When Nigeria’s president made a rare, televised address to the nation on Thursday evening, he made vague references to “ongoing developments,” namely calling on “our youths to discontinue the street protests” — not mentioning once the fact that his security forces had killed people in the streets amid the country’s most powerful protests against police brutality ever.
What Muhammadu Buhari clearly didn’t want to mention was the Nigerian military opening fire on thousands of peaceful protesters Tuesday evening, killing at least 12 and injuring several hundred. Though he didn’t acknowledge the brutal suppression — the rest of the world has.
It’s being called the “Lekki massacre,” after the shootings took place at a toll bridge in that affluent suburb. It was there that protesters have demonstrated for the past two weeks as part of an ongoing movement calling for an overhaul of Nigeria’s notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS.
The violence has been condemned by world figures including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres — but has also taken off on social media, with people using the hashtag #EndSARS to call for an end to the violence.
Buhari, in his address, scolded the protesters as “unpatriotic” and told people to “seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment.” But the activists behind the End SARS social movement have for years been calling to disband a police unit that has been accused of extortion, kidnapping, harassment, torture, and extrajudicial killings — the demonstrators argue what they’re doing is the height of patriotism in Nigeria’s nascent democracy. Here’s a breakdown of how Nigeria got to this point, why the protests are happening, and who is involved: