By Bernard Chiketo
Nigerian police murdered 10 people in a brutal repression of protests demanding wholesale police reforms and an end to its use of excessive force, a leading human rights organisation has said.
Amnesty International blamed the killings on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a crack police unit notorious for human rights abuses and previously accused of extra-judicial killings, during a penultimate week of protests which began on October 8.
“So far, Nigerian Police have killed at least 10 people since the start of protests against callous operations of SARS,” Amnesty International told the media this week.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Police Inspector General, Mohammed Adamu, have responded by dissolving the unit and Tuesday announced its replacement – Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), whose recruits will undergo thorough psychological and medical examination.
Police brutality of unarmed civilians, which began in Lagos before spreading to Abuja, Enugu, Calabar, Ilorin, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Rivers, has not eased despite the government move.
No police officer has also been arrested over the killings.
Heavy downpours have also failed to keep protesters off the streets with Nigerians vowing to continue with the street marches and blockade of major roads until all their demands are implemented.
“Amnesty International therefore calls for an urgent review of the use of force and firearms by police officers against protesters and thorough, independent and impartial investigation into all cases of violence including deaths that occurred during the #EndSARS protests,” Seun Bakare, head of programs at Amnesty International Nigeria said.
Police are denying responsibility for some of the killings blaming some of those in Lagos on ‘hoodlums.’
The death of a 20-year-old man in Ogbomosho, Oyo State, on Saturday, October 10, 2020 spurred even more protests that led to the destruction of the palace of the traditional chief on Sunday.