Nigerian Protesters Close Africa’s Largest City, Expand Confrontation With Government

Nigerian Protesters Close Africa's Largest City, Expand Confrontation With Government

Nigeria LAGOS— Tens of thousands of demonstrators shut down Africa’s largest city on Monday, the biggest protest in a two-week campaign against police violence and widening the deadlock with the government. Promise to restore order.

Protesters waving banners blocked major roads across Lagos, Nigeria’s huge commercial capital and home to about 20 million people. The city’s Ibadan Expressway was blocked by groups shouting “We want change”. Protesters closed the city’s airport and raided the terminal. In a city notorious for hours of traffic jams, you can see Lagos residents walking along columnar streets and causeways.

The Lagos protests were the largest of a series of protests across West Africa on Monday that appear to significantly raise the temperature between 260 million protesters and the government.

Protesters against police violence in Lagos on Monday.


Photo:

Sunday Alamba / Associated Press

Nigerian troops planned protests at several crossroads in the capital city of Abuja, and police fired tear gas just days after local authorities issued a ban on protests. Over the weekend, Defense Minister Bashir Magashi warned protesters of national security violations, and intelligence minister Rai Mohamed said the government would not “allow the government to fall into anarchy.”

Protesters in Lagos accuse the government of deploying agitators to make an excuse for crackdown.

Gbenga Abioye, a student who participated in a Lagos protest blocking access to Murtala Muhammed Airport, said, “I know they will call the troops and try to scare us. . “We are not going to fight. But we will stay on the street.”

Elevating rhetoric raises the likelihood of a confrontation between President Muhammadu Buhari and a protest movement that has evolved from an autonomy campaign to more proliferating protests against allegations of government corruption, poor economic management, and family punishment.

The protests took place in the following context. Serious economic anxiety, As the Nigerian economy is growing rapidly due to the collapse of oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, it is not growing rapidly. Official statistics show that over 55% of Nigerians are underemployed or unemployed, and youth unemployment is much higher. More than 90% of Nigerians work in the informal sector. That said, tens of millions of people have been deprived of the cash they need to survive due to the government’s major city closures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

March in Lagos on Saturday. For many, protests against police brutality have become protests against government corruption, poor economic management, and kinship.


Photo:

Sunday Alamba / Associated Press

Former general Buhari, who briefly ruled Nigeria as head of the military regime in the 1980s, deployed troops against other protests, including 2018, when government forces killed 45 people in recent years before being elected civilian president in 2015. I did. Shiite Muslims marching to support imprisoned priests. He urged the protesters to give the government time to address their concerns.

The current protests began with a call to ban the Special Anti-Rental Forces (SARS), a notorious police unit that has long been accused of extortion, torture, and extra-judicial murder. The mostly peaceful protests organized under the #EndSARS hashtag, with the support of celebrities and business leaders around the world, including rapper Kanye West and Twitter chief executive Jack Doh, urged people to donate bitcoin to support the protesters. .

The Nigerian diaspora communities in the United States and Europe have joined the street protests, along with a movement to resolve the country’s traditional sectarian and economic divide.

“This protest is different in that this is the first time Nigerians speak in one voice and the government cannot find anything that can divide us,” said Charles Inno, a popular Nigerian comedy actor who was marching wrapped in a Nigerian flag. “EndSARS has been a gathering place for bad governance, poor administration and institutional adherence for many years. We are calling for a sweeping reform of the political system.”

Nigerian government Agreed to dismantle the police And it establishes a new elite police officer, SWAT, who will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, tensions continued to rise on the streets of the country, as protesters pledged not to withdraw until the promise was delivered and the government released those arrested in recent protests.

Protesters meeting in Lagos on Saturday.


Photo:

temilade adelaja / Reuters

In the Edo state, authorities have imposed a curfew after hundreds of inmates escaped jail against protests. Elsewhere, groups of men armed with clubs and bats attacked groups of protesters camping at strategic intersections.

The protests are led by young people in Nigeria, with an average age of 18 and one of the fastest growing populations in the world, and is expected to overtake the United States by 2050 to become the third largest country. A youth-led pattern calling for a change from Hong Kong to Sudan and Chile.

Nigeria’s youth-led protests “may begin to redraw the political landscape,” said Amaka Anku, an analyst at risk consulting firm Eurasia Group.

“The current generation of young Nigerians has paid little attention to politics until now… . The reality is likely to change as young protesters become more conscious of their political power,” she said.

Fractures are appearing within protest movements between those who want to focus on police brutality and those who want more radical change.

“The biggest strength of the protests is the lack of centralized leadership at all,” said David Huni Dean, a reporter who criticizes the government involved in the protests. “Now the possibility of military intervention is very high.”

The protests were no longer about police violence, but became political, said a senior Nigerian security official. “This is a platform that is kidnapped by people who oppose the government. I have enough money.”

There were signs that Buhari’s allies were stepping up their stance on the protesters. The governor of the majority of Muslim northern Nigeria’s rejected the complete dissolution of SARS, stressing that it helped the battle. Boko Haram Uprising It needs to be reformed rather than scrapped.

The Nigerian army has said it will begin two months of national training (Operation Crocodile Smile) over the weekend. In general, annual drills focused on the oil-producing delta region are held for the first time nationwide.

On Monday night, thousands of protesters gathered at the toll gates of the bridge, waving the lights of their cell phones as musicians sang protest songs through booming speakers. A vast digital advertising banner above the bridge was illuminated with the protest slogan “Soro Soke” or Speak Louder.

Demonstrators in Lagos have pledged to continue closing the entire city of New York for three days. “These protests are happening in stages and we are not ready to leave the streets anytime soon,” said 36-year-old Nigerian actor Uche Nnadi. “We are tired of bad leadership.”

writing Joe Parkinson ([email protected])

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