Former President Goodluck Jonathan has broken his silence on the protest against police brutality in the country, warning that no Nigerian’s blood should be spilled.
Taking to Twitter on Tuesday, Jonathan who described the protest as peaceful said the move would advance the cause of Nigeria.
“No Nigerian blood needs to be spilled or life lost during a peaceful protest that seeks to advance our country,” he said.
“We may hold different views on national issues, but there is no doubt that most people desire the same thing for Nigeria: a place where we can all live out the full potential of our God-given abilities. I implore everyone to exercise restraint as we walk through these challenging times.”
Jonathan’s remarks followed the series of protests by thousands of youths have been protesting against police brutality, harassment and killings by policemen across major cities since last week.
No Nigerian blood needs to be spilled or life lost during a peaceful protest that seeks to advance our country. We may hold different views on national issues, but there is no doubt that most people desire the same thing for Nigeria:
As part of measures to reform the Nigeria Police, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, ordered all personnel of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to report to the force headquarters in Abuja for debriefing, psychological and medical examination.
While the time-frame for the medical evaluation has not been disclosed, the IGP said that the officers are expected to undergo the process as a prelude to further training and reorientation before being redeployed into mainstream policing duties.
Thousands of #EndSARS protesters on Saturday occupied the gate of the Anambra State Police Command Headquarters in Amawbia area of the state.
The protesters, who are mostly youths and others are calling for the dismantling of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force meant to tackle violent criminal activities in the country.
They carried placards and raised their voices to the national outcry for SARS to be ended in Nigeria, adding that the security outfit no longer serves the purpose for which it was created.
Addressing the aggrieved citizens, the Commissioner of Police in the state, John Abang, assured them that the Federal Government will consider their matter accordingly.
The #EndSARS Protesters have vowed not to back down until the government addresses their demand to end police brutality and intimidation carried out by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
They made the vow at the Lagos State House of Assembly in Ikeja on Friday, the third day of protests aimed at ensuring the infamous police unit is scrapped.
One of the protesters, popular comedian Debo Adebayo, said the youths were tired of continued police brutality.
“We are not backing down, we can never back down. Look at everybody here, now I cannot even count the number of people that are here,” he said.
“It is because we are tired. When we came here, we didn’t have five per cent of this number the last time we came here for a protest.
“This is to say that the youths are waking up. While you are waking up, don’t give them another opportunity to shoot us down.
“Don’t give them another excuse to shoot us down. Like I said earlier, we are not here for politics. We are here because we are tired. Enough is enough.”
Speaking further, he asked the protesters to assemble again on Tuesday in the same environment by 9 am, adding that African time wouldn’t be allowed.
SARS Should Be Scrapped
Convener of the protest, Rinu Oduala, on her part, shared an update from a meeting between about 20 of the protesters and members of the Lagos Assembly earlier in the day.
“We gave them our petition which was given to Obasa (the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly) yesterday and we made our stand clear,” she said.
That demand summed up is that SARS must be scrapped.
The meeting with the lawmakers was positive, according to her.
“Most of them agreed in our favour that SARS should be scrapped,” she said. adding that full feedback was expected from the legislators on Monday.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police force was put together to tackle robbery and crimes related to armed robbery within the country, but the unit has repeatedly sparked outrage and gained notoriety for extortion, harassment, torture and killings.
Many rights activists and citizens have lamented that without any legislation or order, the unit has morphed itself into some form of the anti-graft agency, harassing many young Nigerians, especially men who spot dreadlocks and other forms of fancy head styles.
The latest protests against SARS, triggered by yet another controversial incident in Delta on Saturday, went beyond previous efforts as many Nigerians – young and old – took to the streets for more than two days, determined to rid the country of the unit.
In Abuja, Lagos, Imo, Delta, Kwara and several states protests were held, asking the police authorities and the Federal Government to act.
