The Nigerian President has called for protesters to stop their peaceful demonstrations in his address to the nation on Thursday but avoided the mention of the lethal shootings that took place earlier this week.
Saying that the youths’ “voice have been heard”, President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged the five demands made by young Nigerians who have been protesting the excessive use of police force over the past two weeks but did not agree to an investigation into the killings.
The demonstrations emerged as young Nigerians challenged SARS, the country’s ex-Special Anti-Robbery Squad which was established in 1992 as a police unit to tackle rising violent crime.
After years of attempted reform and numerous reports highlighting allegations of abuse and extrajudicial killings directed towards citizens, the President’s office announced the disbandment of the unit in mid-October this year.
Despite the disbandment of the force, many Nigerians do not believe that the actions go far enough and are demanding further systemic reform.
On Tuesday, protesters were peacefully demonstrating at Lekki toll gate and Alausa in the country’s southern capital, Lagos despite the imposition of a 24-hour curfew. Protesters were subsequently shot at by Nigerian security forces, resulting in the death of 12 people according to a report by Amnesty International.
The Nigerian army have denied this allegation.
Members of the international community including the UN Secretary General, António Guterres and British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab have denounced the actions and are calling for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
#EndSARS has been hijacked
Since the incident, Nigerian news sources claim that “hoodlums” have now taken advantage of the unrest in the country’s capital in what some have deemed “a hijacking” of the #ENDSARS campaign.
A Nigerian journalist who has asked to remain anonymous for his safety described the development as a move “from protest to anarchy” after the “hooligans” were seen on social media looting private property, damaging infrastructure and setting fire to shops and vehicles.
The counter-protesters whom he said were “imported” to cities from neighbouring states, have been paid by politicians and transported around the country by the State Security Service to incept and terrorize anti-SARS protesters, with some wielding knives and firearms, he said.
“The counter – protesters have been misinformed and told that anti-SARS demonstrators are trying to overthrow the President. Some of them have not even heard of SARS or know what it stands for”, the journalist said.
The State Security Service were not immediately available for comment on these claims.
The protest movement has extended to other nations including Germany, Canada and the U.S. with several more demonstrations expected across the UK this weekend.
Protests in Birmingham, Luton and Southampton will be held on Saturday (October 24) with additional movements planned in Reading and Glasgow on Sunday (October 25) according to the EndSars UK Instagram Instagram account.