NIGERIA Popular uprising against police brutality and oppression

Nigeria ranks first as Africa’s economy with the largest population in the continent. Currently, an important popular uprising is under way. It started at the beginning of October launched on the social networks to denounce police brutality and has now grown to a full-scale movement against the ruling power.

If the origin of the movement was the brutality of the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) a police body known for its brutality, the root causes reach much deeper. Actually, the decision of the ruling power to disband the SARS has not put an end to the protests.

Though the country is an oil producer (almost entirely in the hands of four huge multinational corporations: Shell, Total, ExxonMobil and Chevron), it does has not benefitted from the economic repercussions, and Nigeria’s economy closely depends on oil revenues. Besides, the payment of the debt takes over 60% of the country’s revenues. The value of the Naira, the local currency is plummeting. Meanwhile the federal government has pushed the VAT up from 5% to 7.5%.

Such facts weigh heavily on the daily lives of Nigerian people who are undergoing unemployment and poverty. This already sombre picture is still darkened by other factors among which the closing down of the borders with neighbouring countries, which prevents the Nigerians as well as the inhabitants of neighbouring countries from pursuing economic activities which, up to now, have enabled them to make a living, to which has been added the economic slow-down due to the pandemic. People find it increasingly difficult to put up with corruption and unpunished police brutality, and the impunity enjoyed by the rulers.

What happened on 24 October in Jos in the centre of the country is significant: the people living there discovered vast supplies of food stocked there which were to be allocated to the population during the lock-down and were never distributed by the government. A woman living in the city and quoted by Africanews says: “During the lock-down, they were simply hoarding all this food. This makes you think about the sort of government we have. We have suffered and a lot of people have starved to death!” 

The more so as the same government brutally slammed down on the protests on 20 October: 10 people were shot dead at the Lekki toll, south of Lagos when the army started shooting thousands of marchers around 7 p.m., in Alausa, a district in the centre of Lagos, two people at least were killed and another one was badly wounded, shot by the police forces.

After the tool of the massacre at Lekki, the leadership of the powerful trade union federation, Nigeria Labour Congress – which up to then had remained silent – finally decided to take a position on 21 October, “condemning the cold-blooded murder of youth and the use of authoritarian methods against unarmed marchers”. 

For its part, the CLTB (Liaison Committee of the Trotskyists of Benin), on of Nigeria’s neighbouring countries, “salutes the fight of the Nigerian people who today are faced with fierce repression; extends its fraternal support to the combat underway in Nigeria, waged by the youth, the working class and the exploited masses; affirms that the power of the Nigerian working class and its organisations should increasingly take the lead of the fight to put an end to this regime which is in the service of capitalism and of the enslavement of the nation. For democracy and national sovereignty, the national as well and international institutions that are responsible for the misery of the Nigerian people and workers must be overthrown!”

From our correspondents in Benin.