There was palpable chaos in Owerri, the Imo State capital where End SARS protesters comprising mainly youths took to the streets to protest against the crimes committed by some members of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The protesters had gathered around the popular Imo state university junction in Owerri bearing carrying placards with various inscriptions and chanting solidarity songs, but as has become a usual occurrence with the End SARS protests, officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) were on the ground to disperse the gathering.
The public demonstration in Owerri today, however, took a slightly different turn when in a bid disperse the crowd, a Division Police Officer (DPO) got into an altercation with a protester.
As the argument got a bit more heated, the DPO whose name we gathered is Obioma Obi, cocked his gun and gestured like he was going to shoot the protester who by this time could be heard screaming “shoot us!”.
After a short back and forth, the protesters were dispersed with heavy teargas by the officers of the Imo state police command, an action that has also left more questions about operations of the Force and the rights of the Nigerian citizen.
The police were trying to do their job
Reacting to the incident which took place earlier on in Owerri, Police Commissioner Isaac Akinmoyede said in dispersing the crowd, the officers were only doing their job.
Addressing newsmen in Owerri, Mr. Akinmoyede said the policemen were at the venue of the protest to prevent any breakdown of law and order in the state as the actions of the protesters were already disturbing the free flow of traffic.
Mr Akinmoyede however promised to take disciplinary actions against Mr. Obioma Obi for pulling a gun on the protesters stressing that the action of the DPO is not acceptable to the Nigerian Police.
He said the Force is meant to be civil to the members of the public, adding that even though he was trying to shrug off an intending mob action, the officer should have been more civil.
More than 120 people were arrested overnight in the US city of Louisville, officials confirmed Thursday, as the announcement that no one would be charged with the killing of Breonna Taylor sent fresh demands for racial justice billowing across the US.
Protests were held in cities including New York, Washington and Los Angeles Wednesday, but the focal point was Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, where the 26-year-old black woman was shot dead in her apartment by police earlier this year.
Thousands of people flooded the city’s streets to demand justice for the emergency room technician, who has become a symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement, after a grand jury said it had decided not to charge anyone with her killing.
But the demonstrations — which began peacefully — quickly degenerated into violence as protesters clashed with authorities in riot gear and using flashbang grenades.
Two police officers were shot in the confrontation. Both survived and were hospitalized in stable condition, authorities said.
“There was a total of 127 arrests during the protest last evening into early this morning,” police department spokesman Dwight Mitchell told AFP.
Among them was a suspect in the shooting of the police officers, local media reported. One conservative outlet, the Daily Caller, said two of its journalists were also among those detained.
Taylor was shot dead on March 13 after three plainclothes policemen appeared at her door in the middle of the night to execute a search warrant.
More than six months later, a grand jury on Wednesday charged detective Brett Hankison with three counts of “wanton endangerment” over shots fired into adjoining apartments.
But neither Hankison nor the two officers who fired the shots that killed Taylor were charged in direct connection with her death.
“Nothing seems to say that Breonna mattered,” her family’s lawyer Ben Crump told NBC’s Today Show Thursday in response to the verdict.
Top US athletes who have backed the Black Lives Matter movement added their voices to the wave of dismay. “Something was done, but it wasn’t enough,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green told reporters Wednesday.
Louisville remains under curfew Thursday and Friday from 9:00 pm until 6:30 am, with much of downtown closed to traffic, and several shops boarded up in anticipation of more violence in the city of 600,000.
Although the city center was calm on Thursday morning, Marcus Reede, a 52-year-old barbecue restaurant owner, was braced for more trouble ahead.
“There’s going to be more violence tonight,” he told AFP. “People are tired.”
– ‘Stick together’ –
President Donald Trump, who is campaigning for reelection on a “law-and-order” platform and has repeatedly stoked fears about violence, tweeted that he was “praying” for the officers who were shot.
