“An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As a mother, what the world will look like tomorrow is more important to me now than ever. Things that once seemed far removed from me, look much closer. The things that may not impact me may impact my children. We are certainly in a day where, as Dr. King said, whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We can no longer hide under the illusion of distance and separation. We are all connected.
As a black woman, I am concerned about the attack on blackness that is happening throughout the world. Whether you are black in America, Europe, Africa or elsewhere, there has got to be a point when black is black. And when black is under attack we need to call it out and stand together in solidarity.
Right now, Nigeria is going through a major movement called #EndSARS. The youth are rising up against injustice, particularly, police brutality. Police brutality is something that blacks in America have been fighting against for a long time. Policing is a system that time and time again has proven to be harmful when people abuse the power they have been entrusted with.
After seeing the #EndSARS protests, seeing some videos and then seeing some conflicting reports on social media, had to hear what was going on for myself. I was able to speak to a friend in Nigeria and ask her what was going on and what they were fighting for. Over the next few days I saw awareness was spreading, other people were sharing about it.
Unfortunately, on Tuesday October 20, 2020 the peaceful protests were disrupted. According to the posts on social media, we had been informed that the Nigerian military opened fire on civilians.
The day after the tragic occurrence, my friend in Nigeria was kind enough to share with me what was going on so that we could spread awareness. It was probably one of the hardest conversations I’ve had with my friend. To hear her pain, her sadness, as she tearfully mustered up the courage to talk about what they are going through.
This was a tough conversation. We cried for humanity. We cried for each other but it’s important to know we didn’t stop there. We are taking action. We are sharing what’s happening. I want to warn you some parts are graphic but to know the truth we had to share some harsh realities.
What follows is excerpts from a conversation with a Nigerian woman who has been speaking to the concerns of Nigerians in the diaspora and on the ground. She has seen for herself what is happening. I thought that hearing from her at this time would be more impactful than just giving a report from the news.
Mommi: Okay so there are still a lot of people here in the US that don’t know what’s going on and who are just super confused and question the validity of what they’re hearing. Can you share with me explain what’s going on in Nigeria right now? What is SARs?
Source: SARS is a special police unit. But this didn’t just start now. Police brutality has been going on for a very very long time! The situation was already vulnerable. The regular police have already been corrupt and killing people, extorting people, and just overall abusing power but the situation has gotten more intense and deadlier once these special unit people (SARS) came in because it seems they were given more leeway, to you know, to menace.
Mommi: So what happened like what was the breaking point?
Source: It was the killings and the harassment, it got out of hand, they’re harassing a lot of people and extorting a lot of people to the point that it became unbearable. Doing things like going through your phone, looking at personal information, your pictures, your apps, looking at your bank accounts. Crazy stuff, like taking people to ATM machines threatening them with violence, you know throwing them in jail for like days without reason and then emptying their accounts.
Mommi: Is this happening to all people? Are they targeting specific people?
Source: Well it’s easier for them to, for lack of a better word, flex their muscles with the young people. So if you look young driving a really nice car, maybe dressed too nice or you know, you just look a little bit different from what they consider to be a responsible person. So your hair like if you have locks, or maybe it’s just too funky. Maybe you have tattoos, you know you could just be too dripped out. Those little things are a trigger, you know they can stop you in a nice car and see you have a laptop and that’s cause.
These people are poorly trained and then the direction and the leadership is just not there. If you’re supposed to crack down on special crimes then you are on the streets pulling people over because of how they look? The directions and training are wrong first and foremost. So if they see you and you’re young, they want to know how can you afford such a car? How could you afford an iPhone? How can you afford this gadget? Why do you have 1 million nairas in your account?
They target you if you are young and doing well because they don’t even expect you to be able to do well. And that’s why the problem is even deeper than the violence from SARS. Our government sits by while the young people struggle. They tell the young people to go to school so they can find careers. Then it takes them forever to get out of school. And when you get out, they’re not providing jobs so we found ways to be proactive and create jobs for ourselves. So many young people that are targeted are the ones creating jobs for themselves, you know DJ’s, and VJ’s, tech jobs, artists, creatives, and fashion stylists and our jobs don’t have regular times.
I’ll give an example, SARS took 200K from this DJ one night while he was going home from a gig. It was late at night, he had all his DJ equipment in his car. They question him about why he has his laptop. He explains that he’s coming back from a gig. But they see a young guy, in a nice car so they harass him. They pointed a gun to this man’s face and told him they could kill him and just go home so he should pay them and they started with an insane amount of 1 million but when he did not have that to pay, they eventually accepted 200k from him. This man is a public figure. He talked about the events of the of that night, he’s reached out to the people that are supposed to be in charge and nothing has been done. He got lucky he got away his life and he only lost 200k but there are people that died.
