Wearing his traditional Yoruba cap, the governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, takes a step forward and tries to ease the movement. He is in one of the hospital services which receives victims evacuated Tuesday, October 20 after the shots with live ammunition started by men in uniform of the army. A few hours before, the governor signed a curfew order for “Restore order in a Lagos caught in police station attacks, looting of properties and confrontations between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators”.
This cloaking of the former capital of Nigeria aims, among other things, to end the occupation of a toll by thousands of demonstrators denouncing police violence in Nigeria, in particular by the Special Theft Repression Brigade ( Sars), a controversial unit. Already tested by seven months of managing the Covid-19 pandemic in a megalopolis of 20 million inhabitants, Nigeria’s economic and cultural lung, Babajide Sanwo-Olu knows that the videos and audios posted on social networks are in the process of being to forever change the course of his first term as governor.
The movement was launched in the first days of October, on social networks through the hashtag #EndSARS. Its initiators demanded the dissolution of this specialized police brigade against theft and crime after the broadcast of a video of yet another blunder against a young person. The governor of the state regrets that “Peaceful demonstrations (have) degenerated into a monster ”. “I am for the return of order, but I do not have the power to command the military”, he wrote in a message posted before the announcement of Lagos’ total curfew.
The first bursts of automatic rifle
The situation remains very tense in the aftermath of the numerous fires orchestrated by thugs and the bloody repression of a peaceful demonstration. One of the nerve centers is the Lekki tollgate. Its occupation has become the symbol of the fight against police violence. On this portion of the highway connecting Lagos to Epe, almost along the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of young people gathered to discuss police violence. Then the speaking engagements became mass psychotherapy.
Quickly, DJs flocked with their consoles, computers and speakers, turning this bit of asphalt into a giant dance floor. “A friend of mine who was there the day before yesterday addressed the crowd asking people to sit down when the first soldiers arrived, Umo says. They sat on the ground to signify their non-violence. They sang the national anthem. “
A wave of people began to wave the green and white flags of Nigeria, widely distributed for a week. When, all of a sudden, the giant billboards overlooking the tollgate and all the surrounding lights went out, panic swept over the protesters. It was then that the first bursts of automatic rifle sounded.
“We must continue, whatever happens”
Tobiloba, a young architect, went at least three times a week to the busy Lekki toll booth, to discuss the future of the country. ” I am very angry, she explains. I do not know what to do. I want to keep going to Lekki. But this is not reasonable. We must continue whatever happens because this movement has no leader. Everyone is a leader. “
Despite its long mistrust of social movements, Tobiloba is fully committed to denouncing police violence: “I wear dreadlocks, I’m middle class. I have the profile to be an ideal target for this Sars brigade. I have never been bothered but I know so many people around me who have been the victims of abuse and harassment by this police unit supposed to defend us and who have turned us into prey. ” Like Umo, Tobiloba promises to return to Lekki’s tollgate. For both of them, the struggle has only just begun.
Nigeria, African colossus
Nigerian people has 214 million inhabitants. It would reach 410 million by 2050, and almost double by 2100, according to UN forecasts. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa.
Nigeria is the leading producer and African oil exporter, even if it tries to diversify its economy. The country is also the 3e gas producer on the continent, behind Algeria and Egypt, with production of 49.3 billion m3 in 2019.
Strong inequalities. Since 2014, Nigeria has passed South Africa and won the title of the continent’s leading economic power, thanks in particular to its film industry. However, 91 million people, or nearly half of the population, live below the poverty line, according to the World Poverty Clock research institute.