Seething protests have rocked America’s cities for months, with the movement’s anger fed by a stream of deaths of black people at the hands of police, and exacerbated by badly fractured national politics and inflammatory rhetoric by Trump.
“Breonna Taylor deserves justice,” 17-year-old black protester Decorryn Adams told AFP in Louisville. “Nothing will change if we don’t stick together.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in bed with her on the night she was killed, exchanged fire with the officers, who he said he thought were criminals.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the two officers who had fired the shots that killed Taylor had done so in self-defense, and would therefore not be charged.
“This is a tragedy,” Cameron said, adding that he knew “not everyone will be satisfied.”
The officers, who had not activated their body cameras as required, shot Taylor multiple times.
Cameron also contradicted reports that the police officers had executed a “no-knock” search warrant on Taylor’s home, bursting in without warning.
“They did knock and announce,” he said, citing a witness.
The city of Louisville settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor’s family for $12 million last week.
The civil settlement reflected the public pressure and emotion surrounding her death, which came about two months before that of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide anger.
The number of incidents of violence against journalists covering protests across the world has risen sharply, with police and security forces the main culprits, the United Nations cultural agency said on Monday.
UNESCO said it had counted 21 protests between January and June of this year where journalists were attacked, arrested or killed.
The organisation, whose role includes monitoring media developments, said in a report the spike came as part of “a wider upward trend in the use of unlawful force by police and security forces over the last five years”.
At least 10 journalists were killed during protests between 2015 and mid-2020 when there were 125 instances of attacks on, or arrests of, reporters, according to UNESCO which investigated protests in 65 countries for the report.
The reporters who died on the job worked in Syria, Mexico, Israel, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Nigeria and Iraq.
“Hundreds of journalists around the world trying to cover protests have been harassed, beaten, intimidated, arrested, put under surveillance, abducted, and had their equipment damaged,” the report said, adding that “a majority of the attacks” had been carried out by police and security forces.
“Police use of non-lethal ammunition ranging from rubber bullets to pepper balls, has injured dozens of journalists, with a few having been left blinded in one eye” it said.
Often police don’t have to fear punishment for their treatment of reporters. “Impunity has continued to remain the norm in recent years for attacks on the press covering protests,” UNESCO said.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay called on governments to make sure that journalists can do their job without fear for their safety.
“Journalists have a critical role in reporting and informing audiences on protest movements,” she said in a statement.
“We call on the international community and all relevant authorities to ensure that these fundamental rights are upheld.”
UNESCO said protests are often about economic injustice, government corruption, the decline of political freedoms, and growing authoritarianism, giving some governments a vested interest in preventing balanced reporting.
“The UN in several resolutions has expressed concern at hostile rhetoric by political leaders against the press,” it said.
Violent protests erupted in the east German city of Leipzig for a third consecutive night over evictions from an occupied building that has become a symbol of anger over rising rents.
Around 500 people took part in the rally on Saturday evening, police said early Sunday.
Protesters in the city’s Connewitz district threw stones and fireworks, they said, with two officers suffering injuries.
The rally was broken up after less than an hour but spontaneous demonstrations followed during the night, with protesters setting fire to bins and a police car.
Police are investigating 15 suspects for breach of the peace, damage to property and resistance to law enforcement officers.
The protests began Wednesday.
The rallies aim to denounce what the far-left, in particular, perceives as the “gentrification” of Leipzig, with the purchase of many apartment buildings by groups of financial investors.
Demonstrations on Friday evening also turned violent, with protesters throwing bottles, fireworks and stones. Eight police officers were slightly injured, six police vehicles damaged and a police station pelted with paint bags and stones.
Leipzig mayor Burkhard Jung described the riots Saturday as a “serious setback” for the debate around affordable housing.
“You don’t create living space by attacking police officers and setting fire to barricades,” he said. “This violence must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Malians took to the streets in the capital Bamako on Tuesday, despite rainfall and pleas from mediators to stay home, to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Protesters numbering in the low thousands assembled in a central square, an AFP journalist saw, blowing plastic vuvuzela horns and brandishing anti-government banners.