There’s a guy that went to go watch soccer. He was just literally watching soccer and these two SARS guys were fighting somebody he got hit with a stray bullet and they tried to cover it up. A little girl got hit by a bullet because they were extorting somebody else. The girl was so young, she was barely 10 years old.
There’s no sorry. There’s no there’s no investigation. There’s nothing that happens to these people (SARS) so they point guns at you and tell you things like “if I kill you here nothing will happen to me” and they’re not lying. They pushed a former football player out of a van and he died and you have nothing to tell his family. There’s a story that people were sharing about a guy who was looking for his son. The police told this man to bring 3 million for his release. This guy sold his property, sold everything to make up this money and they sent him to a river to find his son’s body. Until today, nothing’s happened to those people but this happened to those officers that happened to those people and this is on a daily basis.
This is why people are angry because there’s just no humanity attached to it anymore and the violence against people has moved beyond an abuse of power, the situation is passed that now. It’s a sporting event for them now (SARS), it’s like they love to see our people suffer like we are.
People have been in jail for years and didn’t do actually do a crime to get there. Their money was taken from them, their cars taken from them, their possessions gone. They are just sitting in jail.
This has been going like this for a while and it’s just now that its getting out of hand that people are sharing more stories. So the stories that you’re reading for days is so troubling that you’re like “how are we even surviving in this country?”
A lady said she sent a dispatch Rider to make a delivery and the cop stopped him. They wanted to extort him for money, 50 nairas. They put the man in jail. They let him go a few days later and the guy came back with traumatizing stories. He said they took people out to the back and they shot and killed them because nobody was coming to pay for them and they were just taking up space. He said he was lucky and the only reason didn’t kill him was because there was a lady cop that was there and told him he reminded her of her son. So she begged on his behalf.
God only knows what is happening to the people, to their bodies. People are being killed the bodies are being, you know, trotted away. They haven’t got a proper burial because they just dump them somewhere and there is no accountability. That’s a problem. Nothing’s being done. No one is accountable.
Mommi: Could you tell me a little bit about what happened at the Lekki tollgate Massacre?
Source: Well, these protests have been going on for about nine days or ten days. The youth organized it and people have been donating money. Like so much money that donation portals got shut down so people started donating in Bitcoins. The people have been donating time and money. Restaurants gave food and resources to people.
There has been accountability, they have accounted for the money spent. If anybody got injured they took them to the hospital and used the funds to cover the hospital bills. But it’s been quite peaceful, and unifying. It didn’t seem that the protests were ending. So allegedly government people started sending thugs and paying thugs to go discredit the protest so that can look like there is a reason for harsh action. They started some chaos and destroying people’s properties but again like I said the protests were very organized and had funds from donations so you had the Feminist Coalition that is set up here and it would pay for any damage done or if people were hurt they would take them to the hospital and cover the hospital bills. So that whole scare tactic with the extra chaos wasn’t really working.
As the protests went on, especially this week they realized the youth are not letting up. They were seemingly dispersing more thugs to the places where we’ve been protesting. So it started looking like it was getting more violent.
On Monday night the governor’s had a meeting to impose a lockdown and a nationwide curfew to supposedly curb the violence and protect the people. So on Tuesday at noon Lagos State Governor announced that there will be a 24-hour curfew from 4 p.m. Meaning that everybody needed to be back in their home by 4:00pm that day, except if you are an essential worker. So if by 4:00 p.m if you are found out in the streets it is a violation.
This announcement was made at 12 noon, people were already outside of their houses. They’re not sitting at televisions and you know it’s not like it was in a newspaper the day before, so people were already out for their day, at work and people were already at the protest grounds. The protestors mostly decided to stay and remain peacefully.
It was later, around maybe seven, when military men had been dispersed to the protest grounds that then they said they extended the curfew time to 9 p.m to give people time to make it home. The traffic was insane and hoodlums and thugs had already started blocking the streets trying to get money from people who were trying to get home.
The military personnel went to the protest grounds at Lekki and instead of trying to negotiate with the people or at least hear them out. They just opened fire! These people were sitting down peacefully. All they had was a Nigerian flag and they sat singing the National Anthem. As far as their constitutional rights, a military can’t attack civilians who are not doing anything right?
The people didn’t even know that they were about to open fire on them. They were just thinking that the military was showing up to maintain peace, protect businesses, to make sure there’s no rowdiness and just make sure that there’s no disruption but, the people did not think the military is about to open fire on them! It’s crazy, they shot blindly into crowds!
Mommi: So what’s happened since the Tollgate Massacre?
