Protesters in Nigeria blocked a key road into the commercial capital and curbed access to the West African nation’s main airport as demonstrations against police brutality entered a second week.
The protests continued despite President Muhammadu Buhari announcing on Sunday he’s disbanded the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which has been accused by rights groups of widespread abuses. The unit’s alleged killing of a civilian earlier this month triggered the demonstrations on Oct. 5, after a video of the incident was distributed on social media.
Buhari pledged further measures on Monday.
“The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms,” Buhari said in a statement on Monday. “We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice.”
It’s at least the fourth time the government has reorganized the division in the past five years. In 2018, the government set up a commission of inquiry to investigate SARS’ activities and make recommendations for reform, though its report has yet to be made public, according to Amnesty International.
The demonstrations have grown in size and spread to other cities, including the capital, Abuja, gaining the support of celebrities including British-Nigerian actor John Boyega. The hashtag #EndSARS has trended worldwide on social media.
The outrage over police brutality has also unified Nigerians across ethnic groups, faith and political affiliation, suggesting the protests may gain traction, said Ernest Ereke, a political science lecturer at the University of Abuja.
“The nation seems to be speaking with one voice,” he said by phone. “It could possibly spiral into a greater demand for good governance, especially coming at a time of increasing cost of living include rising food prices, high price of petroleum, rising unemployment, hunger, poverty, in addition to general insecurity in the land.”
In Lagos on Monday, hundreds of protesters blocked the Lekki Toll Gate in the south of the city, preventing access to Victoria Island where the nation’s biggest banks and other businesses are based. Dozens of people also prevented vehicles from entering Murtala Muhammed International Airport in the north of the city.
Nigerian artist David Adeleke, known as Davido and who has emerged as one of the voices of the protests, said marches will continue until demonstrators’ demands, including the arrest of those responsible for alleged abuses, are met. Protesters have demanded that Buhari address them directly.
“We must not forget the reasons we are protesting, we must not forget the peaceful manner of the protests and we must most certainly not back down until our demands are met!” he said on Twitter. “SARS ending is a great start but the task is far from completed!”