Kenyan celebrities and netizens have come out strongly in solidarity with Nigeria to demand the end of a rogue police unit, Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). Don Santo and Sauti Sol were among the Kenyan celebrities who actively spoke out against police brutality in Nigeria.
About the protests
Lagos, Nigeria (KlassikNews) Nigeria's leading celebrities and activists 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.
They were also joined by Nigeria's biggest female performer, Tiwa Savage.
Falana, who is popularly known as Falz, told KlassikNews 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.
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 conduct by some SARS operatives have been heard very loudly and clearly," the statement read.
Feyikemi Abudu was among the protesters outside the Lagos State Assembly in Ikeja on Friday. She told CNN their demands were presented to the assembly, which held an emergency session Friday to listen to their demands.
"There are many demands, but the main one is to scrap SARS, not to reform it but to completely end it. Another demand is compensation for victims of SARS brutality, both alive and dead. We also want a committee that will investigate and look into the present and past grievances around SARS brutality, " Abudu said.
Abudu also told CNN she has raised 1.3 million nairas (about $3,390) to buy food for those protesting and for medical treatment for those injured during the protests. Media personality Toke Makinwa was also among those who protested. "People are constantly calling my show with reports of harassment," she said.
"One man told me they pulled his phone and searched his banking app, they took him to an ATM to withdraw money for them. Nigeria has reduced its citizens to doing everything by themselves. SARS should not be one of the problems we have to face. You are supposed to be anti-robbery but we are afraid of you. People who are meant to protect are the ones oppressing us."
KlassikNews put this and other allegations to the Nigerian police force, and Lagos state spokesman Muyiwa Adejobi said that all complaints against its officers are carefully investigated and appropriate sanctions applied to offenders.
Adejobi added that many people rarely report the abuses because they fear that they may not get justice. He encouraged people affected by police misconduct to report the abuses.
Tweets from Kenyan celebrities and netizens;