Since October 7th, 2020, protests have raged throughout many of Nigeria’s cities demanding the dismantlement of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and a thorough transformation of Nigerian police forces. Video showing officers murdering an unarmed man on camera went viral. This brutality was only the latest act of violence from a police unit known for routine torture, extortion, and extrajudicial murder, especially against Nigeria’s working class youth.
The protest wave of the last few weeks is the most significant of a series of mobilizations against SARS brutality dating back to 2017, causing Nigerian governments to repeatedly promise to reform the unit with no lasting effect.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has responded to the #EndSARS protests with brutal state violence, both through cooptation and violent crackdown. On October 11 the government announced the disbanding of SARS, replacing it a few days later with a new unit, SWAT. Protestors immediately recognized this as no concession at all, having been given the same empty promise by the government since 2017. At the same time forces allied to the government have facilitated violent infiltration of protests to sow chaos and discredit the movement.
On October 20, the government of Lagos State ordered a curfew and the Nigerian military attacked protestors at the Lekki toll gate, killing at least a dozen, according to Amnesty International. Riot police have been deployed throughout the country since the uprising began, killing at least 56 people over the past two weeks. Yet protesters have remained uncowed in the wake of the Lekki Massacre and increasing state violence across the country, refusing to leave the streets or retreat from their urgent demands for justice.
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) stands in solidarity with Nigeria’s #EndSARS/#EndSwat movement and the rights of Nigerians to protest without being attacked by police or military.
Since last year waves of protest have spread over much of the world, including against white supremacist police violence in the United States and other countries. We recognize that the powerful protest wave of #EndSARS originates in Nigeria’s own particular vibrant history of social movements and popular mobilizations against unemployment, austerity, oppression and exploitation.
As socialists in the United States, we also condemn the long-standing military aid provided by the U.S. government and its historic partnerships with Nigerian regimes, including the current so-called “anti-terror” campaign waged by the Buhari government on Boko Haram and the people of northern Nigeria. We recognize the uprising in Nigeria as part of a universal struggle against state violence carried out by exploitative ruling classes and join them in solidarity.