A group of Nigerians living in Belgium today staged a protest at the Belgian embassy of Nigeria in solidarity with the ongoing agitation for an end to police brutality in the African country.
Under the auspices “Concerned Nigerian Youths in Belgium,” the protesters Friday morning marched to the Avenue De Tervueren location of the embassy, with different placards and a letter containing their demands.
The protesters had earlier visited the embassy on Tuesday but was informed that the ambassador was unavailable to receive them.
On Friday, the Acting Ambassador, Francis Enya, was on ground to receive the protesters who presented to him a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the letter, the protesters, comprising students, working professionals and Nigerian-European citizens, condemned the response of the police to the wave of protests in different locations in Nigeria.
“It is therefore ironic and unfortunate that what was intended as a peaceful campaign against police brutality has been repeatedly met with ruthless force by the police, who continue to deploy armored personnel carriers (APCs), water cannons, tear-gas, semi-automatic rifles and live rounds against harmless protesters, contrary to all contemporary Rules of Engagement. So far, about 14 (Fourteen) innocent persons have needlessly lost their lives to these excessive yet futile state-backed attempts at suppression,” the letter reads.
In line with most demands tabled back home, the agitators concluded the letter seeking some policy changes to further enhance the performance of the Nigeria Police and forestall future occurrences of brutality.
“We therefore unequivocally lend our voice to the ongoing domestic campaign and urge you to fall on the positive side of history by using your good office to prevail on the Government to consider and accede to the demands of the Nigerian people on this issue. In line with the 5for5 Declaration, our demands are as follows:
“The immediate release of all arrested protesters;
“Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families;
“Set up an independent body with the mandate to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct, brutality and fatality within 10 days;
“In line with the new Police Act, conduct psychological evaluation and retraining of all members of the Police Force (to be confirmed by an independent body); and
“Increase police salaries to compensate them for the important work of protecting lives and properties in Nigeria.”
Second picture: Copy of the letter submitted at the embassy (merged).
Protests against police brutality in Nigeria have been on for days both on and offline.
While protesters occupied major roads and landmark locations in several cities across the country, social media users trended the topic using the hashtags #ENDSARS, #SARSMUSTEND, #ENDSWAT, #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY, etc.
In solidarity with protests in Nigeria, citizens of Nigeria in France, USA, UK, Canada and other countries also lent their voices to the movement in protest fashion.
Third picture: One of the protesters addressing the Acting Ambassador
The protesters want immediate life termination of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a demand that was acceded to by the government on Sunday.
Despite this announcement, protests continued across Nigeria with citizens rejecting the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) announced as SARS replacement among other sundry demands.
Why we protested
One of the protesters, Samsudeen Alabi, said the urge to clamour for a better Nigeria brought him and others out in protest despite initial challenges.
“We came out to protest because we wanted to join our voices to the voices of million Nigerians who are already protesting the shameful situation back home,” he said “Young Nigerians are making exploits in all facets of life and the least the Nigerian government can do is to guarantee their safety, It is sad that we are safer abroad than we are back home.”
Oyinkansola Awolo, a student, is optimistic the demands would be met by the government while hoping for a better Nigeria to eventually return to.
“Hopefully the Nigerian government would take things more seriously, realise that entire protests don’t just affect people home and we want a better Nigeria to come back to,” she said.