Police fire teargas at Nigerians protesting at alleged brutality, witnesses say
By Angela Ukomadu and Libby George
LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigerian police used tear gas on Friday to disperse dozens of people in the capital, Abuja, who had gathered to protest the alleged brutality of members of a special police unit.
Protesters, some with posters, ran as clouds of tear gas hung in the air. Several people in the incident said on Twitter that the police fired the canisters.
A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a message and called for a comment.
"They poured tear gas on each of us, it's so hot that I had to put water on my face. Nigeria developed from this," said protester Anita Izato.
"We just got there with our posters and decided to throw ourselves tear gas. That was it," said another protester.
Sporadic protests have erupted across Nigeria in recent days after a video was broadcast last week that members of the Special Anti-Robbery Team known as SARS shot dead a man in Delta state.
Police promised to reform the unit shortly after the alleged incident by banning SARS agents from conducting routine patrols and asking them to wear uniforms while on duty. But protesters have called for the unity to be abolished.
Nigerians and international right groups have been accusing SARS of brutality, harassment and extortion for years, and there have been several pledges in the past, including from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, to reform the unity.
#EndSARS has been trending on Twitter in Nigeria for several days. Popular singer Naira Marley had an Instagram chat with a police spokesman about the issue, which was followed live by more than 30,000 people, and even the Deputy Governor of Lagos State said he had been harassed by SARS agents.
"Every citizen of Nigeria should be upset," said Gboyega Akosile, a spokesman for the Lagos government, in a tweet. He shared a video made by Deputy Governor of Lagos Obafemi Hamzat addressing protesters and telling his own story of harassment.
(Reporting by Angela Ukomadu and Libby George; Editing by Alison Williams)
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