Nigerian students in Chennai come together to show solidarity to youth protesting against police brutality in Nigeria

When Ishaku began to hear the news of the protests, he felt proud of the fellow youth of his country who he believed were ‘standing up for what is right’
A photo from the protests
A photo from the protests

When the protests started, Daniel Ishaku could feel the reverberating tremors almost 8,000 kilometres away in his room in Tambaram, Chennai. The epicentre of the tremor was in his hometown, Nigeria. The streets of the African country had been flooded with young people since the beginning of this month protesting for the disbanding of the Nigerian Police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad or the SARS, a unit that had a long history of abuse, excessive force, unlawful detention, unlawful arrests, extrajudicial killings, extortion and torture.

When Ishaku, who just completed his Masters in Social Work from Madras Christian College, began to hear the news of the protests, he felt proud of the fellow youth of his country who he believed were ‘standing up for what is right.’ But he also missed being among them, walking shoulder to shoulder. So even though he was a continent and a half away, his friends and he decided that they could still extend their solidarity to the youth in their home country. So at 6 am on October 20, students in Chennai belonging to the Association of Nigerian Students and the Federation of International Students came together to hold a small, peaceful demonstration at Tambaram Railway Grounds and educate their peers in this country about what was happening in Nigeria. After all, ‘police brutality’ has seemed to become a universal subject. 

“We wanted to create awareness and gain international attention on the ongoing issue in Nigeria as a majority of the students in Chennai are from this country,” Ishaku said. “The youth in Nigeria have become tired of the police in Nigeria harassing people on the streets, stopping them randomly, abusing people, even killing, arresting people just on suspicion. So for the last ten days, people have taken to the streets to protest. The Nigerian government finally disbanded SARS but they’ve put together a new unit called SWAT but we are against this as well,” the Masters student said.

“We are demanding police reform and also requesting that the needs of the police be met. We hope that if their welfare is taken care off, they will also not vent out on the people. When I go back to Nigeria to hope to see more peaceful streets,” the Chennai student said. But he says he feels very hopeful and very proud of his people back home, “I feel like we are on the verge of a breakthrough. I’m extremely elated but wish I was back home. Watching the news, videos and pictures makes me want to go back home.”

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