WE are supposed to be talking about local issues here but we cannot pretend that we are strictly an island. Nigeria has been playing with fire in the last couple of weeks. Killing the youth is playing with fire. When young people are demonised because some of them are committing petty socio-economic crimes while the big lords of poverty, the political, religious and business elite of society in Nigeria are swimming in violent wealth, what follows is a major uprising, not an accident waiting to happen.
This country has the highest population in Africa, 207 million people. With that demographic in mind, I am not sure why the security forces there think that they can win against an oppressed people.
There is an international part of Ireland which has a mix of impacts locally. In these past few weeks, Nigeria, once the undisputed leader of Africa, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The tension in Nigeria has been high. The Nigerian police have been committing shameless acts of brutality and killing young people, homeless youth in particular. What happens to Afro-Americans, the force used by trigger-happy racist white law enforcement agents in America, is no different from the social divide in Nigeria.
The cry is the same and this time it is not a white officer but a black African security body called the SARS, the special anti-robbery squad. This lot has been getting orders from the highest offices in the land to shoot and any questions asked by victim’s families are swept under the carpet. The SARS have frequently targeted young men who project popular culture: dreadlocked hair, tattoos and body piercing. To the Nigerian police, these are the source of bribe money and if they don’t have the money, they can kiss goodbye to their families. Those lives don’t matter according to government and, as for the continuing protests, they believe this is in the laps of the gods, that it will die out and people in Nigeria will be living out of it in two or three weeks.
Disbanding SARS was a charade by @MBuhari. This happened yesterday in Jos, a friend @usm69h was beaten in broad daylight with sticks and iron by the @HQNigerianArmy for trying to aid his pregnant wife.— Sadiq Ango Abdullahi (@sadiqango) October 26, 2020
Is this the new SARS?#EndSARS @SaharaReporters @channelstv pic.twitter.com/j73yHHJLVv
Like the Black Lives Matter campaign, a decentralised movement called End SARS has been walking the streets of Nigeria to marshal mass protests against the criminal police unit of Nigeria.
The Formula One king Lewis Hamilton is totally signing up to the Nigeria protest.
Here in Ireland, there is a sizeable community of Nigerians both in the South and North. The 2011 Ireland Census reported that there 19,780 people born in Nigeria living there. and in Northern Ireland just under 1,000.
These figures prove that there is a very diverse reason for this country being an immigration choice.
The Nigerian community, of Northern Ireland, human rights organisations and other African residents here have been holding protests in many places and last week the front area of the City Hall in Belfast saw protests against the brutality of the Nigerian regime. People here with families in NIgeria are very worried that their kin and friends might be in the firing line.
Africa must stop entertaining this continuing nonsense of state oppression against unarmed civilians.
Elly Omondi Odhiambo is a Belfast-based Kenyan writer and healthcare worker. He can be contacted via his byline above.