by AKANI CHAUKE in Pretoria & DION HENRICK in Cape Town
PRETORIA, (CAJ News) – NIGERIANS in South Africa took to the streets in the capital Pretoria and Cape Town in solidarity with their compatriots enduring brutality at the hands of police back home.
Deadly protests have rocked the volatile West African country in recent days amid calls for the end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian police force.
SARS is accused of torture, heavy-handedness and extortion.
Matters came to a head on Tuesday as government forces opened fire to protesters in Lagos, Africa’s largest city by population (21 million).
No less than ten people died in what has been denounced as a massacre but government officials denied there had been any casualties.
In South Africa, Nigerians handed over a memorandum to their Embassy in Pretoria on Wednesday as emotions ran high and tensions persisted.
There was also a march to the South African Parliament in Pretoria where Nigerians sought to raise awareness to the host government of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa is also the current chairman of the African Union (AU) after assuming the role on South Africa’s pledge to end conflicts in the continent, under the “Silencing the Guns” mantra.
The Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA) hands over a memorandum to their Embassy in Pretoria.
Nigerian today in Pretoria
“NUSA stands in solidarity with the protesters. We are going to march until the bloodshed stops,” the union’s Adetola Olubajo said.
Comment could not be obtained from envoys.
Nigerians grouped along Parliament Street where they marched to the seat of the South African legislature.
There was a heavy police presence in Pretoria and Cape Town.
No incidents were recorded.
“We want to thank the SA Police. Had this been in Nigeria, there would be bloodshed already,” said a Nigerian who was part of proceedings in cape Town.
Some protesters argued freedoms in Nigeria had been eroded under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari.
He ran the country with an iron fist as a military dictator in the early 1980s before he was overthrown in a coup. He however was elected in 2015 assuring he had transformed to a democrat.
It is estimated more than 30 000 Nigerians are resident in South Africa.
The two countries are the continent’s biggest economies and the most influential politically.
– CAJ News