“We want real change in Mali, IBK get out,” read one banner, using the acronym by which Keita is known.
Other people carried umbrellas against the rain and toted signs, also calling for the prime minister’s resignation.
After the crowd sang the national anthem, prominent opposition leader Choguel Maiga said: “We will continue our fight until the end of IBK and of his regime.”
Mahmoud Dicko, a Saudi-trained imam viewed as the opposition’s figurehead, told protesters: “This combat is to restore the Malian nation”.
“If IBK doesn’t listen to us, he will see. I swear before God that he will see. But if we don’t rush, we will win this victory,” he said.
The gathering marks the first time the June 5 Movement has staged a protest since July 21, when the opposition group declared a temporary truce in a months-long push to topple Keita.
It staged the demonstration despite a call to stay home from Nigeria’s ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan, a mediator for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Mali’s crisis.
“Demonstrations do not solve problems per se,” Jonathan told a news conference late Monday, urging opposition figures to enter into dialogue.
The June 5 Movement has repeatedly spurned compromise proposals put forward by ECOWAS, insisting on Keita’s resignation.
Mali’s political impasse has struck fear into the poor Sahel state’s neighbours and allies, who are keen to prevent it from sliding into chaos.
The June 5 Movement — so called after the date of its first protest — has been channelling deep anger over a dire economy, perceived government corruption and Mali’s eight-year jihadist conflict.
But tensions snowballed into crisis last month when 11 people died during three days of unrest following an anti-Keita protest, in the worst political strife the country has seen in years.
The 15-nation ECOWAS bloc stepped in to mediate. On July 27, the bloc’s heads of government stuck by Keita, but proposed the formation of a new unity government, among other measures.
The June 5 Movement has rejected the proposals, however.
Nigeria’s ex-president Jonathan, who had already led a mediation mission to Mali in mid-July, made a surprise return to Bamako on Monday, when he met the president and opposition figures.
Still, there is little indication that the impasse can be overcome, as anti-Keita protests have gone ahead despite Jonathan’s admonitions.
Dicko, addressing protesters on Tuesday, said that it was time for Malians to talk among themselves.
“Even if we don’t like the way they did it, we thank ECOWAS for its gesture,” the influential imam said.
Keita, who first came to power in 2013, has meanwhile attempted to follow the ECOWAS recommendations.
He swore in nine new judges to the Constitutional Court on Monday, which formed part of ECOWAS efforts to resolve an election dispute that has contributed to the crisis.
Much of Mali’s current tension was sparked in April, when the Constitutional Court threw out 30 results from long-delayed parliamentary elections — a move that benefited Keita’s party, but triggered protests.
ECOWAS had recommended appointing new judges to the court, and holding new elections in the 30 disputed parliamentary seats.
The MPs occupying those seats, however, have refused to step down. They are drawn from both Keita’s party and from opposition parties.
A protester was killed and dozens wounded when police in Belarus used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas to disperse demonstrators disputing election results, a prominent rights group said on Monday.
The Viasna Human Rights Centre said the young male protester suffered a traumatic head injury when he was hit by a police vehicle and medics were unable to save him.
Viasna representative Sergey Sys told AFP that more than 300 people had been arrested on Sunday, including more than 150 in the capital Minsk.
“Dozens of people were wounded as a result of clashes with law enforcement agencies. Ten of them were taken to hospitals,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova denied there had been any deaths.
“We have no dead,” she told AFP.
More than 200 detained
At least 213 people were detained in Belarus as police cracked down on protesters claiming strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko rigged Sunday’s presidential election, a prominent rights group said on Monday.
The Viasna Human Rights Centre said at least 110 people were detained in the capital Minsk, including at least 40 at or near polling stations and 70 during a pro-opposition protest. Others were detained in various cities.