As protests over police brutality and violence in Nigeria have shaken the country’s major cities for the past month, Cal Poly Pomona students and staff -moved by the events- expressed concern for the Nigerian community.
Since Oct. 7, Nigerian youth have been engaged in demonstrating against the government’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad after footage circulated social media showing the police unit shoot a young man and leave him to die.
Despite SARS’ disbandment on Oct. 11, protestors remain skeptical as the government formed a new police unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics soon after.
Precious Chibueze, a second-year visual communication design student, is worried about the current situation as a majority of her family lives in the capital city of Lagos, the center point of police brutality and recent civilian bloodshed. Her family members in Lagos have barricaded themselves in their home and only go out when they need food or supplies.
“My little brother was in Nigeria, in boarding school. We didn’t know what was going on we just wanted to get him home as quickly as possible,” Chibueze said.
SARS was initially formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and conduct investigations of kidnappings. In the early 2000s, officers began to dress in plain clothes and carry weapons in public. They reportedly use intimidating tactics to extort money from civilians. This now deemed power-hungry police unit is accused of unlawful detainments, extortions, rape and killing the civilians of Nigeria.
“My cousin is 18-years old, so he’s targeted by SARS,” said Aanuoluwapo Akingbemi, a second-year political science student. “He was held at gun point when he was in an Uber by SARS and they collected money from him. They collected about 8,000 naira.” (8,000 naira is equivalent to $21 USD)
Robert Nyenhuis, a CPP political science professor specializing in African politics, explained that SARS targets young Nigerian men who fit the description of a “Yahoo boy.” Yahoo boys are Nigerian men who commit fraud via soliciting emails with deceiving stories. They would then use the money to buy luxury items like high fashion clothing or vehicles. Subsequently, this means that anyone that appears financially stable has become a target.
“You have the youth that have become very politically active, they’ve been very clever in their usage of social media to get global attention,” said Nyenhuis. “This is a country that’s extremely divided across religious, ethnic, regional lines and what is interesting is that you see people all over the country rallying around this cause.”
On Oct. 20 Nigerian soldiers opened fire on Nigerian protestors in Lekki, the commercial capital of Lagos. Protestors counted at least 10 civilians killed, but the military denied any deaths.
“Seeing how cruel the soldiers were, I saw the video of the massacre that happened on the 20th of October, it was heart breaking to watch,” said Akingbemi. “I actually couldn’t go to class the next day; it was just a lot, it was all affecting me emotionally.”
The Nigerian population remains outraged due to constant targeting and extortion by a police force meant to protect them. Protestors have been active on social media, asking celebrities to use the #EndSARS and support the movement.
CPP’s Black Student Union publicly posted support for Nigerian protestors on its Instagram: “We are praying for the safety of everyone and especially our families.” The BSU did not respond to Poly Post’s inquiries.
Usiomo Ujadughele, fourth-year chemical engineering student, is a Nigerian student that is politically active on campus. Ujadughele is the President of The Brothers’ Movement, a CPP organization aimed to enrich the African American community.
“Nigerian people they’ve always been resilient, they’ve always been strong, they’ve always spoken their mind when it comes to government corruption,” said Ujadughele. “But now there is a lot more unity, it’s as though the fear that many may have thought of it as almost obsolete. People are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that others know, and if there is one thing that can possibly change the government it is world knowledge of what is going on in the country.”
The Feminist Coalition has also taken strides toward ground support by gathering global donations aimed at mental health support, legal aid, relief for victims of police brutality and medical coverage.
To learn more about the protests, visit the Feminist Coalition Instagram page @feminist.co to donate visit https://feministcoalition2020.com.
(Feature image courtesy of Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona)
Show Comments (0)