Anti-SARS protest gains support in UK, US, South Africa, Canada

Nationwide protests demanding proscription of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad have gathered momentum beyond Nigeria, with #EndSARS trending on Twitter in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Canada.

The protest was also the most trended issue on Friday globally, according to a Tweet by @BBCAfrica, as Nigerians continued to demonstrate across the country amid violent clashes.

#EndSARS protest was reignited last week following the shooting of a youth reportedly in front of a hotel in Ughelli, Delta State, in broad daylight by some FSARS operatives who drove away his Lexus Jeep. The police have said the youth didn’t die.

The Nigeria Police Force consequently banned FSARS and other special tactical squads from carrying out routine stop and search.

Nigerians claimed that the police authorities had not shown enough commitment to reform the dreaded police unit over the years and called for its disbandment.

Despite the Force’s call for calm, the protest raged on in several parts of the country, including Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Delta, Imo, with Nigerians abroad joining the demonstration.

A Nigerian-British actor, John Boyega, on Friday was among the international celebrities who lent their voices to the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.

The Star Wars actor also announced on Twitter that an anti-SARS protest would hold at the Nigeria High Commission in London, the United Kingdom, on Sunday.

Boyega posted an illustration via his handle, @JohnBoyega, showing protesters carrying placards with the inscriptions, “EndSARS, EndPoliceBrutality, and EndSARSProtest.”

The #EndSARS was also one of the most trended topics on Twitter on Friday with some Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the UK, the United States, South Africa, and Canada, pledging to organise similar protests to amplify support for the calls to disband SARS – a police unit accused of serial human rights abuses.

In its tweet on Friday, @BBCAfrica noted that “The hashtag #EndSARS has been trending at no 1 worldwide today, as protestors continue to demand a notorious police unit in Nigeria disbanded.”

LASG pleads as protesters block Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

On Friday, many commuters were stranded around the Alausa and Berger areas of Lagos as protesters blocked the Alausa section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Saturday PUNCH gathered that the protesters moved from the entrance of the Lagos House of Assembly to block the highway on Friday, marking the end of a 72-hour demonstration during which the participants passed two nights in front of the assembly.

One of the protesters, Elizabeth Ogunseye, said, “We are done with the protest having spent 72 hours. We had a meeting with the House of Assembly this morning (Friday). A lot of members were for scrapping of FSARS and the Speaker closed the session with a prayer that he was in support of it. He, however, said they had to speak to the authorities first.

“We are waiting for a resolution letter on Monday from the Lagos State House of Assembly. If they fail to give us a resolution letter on Monday, by 9am on Tuesday, we will start another round of protest. We slept over there for two nights. There was no harassment because the protest was peaceful.”

The House in a resolution on Friday called for the replacement of FSARS with a new and well-structured security outfit.

The resolution was contained in a statement by Mr Tolani Abati, the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, tagged, ‘Proscribe F-SARS, Secure Protesters – Lagos Assembly issues seven Demands In support of #EndSARSNOW.’

The statement read in part, “Among the seven-point resolution passed after an extensive deliberation was also that the Senate and the House of Representatives should carry out a probe of the allegations against F-SARS including killing, maiming and dehumanising of Nigerians.

“SARS should be proscribed and a new security outfit which will be more efficient with clearly spelt out code of conduct and rule of engagements be established while sanction is imposed for misdemeanor.

“Mr President should ensure that culpable officials of SARS receive the punishment as prescribed by the National Assembly. Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Petitions liaise with the Commissioner of Police and Attorney General of the State to fashion out ways and means to address allegations of ruthlessness and extra judicial killings contained in the petition against SARS in the state.

“The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, should engage relevant institutions to protect lives and property in the state such that phones, laptops and other means of communication belonging to youths are not confiscated indiscriminately without warrant.”

However, the Lagos State Government appealed to protesters to remain peaceful while the authorities addressed the issue.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, in a statement on Friday said the government shared in the pains of victims of police brutality.

The statement partly read, “It is not good. The message of the protests is clear – such acts of brutality must stop. We agree. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is discussing the issue with the police authorities and hopes that the matter will be resolved in the interest of our teeming youths and in the spirit of democracy.”

In his call, the state Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, advised the demonstrators to be civil but noted that their outrage was in order and within their rights as citizens.

He said, “The tenet of the police operation is to protect the citizens. Security operatives don’t have the right to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens, because of their unfamiliar looks, or because they are carrying laptops or iPhones. It is wrong for any police officer to expressly accuse or pronounce someone, irrespective of age, guilty because they have dreads or ride luxury vehicles.”

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had earlier ordered the Commissioner of Police for Delta State Command, Hafiz Inuwa, to fish out the alleged killers of the police corporal.

“The IGP has directed the Commissioner of Police, Delta State to carry out a discrete investigation into the unfortunate incident, root-out the perpetrators and bring the killer protesters to book”, a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba had said.

The statement added, “The protesters also carted away one service AK-47 rifle with breach no 56-2609008 and 25 rounds of live ammunition that was with the deceased at the time of the incident.”

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