current generation of Nigerian youth have paid very little attention to politics to date….That reality is now likely to shift as young protesters grow more conscious of their political power,” she said.

Inside the protest movement, fractures are appearing between those who want to keep the focus on police brutality and those who want more fundamental change.

“The biggest strength of the protests has also become its biggest liability, which is total absence of centralized leadership,” said David Huneydin, a journalist critical of the government who has marched in the protests. “A military intervention is now highly likely.”

The protests were no longer about police brutality and had become political, said a senior Nigerian security official. “This is a platform that is being hijacked by people opposed to the government. It is well funded.”

There were signs that Mr. Buhari’s allies were hardening their position against the protesters. Governors from Nigeria’s majority Muslim north have rejected the total disbandment of SARS, stressing it has been instrumental in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency and should be reformed rather than scrapped.

Nigeria’s army said over the weekend that it would begin a two-month national exercise—Operation Crocodile Smile—the first time the annual exercise, typically concentrated in the oil-producing Delta region, will be nationwide.

As night fell on Monday, thousands of protesters gathered at a bridge toll gate, swaying the lights on their cellphones as musicians sang protest songs through booming speakers. The vast digital advertising banner on the bridge was lit up with the protest slogan “Soro Soke,” or Speak Louder.

Lagos protesters have pledged to continue the citywide shutdown for three days. “These protests are happening in phases and we are not ready to leave the streets anytime soon,” said Uche Nnadi, a 36-year-old Nigerian actor. “We are tired of bad leadership.”

By Joe Parkinson and Gbenga Akingbule

The Wall Street Journal

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Video - Nigeria protests: Rallies disrupt major cities

 

Protests have been held again in cities across Nigeria in a row against police brutality. Human rights activists accuse an anti-robbery unit of killing and torturing people. The unit - Special Anti-Robbery Squad - has now been officially scrapped, but people are worried it will return under a different name. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from Abuja.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Muslim group in Nigeria threaten Falz with legal action for his This is Nigeria music video

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has asked Folarin ‘Falz’ Falana to withdraw his ‘This is Nigeria’ video and apologise to Nigerians, or face legal action.

In the recently released video, some girls dressed in hijab were seen dancing the “shaku shaku” dance.

Responding to criticisms that trailed the video, Falz explained that the girls were a representation of the abducted Chibok girls still in Boko Haram captivity.

But MURIC, in a statement by Ishaq Akintola, its director, said the dancers in the video in no way depict the situation of the girls.

The group also condemned “a character that dressed like a Fulani man, who suddenly abandoned his traditional guitar and beheaded a man” featured in the video.

Describing the video as “thoughtless, insensitive and highly provocative,” MURIC said it could brew religious and ethnic crisis.

It also said the video is spiteful and intended to denigrate Islam and Muslims.

“MURIC rejects Falz’ explanation that the girls in hijab in his ‘Shaku Shaku’ dance symbolize the Chibok girls because nothing in the video indicates that the girls represent the Chibok girls,” the statement read.

“At least none of the Chibok girls have been seen dancing like a drunkard. They are always in pensive mood. Do they have any cause to be dancing? Are they happy?

“The video manifests ethnic bias against Fulanis while it ignored the criminal activities of ethnic militia of the Middle Belt who have also massacred Fulanis and rustled their cattle in their thousands.

“It is a hate video. This video has the potential of causing religious crisis of unprecedented dimension.

“It is an assault on the self-dignity of every Muslim. It is freedom of expression gone haywire.

“We therefore demand its withdrawal and an apology to Nigerian Muslims within seven days or the authors and their agents will face legal action if they fail to comply.

“Only the scenes portraying police brutality and the money-swallowing snake in the video are near the truth.”

The group called on security agencies and the National Film And Video Censors Board (NFVCB) to clamp down on the video.

“We call the attention of security agencies to this hate action,” the statement continued.

“We remind Nigerians of the outcome of similar provocative actions in the past and their unpalatable outcomes.

“The National Film And Video Censors Board (NFVCB), a regulatory agency set up by Act No. 85 of 1993 to regulate films and the video industry has a case to answer. ‘Shaku Shaku’ video was shot and released under its watch.

“Instead of going violent, Nigerian Muslims should take those behind the ‘Shaku Shaku’ video to court in order to serve as a deterrent to others.

“We therefore give notice of impending legal action against the artist behind the ‘Shaku Shaku’ video unless the latter is withdrawn and an apology is widely published within seven days.”