Joe Biden has urged Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian military to “cease the violent crackdown on protesters” in the country amid weeks of peaceful nationwide protests against police brutality.
The Democratic presidential nominee called on the U.S. to stand with Nigerians who have for the past two weeks led peaceful demonstrations to protest against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has long been accused of having a reputation of abuse that includes extortion, rape, torture and extrajudicial killings, according to Amnesty International.
Recent protests against SARS emerged after a video circulated online earlier this month allegedly showing officers of the unit shooting a man in the country’s southern Delta state, Reuters reported. Police have reportedly denied the shooting. The hashtag #EndSARS began trending internationally on Twitter this week in support of the movement to end police brutality.
“The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy,” Biden said in his statement. “I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”
Last week, Buhari announced the government’s decision to disband SARS among other promises of police reforms, in response to widespread protests led by Nigerians in the nation and Nigerian diaspora communities across the world.
The move was met with skepticism, though, since the government has made promises to reform the unit a number of times in previous years to no avail. Furthermore, Nigerian citizens feared that SARS officers would be redeployed to other units.
On Tuesday night, after Governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu had imposed a 24-hour curfew which began at 4 p.m. local time, witnesses at a demonstration reported seeing shots fired at the Lekki Toll Gate located in Lagos, Nigeria. Protesters accused soldiers of the Nigerian army of firing into the crowd.