BY EMEKA EJERE
#EndSARS protesters on Sunday blocked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) headquarters, with demands evolving beyond ending police excesses to calls for good governance across the board.
The protest which has lasted over 10 days is also holding in other parts of the country with the protesters vowing not to leave the streets until their demands are met.
Although the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu had disbanded the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the wake of the protests, the agitation has continued to gain traction across the country.
They have rejected the new tactical unit – Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) – formed by the police authorities to replace SARS, saying there is no difference between the former and the latter.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters in Lagos, the commercial center, and in Abuja, the capital, held candlelight processions to honor those killed since protests erupted on Oct. 5 and for those who have died at the hands of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, over the years. The protests have claimed at least 13 lives so far.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo late Friday apologized to protesters in a series of tweets, reaffirming government’s pledge to act swiftly and reform the police.
“It’s people revolting against bad governance, but using the symbolism of police brutality,” said Idayat Hassan, executive director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development. “It goes deeper.”
Nigeria’s army announced it will begin a military exercise on Oct. 20 that will include “cyber warfare exercises designed to identify, track and counter negative propaganda” on social media, spokesman Colonel Sagir Musa said Saturday in an emailed statement.
The army had earlier expressed support for President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it was prepared to quell the continuing protests across Africa’s most populous nation of more than 200 million people.
The statement is seen as signaling a potential escalation in the standoff between protesters and authorities as well as marking a change of stance from an earlier government directive that prohibited the use of force against marchers after Buhari disbanded the infamous SARS unit.