By CBC News
Members of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Nigerian community came together in solidarity Saturday, demanding an end to police brutality and the need for police reform in the country. The group is one of many around the world protesting, following years of violence at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known in Nigeria as SARS.
“Over the years, there’s been a lot of killings,” said Jennifer Agu, president of the province’s Nigerian Student Association. “The youth, the people of Nigeria, we are scared of coming out to talk to the government to speak up for their rights. But I believe that there comes a time in history where we have to protect ourselves.”
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“Enough is enough. Enough to police brutality, enough to making our mothers childless and our fathers childless.”
Stories of extortion by police in Nigeria are also not uncommon, according to Agu.
“With ATMs … they stop you and they take your money,” she said.
“If you don’t have money, they take your card. If you don’t give them your card, they shoot you.”
“They don’t give a damn. They don’t hear,” Agu added. “They think they are gods. We’re here to remind them that we are the people that put them there … we have the power, it’s not the other way around.”
Somadina Muojeke left Nigeria three years ago, and compares police brutality in the country to current events in the United States.
“You are profiled for your hairstyle, you are profiled for your looks, you are profiled for being young, you are profiled for having a tattoo, you are profiled for having a dreadlock,” he said.
“Those who have the power to protect the people, rather than protecting the people, they use that power as a tool of oppression to oppress the people.”
Now living in St. John’s, Muojeke said it’s hard to watch what is going on in Nigeria while he is so far away. He wanted to protest police brutality in the country, but also push for ways to help find a solution.
“[Being in St. John’s] gives me a sense of security. And on the flip side, it’s odd to just know that it’s a site that can be safe,” he said.
“The [Nigerian] police is terrible in what they’re doing in terms of protecting the people, but the police are also suffering,” he added. “Police are not well paid. So this protest is not just about ending the police unit, it’s about ending [SARS] and ending police brutality and funding the police.”
Before arriving in Canada, Muojeke said he had encounters with law enforcement while walking in the street, including one occasion where he was threatened with a gun.
“Someone just moved out on the street with a gun, casually dressed … asked me to come over,” he said. “At the end of the day, it resorted to something you’d call ‘jungle justice,'” — referring to a form of extrajudicial justice where an alleged criminal is publicly humiliated or beaten.
“The guy said he was going to shoot at me.”
Standing next to the clock tower at Memorial University, Muojeke said he hopes the over 50 people in attendance and other members of the Nigerian community can join in calls for police reform and an end to police brutality in the country.
“The people have the power,” he said. “The government is nothing without the people, and the people decide how the government is going to rule them. We are demanding for transparency, we are demanding for accountability, we’re demanding for you to protect us.”
“[People are] no longer scared,” Jennifer Agu added. “I’m very proud of our youth here in St. John’s … I feel content that we’re finally waking up.”
Read from source CBC NEWS