Nigeria End Sars protest: Key protest group says stay at home

The protests have sparked global anger and condemnation

A group that has been key in organising protests against police brutality that have gripped Nigeria in the last two weeks has urged people to stay at home.

The Feminist Coalition also advised people to follow any curfews that may be in place in their states.

President Muhammadu Buhari called for an end to the protests in a TV speech.

The streets of Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, the centre of the protests, remained quiet on Thursday night but there is an atmosphere of fear.

Lagos and other parts of Nigeria have seen buildings torched, shopping centres looted and prisons attacked since Tuesday night’s shooting of protesters in Lagos.

Rights group Amnesty International said security forces killed at least 12 people, although Nigeria’s army has denied its involvement.

The protests began on 7 October with mostly young people demanding the scrapping of a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars).

Although President Buhari said it had been dissolved on 11 October, the protests have carried on, and broadened to include demands for broader reforms in the way Nigeria is governed.

In other developments:

  • The authorities in Lagos have released a list of police officers put on trial for alleged human rights violations in the state

  • Normalcy is also gradually returning to the capital, Abuja

  • The south-west state of Osun has suspended a 24-hour curfew imposed to deal with the riots

What did President Buhari say in his speech?

On Thursday night President Buhari urged protesters to stop demonstrating and instead engage with the government “in finding solutions”.

He did not however mention the shooting of protesters in Lagos which has led to global condemnation and criticism.

His speech has been widely criticised on social media, the birthplace of the #EndSars movement.

For many it was tone deaf, in that it failed to substantially address some of the key demands of the protesters. But it also reinforced the disillusionment with the current regime many young Nigerians have been feeling, correspondents say.

What did the Feminist Coalition say?

In a statement posted on Twitter the group – which has been using the hashtag #EndSars to rally protesters – said that it condemned “every form” of violence that had occurred, saying that young Nigerians “need to stay alive to pursue our dreams to build the future”.

“We are merchants of hope. Our priority is always the welfare and safety on the Nigerian youth,” it said.

More about the End sars protests:

It added: “Following the president’s address, we hereby encourage all young Nigerians to stay safe, stay home, and obey mandated curfew in your state.”

The group also said that it would no longer be receiving money but will use the $400,000 (£306,000) it has not yet spent, most of it donations from abroad, to fund hospitals bills, legal aid and relief for victims of police brutality.

Other groups and celebrities have also been influential in organising the protests – it is not clear if they will follow the move by the Feminist Coalition.

The movement begins a difficult transition

Analysis box by Mayeni Jones, Nigeria correspondent
Analysis box by Mayeni Jones, Nigeria correspondent

It’s unclear what comes next for the #EndSARS movement. On the surface, most of their five points demands have been met:

•Some of the detained protesters have been released

• Panels of enquiry have been set up around the country to investigate allegations of police brutality – although how independent they really are is up for debate.

• The president announced new salaries for police and medical and psychological assessments moving forward – again how thorough these are is up for debate.

But a key demand remains unanswered: there’s been no talk of compensation, or justice, for victims of police brutality and their families. Still one thing is clear, there’s been a political awakening amongst young Nigerians at home and abroad.

There’s already talk of the 2023 presidential elections and using the lessons learnt during these protests to field a candidate to campaign on issues relevant to this youthful nation.

If the architects of the movement can keep the momentum gained over the past month, it may prove impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

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Written by Harry Rosen

Harry Rosen is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author.

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