Statement of Solidarity with the #EndSARS Protests in Nigeria Against Police Brutality and Corruption

Statement of Solidarity with the #EndSARS Protests in Nigeria Against Police Brutality and Corruption

November 2, 2020

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) strongly condemns violence against peaceful protesters in Nigeria. We stand in solidarity with women and youth who are at the forefront of the nation-wide demonstrations against police brutality and abuses of power by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force.

GNWP’s partner, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) Nigeria reports that since October 8, 2020, 26 out of 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in  Nigeria has witnessed  series of  protests against the “inadequacies of law enforcement agencies to bring the perpetrators of abuses to justice.” Young women and men have been leading the protests calling for an end to police brutality. We share their grave concerns regarding human rights abuses committed by the SARS since its inception in 1992, including cases of torture, misuse of weapons, extra-judicial killing, physical and sexual assaults, unlawful arrest and detention, extortion, and illegal stop and searches. Young people have been disproportionately affected and targeted by the police officers of the SARS.

We echo the calls by Nigerian youth and women peacebuilders, including our partner WANEP-Nigeria to conduct widespread and inclusive consultations with key stakeholders, including civil society, especially youth-led organizations, to find lasting solutions to the current crisis, and promote sustainable peace and justice in Nigeria. We congratulate the Nigerian youth, women and other protesters for their persistence that led to the disbandment of the SARS in all 36 and the Federal Capital as announced by the Inspector General of Police on October 11, 2020. We also acknowledge the positive step taken by Federal Government in setting up the National Economic Council (NEC) Committee, headed by the Vice President, and designed to provide an effective communication channel with the youth, civil society and religious leaders across the country.  

We call on the Nigerian government to listen to the remaining demands of women and youth peacebuilders, to address the root causes of the abuse of power that gave rise to the protests. These include:

  • Youth and women’s meaningful participation in decision-making and peacebuilding processes at all levels. Youth are systematically excluded from decision-making and public governance, while representing more than 40% of Nigeria’s population.[1] Youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today, and have displayed their leadership in demanding change and mobilizing for peace and justice. The Nigerian government must ensure the meaningful, equal and full participation of youth, including young women, in decision-making processes around police reform and corruption in police services.

Alongside WANEP-Nigeria, Nigerian youth, and Nigerian civil society, we call on the Nigerian government to recognize the compounded impacts of COVID-19 and multiple conflicts across the country on women and youth participation. The government must uphold its commitments under UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, and on Youth, Peace and Security by effectively addressing barriers to women and youth participation.

  • Addressing socio-economic inequalities that are one of the root causes of conflict and police brutality. We support Nigerian civil society organizations’ call for the Federal and State governments to create economic empowerment opportunities and sustainable livelihoods for young women and men. Concrete actions are needed to increase youth employment.
  • Establishment of effective mechanisms to keep State governments and Nigerian Police Force accountable for fulfilling the five demands of the #EndSARS movement approved by the President Panel on Police Reform on October 13, 2020. All those responsible for these egregious human rights violations must be held accountable, and commitments made towards police reform must manifest in concrete actions. 
  • Ensuring protections for protesters and activists working to defend human rights and calling for an end to police brutality. We support Nigerian civil society organizations’ call for the Federal and State governments to protect the right to peaceful assembly in line with their obligations under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999). This must be done by fostering conditions that will allow all activists, specifically youth, to continue peaceful protests without fear of persecution or harassment.

Meaningful participation of women and youth and ensuring accountability for the abuse of power by those mandated to protect are key tenets of sustainable peace. We urge the Nigerian government to heed the calls of the civil society and take decisive actions to address structural roots of police brutality and violence in the country.

[1] Interview with GNWP Partner, October 27, 2020