There’s been a long-held belief, sometimes shared publicly, among Nigeria’s leadership elite that the country’s youth do not care enough about social and political causes—but over the last week and a half that myth has been shattered for a generation.
Since Oct. 8, young Nigerians have been converging in several cities across the country in larger and larger numbers protesting against rampant police brutality, particularly by an infamous special anti-robbery unit that has become known for extorting, illegal arresting, and in extreme cases, killing innocent civilians.
Starting from an #EndSARS online campaign, thousands of young Nigerians—many of whom have had horrific experiences with the unit, have demonstrated at the key locations across Nigerian cities, most prominently in Lagos, ensuring their voices are heard.
The protests have also been driven by an internet-savvy generation relying on digital tools not just to organize and mobilize support in terms of getting large numbers to attend, but also for raising funds on digital platforms and even with bitcoin. They’ve also been prepared with donors supplying packed meals and umbrellas and printing placards. But also used social media to help dispel misinformation from traditional media.
The Lekki toll gate, a key transit point in Lagos’ business district, has been virtually shut down this week resulting in major traffic jams and somewhat paralyzing a key part of Lagos’ economy.
The international airport in Lagos has also been a target as young protesters have taken to blocking off the main access tolls to the airport and hobbling international travel.
While they remain underway, the protests are starting to yield results. Nigeria’s police leadership has disbanded the rogue SARS unit in a bid to pacify protesters. But with that gesture believed to be symbolic rather than practical, there have also been more recent promises of investigations to ensure accountability for police brutality.
In Lagos, the state governor has announced four policemen will face trials for beating up protesters while in Anambra, in Nigeria’s east, the governor has sacked and announced plans to prosecute a top security aide who infamously ran one of the state’s SARS units.
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