Huge crowds help swell Nigeria police brutality protest

AFP , Saturday 17 Oct 2020

Lagos, Nigeria
People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday Oct. 17, 2020. (Photo: AP)

Nigerians flocked on to the streets of the biggest city Lagos on Saturday to join mounting protests against police brutality.

More than 10,000 demonstrators clogged roads, bringing the centre of the usually traffic-filled economic hub to a standstill.

Many protesters brandished the green-and-white Nigerian flag as they filled a major stretch of highway in the megacity of 20 million people.

Anger over abuses by the police's notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) erupted into widespread demonstrations last week, forcing the government to scrap the unit.

The crowds have continued to grow despite the announcement of a string of reforms from the rattled authorities.

The wave of protests is the biggest display of people power in years in Africa's most populous nation as young people demand more sweeping changes.

At a toll gate in Lagos that has become the epicentre of the protests a jumbo screen showed an image of President Muhammadu Buhari mocked up to look like The Joker.

People held up placards reading "We are not lazy we just can't find jobs" as celebrities took to a stage to urge on the masses or recount stories of police abuse.

On Friday evening a mammoth crowd staged a vigil for those killed by the security forces.

Demonstrators held their mobile phone torches aloft as they called for accountability after decades of widespread mistreatment by law enforcement.

Nigeria's authorities have set up a new SWAT unit to replace SARS and pledged to hold officers who have committed abuses accountable.

But many are sceptical that the government will follow through with genuine change, after a rights group said that up to 10 people were killed in the initial harsh response to the protests.

The demonstrations have drawn backing from major celebrities at home and abroad as #EndSARS has trended on Twitter.

In the latest show of high-profile support striker Victor Osimhen held up a T-shirt reading "End Police Brutality in Nigeria" after scoring his first goal for Napoli in Italy's Serie A.

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