The demonstrations in Africa's most populous city in Nigeria. Photo: Jerry Jallo

The demonstrations in Africa's most populous city in Nigeria. Photo: Jerry Jallo


Police brutality in Nigeria is a global phenomenon

Demonstrations in Nigeria against police brutality and corruption in the autumn of 2020 resulted in the majority of deaths and arrests. However, the debate on police brutality and violence is not just about Nigeria, it exists globally and affects most countries, all of which seem to suffer from several common factors.

The streets of Nigeria were filled with protesters after a video was spread on social media, showing a man being murdered by a person suspected of working for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars). Sars is a special unit that was founded with the aim of counteracting police brutality and fighting serious crime in the country, but protesters has accused Sars of police brutality and violence for several years and that they are actually working against their purpose. Protesters initially demanded the closure of Sars, which resulted in the government replacing the unit with a new one in the capital, Abuja. The protesters claimed that it was only an attempt by the government to "look good on paper". So the demonstrations have continued and demand that corruption be stopped, that police reforms be carried out that stop torture carried out by police and that these be brought to justice for their actions. Amnesty International reported that more than 50 people have died in the protests across the country, despite the protests being peaceful at first. According to Amnesty, a peaceful demonstration train in Lagos was shot down by security forces, but the government has denied the allegations. Many protesters have also been arrested by the police as a result of the demonstrations. Finally demonstrations were banned in Lagos and social media have been censored in the northern parts of the country. 

Similar Demonstrations have taken place in several countries around the world, of which Black Lives Matter has received a lot of media attention. The movement started in 2013 in the USA, as a protest against a police officer who unprovokedly shot a 17-year-old African American in Florida was acquitted. In early 2020, the demonstrations escalated again when a police officer in the arrest of George Floyd strangled him to death, after Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit dollar bill. Police brutality in the United States is closely linked to racism and police reforms that have been accused of being racist, as research and statistics show that young African Americans are more often than other groups exposed to police violence. The Black Lives Matter movement has spread around the world and several demonstrations have also taken place in Swedish cities. Amnesty believes that police brutality can be caused by several factors, such as lack of legislation and various forms of discrimination. In the United States, for example, there are nine states that do not have laws on lethal violence perpetrated by the judiciary. Protests have also taken place in France, the United Kingdom and Russia, where people from ethnic minorities and LGBTQ + are at greater risk of being subjected to police violence. In all examples, there are gaps in the legislation and some cases have also indicated that lack of political representation for minorities is part of the problem.  

Lack of political representation of minority groups is considered one of the problems in Nigeria because the government is made up of politicians who have been in power for a long time. During the former presidential election 2019 The top candidates were around 70 years old, despite the fact that Nigeria consists of a very young population with a national median age of 18 years. The protesters has accused the current government of not having contact with society and this in turn has had a negative effect on democratic development, partly because the same politicians have been in power for a long time. Although the age limit for being able to stand in the election has just been reduced from 40 to 35 years, they have been more difficult for young politicians to gain influence in large events. 

A combination of unequal political representation, inadequate legislation and discrimination are some common factors that have contributed to a global protest against police brutality and violence. Thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and violence have received a great deal of attention and a global spread. Increased public awareness has put pressure on those in power. Whether the government will prioritize police brutality or not, they have the public's eyes on them.

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