Nigeria’s leading celebrities and activists have organized mass protests across major cities in the country Friday demanding an end to police brutality in the country.
The nationwide protests were a culmination of weeks of anger and outcry online by the country’s young people over claims of kidnapping, harassment and extortion by a police unit known as the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
On Thursday, a protest was led in Lagos Island by Folarin Falana, a lawyer and singer, and Runtown, an artist known by that stage name.
They were also joined by Nigeria’s biggest female performer, Tiwa Savage.
Falana, who is popularly known as Falz, told CNN it was important for him to march because there have been “too many numerous incidents of harassment, extortion and police brutality,” in the country. He added that he, too, had been a victim of harassment at the hands of the Nigerian police.
“People have been posting online about it for years, but it has been the same sluggish attitude and response to it. Nothing has changed and people keep on being harassed. That’s why we have taken to the streets and we want the government to listen,” he said.
“I am marching for the ones that are not recognized. We are surprised by the numbers that came out and we are prepared to march again,” he added.
Protests continue into the night.
Overnight protests were also held in Lagos mainland Thursday outside the Lagos State Assembly as organizers carried placards and knelt down, chanting ‘End SARS.’
A group of protesters, led by Debo Adebayo, a comedian by the stage name of Mr Macaroni, held a protest vigil, running into the third night in a row, in Alausa, Lagos.
Videos from the protesters shared on Twitter Thursday night showed police officers forcefully dispersing the protesters, dismantling their sleeping tents, turning off the street lights and making verbal threats.
Nigeria’s police force had responded to the public outcry last Sunday by banning the unit from carrying out any stop-and-search activities.
SARS, as well as other tactical police units, are now prohibited from “carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk. duties — stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc — with immediate effect,” Nigeria police chief Mohammed Adamu said on Sunday in a statement.
“Voices and complaints on the issues of unprofessional conducts by some SARS operatives have been heard very loudly and clearly,” the statement read.