LAGOS (Reuters) – Ozioma Egemasi says Nigerian police slapped, whipped and struck him with the butt of a pistol when he refused to pay them a bribe. Then he heard them talk about whether or not to kill him.
The 24-year-old music label supervisor shared his expertise on Instagram, one among hundreds of largely younger Nigerians who’re taking to social media to talk out in opposition to alleged abuses by police and to coordinate ongoing protests.
1000’s of individuals have taken to the streets each day throughout the nation in one of many largest reveals of public anger in 30 years, posing a significant problem to President Muhammadu Buhari amid an financial droop made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I used to be scared. It meant they had been keen to do something to get no matter they needed to get from me,” mentioned Egemasi, recalling the January encounter with members of Nigeria’s Particular Anti-robbery Squad (SARS).
Reuters couldn’t independently confirm his account. A Lagos state police spokesman didn’t reply to cellphone calls and a textual content message looking for touch upon the allegations.
The police power has beforehand denied accusations in opposition to SARS which might be fuelling the unrest, though it mentioned earlier this month that “unruly and unprofessional” officers had been arrested and had been going through disciplinary actions.
Different concessions have been made since nationwide demonstrations started on Oct. 8: SARS was disbanded on Oct. 11 and a brand new police unit, the Particular Weapons and Ways (SWAT) staff, was created to “fill the gaps”.
Nevertheless it has not had the specified impact. Protesters say they’ve heard such guarantees earlier than and demand deeper adjustments, together with the prosecution of police accused of wrongdoing.
Rallying beneath the #EndSars hashtag and harnessing social media to boost consciousness and funds and to garner assist from worldwide celebrities, protesters have constructed a momentum that earlier actions led by civil teams and unions didn’t do.
There are clear parallels with anti-government actions in locations like Hong Kong and Belarus, mentioned Antony Goldman, chief government of London-based political threat advisory agency ProMedia Consulting.
“They’ve more and more related younger, city populations which have discovered a trigger, and social media has triggered very speedy momentum,” Goldman mentioned.
The Nigerian protesters have drawn assist from Black Lives Matter activists in the USA, together with the motion’s co-founder Opal Tometi, and from Canadian rapper Drake and British-Nigerian actor John Boyega.
A Twitter account utilizing the identify of the web activist collective Nameless mentioned final week it had hacked into Nigerian authorities web sites in solidarity with the #EndSars marketing campaign. Authorities officers didn’t affirm any breaches. [L8N2H80L6]
Members of Nigeria’s burgeoning tech business, a vivid spot for international traders in Africa’s most populous nation, say they’re usually singled out by police for spot checks.
Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, co-founder of software program developer coaching agency Andela and funds firm Flutterwave, mentioned so many workers had been harassed that his corporations had protocols in place to name senior police officers within the occasion of an arrest.
Egemasi mentioned his laptop computer and monetary transactions on his cellular phone aroused the suspicion of the 5 SARS officers who stopped him in a Lagos road at the beginning of the yr.
“This occurs on a regular basis to younger individuals as a result of they imagine we’re younger and never alleged to have that sort of cash,” he instructed Reuters.
He mentioned he was freed after paying a 500,000 naira ($1,300) bribe.
As he spoke, Egemasi was surrounded by greater than a thousand protesters at a toll gate within the upmarket Lekki district of Lagos on Saturday.
Music blared out of tall audio system. A large digital billboard displayed slogans corresponding to “Soro Soke”, a Yoruba phrase that means “Converse Up”. And activists doled out free meals and picked up litter in black plastic baggage.
Such gatherings have largely been financed by way of crowdfunding, activists say.
The Feminist Coalition, a Nigerian rights group coordinating among the logistics, mentioned on its fundraising web page it had obtained greater than 73 million naira ($192,000) as of Sunday.
The funds have been used to rent personal safety guards to defend protesters in opposition to armed gangs who attacked some demonstrations final week, pay for personal ambulances and canopy the authorized payments of greater than 70 members arrested throughout Nigeria, in line with a spokeswoman for the group.
The crowdfunding is important to keep away from political interference, mentioned the spokeswoman, who requested to not be recognized for worry of censure by the federal government.
“It is a decentralized, democratic course of.”
Two Nigerian banks closed the group’s accounts final week, in order that they transformed their financial savings to bitcoin and began fundraising within the cryptocurrency, she added.
Donations soared after Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday posted a tweet https://twitter.com/jack/standing/1316485283777519620?s=20 encouraging his practically 5 million followers to contribute.
The crowdfunding has helped make the demonstrations among the many largest and longest-running in a long time, mentioned Cheta Nwanze of SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based threat advisory agency.
The availability of free meals was a “excellent use of assets,” he added. Most individuals dwell on lower than $2 a day.
“It is serving to to maintain the momentum.”
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Modifying by Alexandra Zavis and Mike Collett-White)
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