Nigerians go online to demand 'justice' for abuses against women

Outcry after three women were killed or raped in cases activists say show widespread sexual violence, police brutality.

    Nigerians go online to demand 'justice' for abuses against women
    Wizkid took to Twitter to condemn police brutality [File: John Wessels/MTV Africa Music Award/AFP]

    Large numbers of Nigerians are taking to social media to demand "justice" after a series of high-profile cases of violence against women sparked outrage in the country.

    The rallying cries #JusticeForUwa, #JusticeForTina and #JusticeForJennifer have reverberated among internet users in the country, with celebrities also joining virtual campaigns inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the United States.

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    The latest outpouring of anger has been unleashed by the cases of three women and girls who were killed or raped in incidents activists say showcase the widespread sexual violence and police brutality in Nigeria.

    In April, an 18-year-old known only as Jennifer was allegedly attacked and raped by a gang of five men in Kaduna, a city in northern Nigeria.

    The case only gained attention after her relatives - scared the accused would escape justice - released a video online of family comforting the traumatised teen that was shared tens of thousands of times.

    Now, local police say two men have been arrested for rape and three other suspects are being sought.

    Two other cases that happened last week prompted more people to express their anger.

    A 16-year-old high school student called Tina Ezekwe was shot and killed after police opened fire at a bus stop in Lagos, the country's biggest city, during a nighttime coronavirus curfew.

    After an outcry online, the police force said two officers had been arrested and were facing disciplinary action and possible prosecution.

    Meanwhile, in southern Edo state, 22-year-old university student Vera Uwaila Omozuma, known as Uwa, was found beaten to death in a church after reportedly being raped.

    A female blogger from the area drew the attention of hundreds of thousands of internet users with the hashtag #JusticeForUwa.

    Under pressure, the regional governor and police pledged an investigation to track down those responsible for the killing of the microbiology student.

    For many in Nigeria, the internet is a key outlet for protests in a country where taking to the streets can often draw a punishing response by security forces.

    "Social media is a tool to bring light on police, or institutions," Segun Awosanya, the head of Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation that campaigns against abuses by law enforcement, told AFP news agency.

    "Once the light is on them, they have to go back to the cases and dig them up. They can't keep quiet anymore."

    Now, the protests rocking cities across the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of white officers, coupled with the power of the online campaigns there against police brutality and racial inequality, appear to be pushing more Nigerians to demand action.

    "We see the crowds in America, and its an opportunity to share our pain and our displeasure," Awosanya, who has more than 500,000 followers on Twitter, said.

    Singer Tiwa Savage performs onstage during 2017 Essence Black Women in Music at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Essence/AFP Randy
    Singer Tiwa Savage started a #WeAreTired hashtag [File: Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Essence/AFP]

    While the online protests were sparked by violence against women, they have quickly begun tapping into broader anger about the state of the country.

    Now, some of Nigeria's biggest stars have ditched their usual reticence to get involved in politics and are speaking out.

    "#WeAreTired of senseless killings, lorries falling on road and killing passengers, ACs catching fire and burning houses, young girls getting raped, young boys killed," tweeted Afropop diva Tiwa Sawage to her four million followers.

    "Please add your own frustration because my list is long."

    Savage has been joined by other celebrities like music producer Don Jazzy, who has 4.6 million followers, and singers Mr Eazi and Rema who railed against rape in the country and police violence.

    "The police kills black Americans and the Nigerian police kill Nigerians," Wizkid, a popular singer, wrote in Pidgin to his 6.5 million followers, taking direct aim at President Muhammadu Buhari.

    "Buhari/Trump are the same person - only difference is that one knows how to use Twitter."

    SOURCE: News agencies