Scores of Nigerian nationals converged at the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria in solidarity with their compatriots in protest against the excessive force and abuse by the Special Anti-Armed Robbery Squad back home.
The protest was part of the international #EndSarsNow and #EndPoliceBrutalityNow campaigns, which are sweeping across the world.
The Special Anti Armed Robbery Squad – known as Sars – is alleged to have been abusing citizens.
In a bid to create awareness, the Nigerian Union South Africa marched and handed over a memorandum to the Nigerian High Commission demanding, among other things, the disbanding of the squad.
Following the arrival of the ambassador Kabiru Bala, the crowd got agitated and pushed towards the pre-set demarcations. Their memorandum could not be read, and Bala could also not address the crowd due to safety concerns arising from the intensity of the protest.
According to the organiser of the protest, Adetola Olubajo, the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters was concerning and unacceptable. He said Nigerians based in South Africa had followed the scenes unfolding and in Nigeria.
He said “While the original purpose of the unit may be noble, the unit has harassed and molested Nigerians on a daily basis, as if being Nigerian youth makes one a criminal. It is no surprise many other nations do not respect Nigerians, not after watching how Nigerian police and its units harass its citizens.”
Olubajo said many young Nigerians outside the country were afraid to even go home after watching some of the ugly scenes. He said “We demand the immediate replacement of the Special Anti Armed Robbery Squad with the Special Weapons and Tactics recently announced by Nigerian Inspector General of the Police, Mohammed Adamu.”
He said despite reassurances that a reform would occur, “the same unit and police continue to brutally mow down civilian protesters and non-protesters, a catalogue of all extra-judicial killing by the squad and police in Nigeria would shock an average person. “How can the protesting youth then trust and be reassured that real reform will occur?”
One of the protesters, Tim Oluowo, said he was saddened and shocked by the conduct of the police force in his country, and the shootings in Lekki were the turning point and proof that something had to change.
He added that “They are shamelessly gunning down our brothers and sisters; it is painful because they are fighting for peace and even in peace they are met with force. We came here and not even one incident broke out, in Nigeria there would have been bloodshed.”