The Nigerian government on Thursday announced a ban on police brutality protests in the country’s capital of Abuja. The #EndSARS protests have taken social media by storm and led the youth of Nigeria to the streets in protest.
The protest began after the death of a young man at the hands of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) unit in early October. This is not the only instance of the SARS unit coming under fire because of the death or torture of prisoners at their hands. In June Amnesty International released a report titled “Nigeria: Horrific reign of impunity by SARS makes mockery of anti-torture law” which documented more than 80 cases of torture, execution or ill-treatment of prisoners at the hands of the SARS unit.
Earlier this month it appeared that the government was willing to listen to protesters as they quickly dismantled the SARS unit, but it was a short-lived victory as the newly announced SWAT unit that would replace them did not do enough to reform the SARS unit. In response, the people have taken to the streets where they have been protesting for more thorough reform, which the president has promised.
Thursday’s ban on protesting cites COVID-19 concerns as the chief reason. The government acknowledges the right of the people to protest but says that the behavior has been so unruly and in complete violation of COVID-19 safety measures that they are putting their lives and the lives of “other citizens going about their legitimate concerns.”