Nigeria — Protesters Storm Prison, Free Captives

  • According to local media, around 200 prisoners are suspected to have escaped.
  • The protests were sparked by a trending video of assaults allegedly committed by SARS members on social media. 
  • The Nigerian government announced on 11 October the dismantling of the SARS police unit.

A crowd broke into a prison and released detainees in Benin City, in southern Nigeria Monday. The action is part of protests against police brutality in the country. As reported by the Associated Press, some of the inmates jumped from an institution fence while others were seen running down the street to unknown destinations.

People demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Sunday Oct. 18, 2020.

According to local media, around 200 prisoners are suspected to have escaped. Nigerian authorities have not yet stated whether there have been any deaths or injuries as a result of the prison break in Edo state.

For more than two weeks, Nigeria has been the scene of demonstrations, particularly by young people, who are protesting alleged brutality by the police forces. The protests in Nigeria ensued against the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit, accused of human rights violations, killings, and torture of the Nigerian citizens.

The protests were sparked by a trending video of assaults allegedly committed by SARS members on social media. 

In response to the protests, the Nigerian government announced on 11 October the dismantling of the SARS police unit. However, it was not enough to dissuade the protesters, who are currently demanding an end to attacks by the security forces in general.

Amnesty International announced last week that as a result of the demonstrations, ten people have so far lost their lives. and the organization accused the police of resorting to unnecessary violence against protesters. The Nigerian government, is on its part, breathing fire.

“Peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy and that is why the Federal Government in the last 11 days has treated the protesters in a very civilized manner,” Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture said, while speaking on the Nigerian state television, NTA.

“But, if you look at what happened to the governor of Osun State, it has gone completely beyond peaceful protest against excesses and abuse of power by the police. There is nowhere in the world where a government will fold its arms and allow the country to descend into anarchy.”

In response to the prison escape, the Edo state government imposed a 24-hour curfew.

A man holds a sign as he demonstrates on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Sunday Oct. 18, 2020.

“This decision has become necessary because of the very disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of #EndSARS protesters,” said the secretary of the government of Edo, Osarodion Ogie, in a statement

Protests have taken place across the country, with a population of more than 196 million people. The main highlights include the largest city, Lagos; the capital, Abuja; and other important cities, such as Port Harcourt, Calabar, Asaba, and Uyo.

The campaign for the end of SARS garnered international support, including from members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and co-founder of the social platform Twitter, Jack Dorsey, who shared several publications by Nigerian protesters.

Last Tuesday, the 13th, Nigerian police announced the creation of an anti-crime brigade (SWAT) to replace SARS, and assured that no former member of the dismantled unit will be able to join the new force. However, that move hasn’t convinced the protesters either.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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