Burna Boy, Davido & other musicians take action against police brutality in Nigeria
UPDATE: (10/20): Amnesty International reports, "Amnesty International has received credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos. While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury."
Burna Boy is promoting a new petition in the UK "to impose sanctions on members of the Nigerian government and police force involved in any human rights abuses by the Nigerian police."
Sars was first formed in 1992 to help tackle crime in Nigeria, However, it has been accused of abusing its powers and many Nigerian citizens have been calling for it to end for a long time.
The unit is said to have mainly targeted young people, in particular men from low income backgrounds who appeared "flashy". Sars was accused of harassment, wrongful arrests and stealing peoples' money and property, including laptops and phones.
The human rights charity Amnesty International said those between the ages of 17 and 30 were most at risk of being arrested, beaten, stolen from or mistreated by Sars.
"Young men with dreadlocks, ripped jeans, tattoos, flashy cars or expensive gadgets are frequently targeted by Sars," the organisation said.
Amnesty recorded at least 82 cases of abuse by Sars between January 2017 and May 2020. [BBC]
On October 11, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari announced that the country's notoriously cruel police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), was to be disbanded following weeks of protest calling out the unit's streak of brutality, as reported by BBC (whose article is also quoted above). The move came after demands for the unit to be dissolved were heightened following the brutal killing of a young man during a stop-and-search operation in the Delta State of southern Nigeria earlier this month. At the time, the Nigerian Police Force denied SARS involvement in the man's death.
However, as The New York Times said, "To many, Mr. Buhari’s response was too little, too late, and they predicted it would do little to placate the angry young Nigerians who have been blocking major routes in cities across the country to protest the police unit." One protester, 26-year-old Olasunkanmi Amoo, told the Times, "People are just very wary because you can talk all you want, but if you don’t do anything we’re still going to be here. We’re coming back tomorrow. We don’t trust him, and we don’t believe him."
Protests still surge today, and a handful of musicians have gotten involved with the #EndSARS movement.
One such musician is Nigerian singer Burna Boy, who issued a statement on SARS and launched the Project Protect initiative -- a sub-fund under his charity The Reach -- "to help protesters that are wrongfully harmed/arrested by SARS during and after these protests." In his statement, he wrote, "In my opinion, abolishing [SARS] is a definite first step but we cannot afford to stop there. The major issue is profiling. This must be addressed by both the authorities and the citizenry. It should not be a crime to be a young person in your own country." Read his full statement below.
Fellow Nigerian musician WizKid spoke at a London protest this past weekend, saying, "We are not scared to speak. Nigerian youth, don't let anyone tell you you don't have a voice." Davido shared live footage of his meeting with the Nigerian Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, where they discussed police reform and justice for victims of police brutality (you can view below). In light of the presidential order declaring the unit's members would be reassigned to a new task force, he also tweeted, "It’s far from over .... we never win anything. We want an Executive order, a Legislative action & a Judicial panel of enquiry set up to prosecute those rogues. Nothing more, nothing less!!"
Other musicians, including Chance the Rapper, Diddy, Cardi B, Tiwa Savage,, Mr Eazi, and many others expressed their support. Drake reportedly posted on his Instagram stories about the issue. You can view some of their posts below.
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This Time is Different , and Nigerian youths have had it, this generation will not be business as usual all of us in all works of life where ever we are are saying Enough is Enough & the circus Must End! We do not want a change of Name, we do not trust the words of persons who have gone back on their promises again & again! We do not Trust an organisation that Fires Teargas & Water Guns at Peaceful Protesters!! We want a total Institutional reform Not Just for The police but extended to Governance!! Leaders must Serve! We will continue to use our voices until we see change! We will not sit-down Look!!! This is an opportunity for you the leaders to leave a Legacy! It is A chance to Effect change! A change that will make Nigeria Great!