Abuja demonstrations against police brutality turned violent on Friday after armed officers fired teargas at protesters.
The reportedly peaceful protest had barely taken off before police officers unleashed mayhem that saw many demonstrators injured while running for cover.
Police also fired live rounds into the air, multiple witnesses said in several social media posts which included graphic photos and footage of visibly distressed young men and women who had joined the march.
The development stood in contrast to the demonstrations in Lagos where police response has been largely civil. Deputy government Obafemi Hamzat also addressed a crowd of protesters camping outside the statehouse.
Protesters are using the #EndSARS hashtag which is now trending globally at number one on Twitter.
Demonstrators are marching across Nigeria against widespread police brutality mainly targeted at young people. They are urging the authorities to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit blamed for illegal arrests, extortion and extra-judicial killings.
The government recently banned SARS and other units from conducting routine searches and mounting blockades. But the sentiment on the street indicates a lack of trust in the sincerity of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to bring real change. At least three similar bans were issued in the past three years with nothing to show.
Some demonstrators are now calling on President Buhari, who is yet to address Nigerians on the issue, to resign. Police spokesperson Frank Mba, who called protesters “clout chasers”, is also being told to step down.
Nigeria’s big media are also accused of colluding with the government to suppress the will of the people. Critics point to a lack of television coverage for #EndSARS protests.
Meanwhile, a police officer was reportedly lynched after allegedly shooting a demonstrator in Delta State. The police responded by launching a probe into the incident and vowing to crush any violent demonstration.