Source: There’s been mayhem. People have been burning down supermarkets, banks, offices, there’s looting, people even in the street fighting, military fighting the civilians, cops fighting civilians.
During the looting, people are found covid-19 palettes of supplies that were supposed to go out to the people and they were just being stored up. So that means when covid was at its height here the government had aid but wasn’t it giving it to the people!? It’s just Madness.
Now people are even more angry and upset, they’ve lost loved ones. There’s been more bloodshed and now the 24-hour curfew has become 72 hours. Many people are laying low because the government seems to be cracking down on those who seem to be heavily active in the protests.
Mommi: So what is the government saying about what happened? About the massacre?
Source: This is a beautiful part of it. The governor of Lagos State has said that they did not have any reported fatalities. He said there are some casualties but not that much and some have been released from the hospital. But we (Nigerian citizens) know that’s a lie.
They’re saying that people are doctoring videos and photos to make it seem like there were dead bodies and to make it seem like it was military. Then when it was hard to dispute live footage it became that the people who showed up were not military but just dressed like it. In Nigeria, that is not likely, it is illegal for us to have or wear military garments or military looking garments. Nigerian military claims they were not there.
It’s like just please stop talking because now you are just taking us for fools. Lying to us, and covering it up to the world. Of course, there is no official footage or proof from the government regarding this because they made sure it wasn’t captured. They came in and took down the cameras at the tollgate, they turned off a bright billboard that is always lit up, they turned out the lights. That toll gate is one of the most profitable places in Lagos, and the protestors were disrupting their ability to make money from it, so there is that too.
Mommi: So for people like me, in America also dealing with police brutality and corrupt government, what can we do to help the Nigerian people?
Source: Watch what’s happening. Pay attention. We need the World to keep our story alive. There is power in numbers. Unified people against hate and abuse will force the government to act. The more information that can get out there to the world, the better. Going online, tagging things, the right media outlets so they can see it and spread the word. Sharing information from people who are actually here and on the ground can help discredit the lies from our government.
People can also keep donating, there are some reputable organizations that are transparent with what they are doing with the funds. Donating to them will help pay for medical bills as well as send support to families who have lost loved ones.
The support we get from the outside helps. When powerful people and people with large followings start sharing and speaking about it, the government will have to start holding these criminal officers accountable. You won’t be able to discredit everybody.
Every little bit helps because if we can keep this going, a change is gonna come.
Once it becomes less of a national matter and more of an international matter now it’s a different story, the UN can get involved. People will be forced to act right. The government will know everyone is watching and they need to shape up. And if they don’t they would be inviting outsiders to come and take over and nobody wants that. Let me be clear we do not want the west coming in to try and take something over. We do not want or need any more western colonization as that is what has gotten us to this point in the first place.
We just need more awareness so people know this is a real thing. On a daily basis, people are losing their lives. People are dead, people’s children are dead and those responsible should be held accountable! It could be anybody God forbid. And that’s what we are trying to avoid right now.
All of this death could have been avoided, this was a unifying thing, our parents were proud of us for standing up, for being organized for being proactive. Now look, businesses are being looted, people are in their houses right now concerned. They are laying low, they don’t know who is listening now on their calls because they were so active during the protests. You know this is a violation of people’s rights, their freedom of speech their human rights. Right now it seems like nobody cares.
Mommi: I think that right now we are in an interesting time and it’s important for us to fight homelessness. We have to fight off the feeling that there is nothing we can do or that things won’t change. Fight against the idea that nobody cares or that it won’t get better. But at the same time, we also have to act as if no one is coming to save us and nothing will change unless we change it.
Source: It’s so true and saddening. What is happening in Nigeria doesn’t just affect Nigerians. This country is full of resources that the entire world uses. To think that this doesn’t impact you is naive. Even Mandela said it, Africa won’t be great until Nigeria is given the respect it deserves. Nigeria is important for all black people.
Tonight the President is supposed to make a speech so we will see what he has to say and I will update you then…
Later that night, my source and I did not speak on the matter again. The President’s speech was disappointing to many Nigerians and left some even feeling maybe more hopeless than before. See the speech here.
Some quick facts to equip yourself with so you can educate someone else about what is going on?
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was a Nigerian Police Force unit created in late 1992 to deal with crimes associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and firearms.
- Release of all arrested protestors
- Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families
- Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation & prosecution of all reports of police misconduct (within 10 days)
- In line with the new Police Act, Psychological evaluation & retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
- Increase Police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and the property of citizens.
- Share this information with your communities.
- Keep this conversation going.
- Continue to hold President Buhari of Nigeria to his promise of disbanding SARS as well police reform.
Thank you for reading,
Love a very concerned Mommi