By Yakosu Umana
Charles Adeyanju (Photo via Robertson Library)
Here at UPEI, there is a noticeable community of Nigerian students, and they are saddened with news from home.
Last week, 12 Nigerians were killed during a peaceful protest in Lagos, Nigeria.
They were killed by Nigerian soldiers, according to witnesses and reports.
For most of October, there have been ongoing protests against police brutality by Nigerians, home and abroad.
The aim of the protests (EndSARS) was initially to disband the Nigerian Police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The SARS police unit was created to combat notorious crimes, however, Nigerians have expressed their displeasure with the extrajudicial use of power and wrongful killings by the SARS unit.
Amnesty International, a Canadian NGO (non-governmental organization) released reports of torture and ill-treatment by the SARS unit in 2016.
On Oct. 4, the SARS unit was disbanded but immediately replaced with a new special police force unit, which has angered Nigerians and prolonged protests.
Charles Adeyanju is an associate professor of Sociology at UPEI, from Nigeria.
He said the protests are more than just a call for police reform.
“When people are agitating or protesting to EndSARS, they are also protesting the system rigged against them.”
“This particular EndSARS case serves as a catalyst factor. The grievances have widened from ‘end SARS’ to sacking (getting rid of) the political actors.”
The state of Nigeria is unhealthy right now, he said.
“Things are not well, there is poverty, crime, insecurity and the key institution of society is not functioning well.”
“Nigerian’s are not happy with the state of the nation, and I am on their side.”
Historically, there have been several protests for socio-political reform in Nigeria, however, the EndSARS movement is unique, Adeyanju said.
“It’s been motivated and organized by youths mostly.”
Predominantly young adults have been victims of the extrajudicial use of power by SARS.
“It’s just that aspect of the police force they have a problem with,” Adeyanju said.
Adeyanju said the use of social media in spreading awareness is also what makes the protests unique.
The protests are happening at the right time, he said.
“It’s emerged at a time that people are actually able to become interested in the matter.”
Adeyanju said the EndSARS protests are similar to the recent police brutality protests in the US, although, in Nigeria, the protests have more systemic issues tied to it.
“The protests have ignited and exposed the weaknesses of the country,” he said.
On the recent killing of peaceful protesters, Adeyanju said he is sickened the soldiers haven’t been held accountable.
“It shows the height of insecurity in Nigeria, it is really frightening.”
Mr. Adeyanju found it hard to respond when asked if he believed the protests would lead to sudden reform.
“That is what we all hope for. To be honest with you, I’m not so optimistic,” he said.
Regardless, there is still hope, if Nigerians keep working towards it, he said.
“There is hope on the horizon, but we cannot just rely on hope, people have to do things as well. Hope needs to be hinged with actions.”
Here in PEI, about 100 people gathered for a vigil at Rochford Square last Friday, in remembrance and to show support for the 12 Nigerians who lost their lives.