Protests have broken out across Nigeria after a video circulated alleging to show members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS, shooting a man dead.

A young man holds a sign during a demonstration calling for the scrapping of the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit, in Ikeja, Nigeria, on October 8, 2020.
A young man holds a sign during a demonstration calling for the scrapping of the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit, in Ikeja, Nigeria, on October 8, 2020. (AFP)

Nigerian police have used tear gas to disperse dozens of people in the capital Abuja who had gathered to protest the alleged brutality by members of a special police unit, witnesses said.

Protesters, some holding placards, ran as clouds of tear gas hung in the air. Multiple people at the incident said on Twitter that police had fired the canisters.

A spokesman for the police did not immediately respond to a message and call requesting comment.

"They poured tear gas on each and every one of us, it's so hot I had to put water on my face. This is what Nigeria has turned into," protester Anita Izato said.

"We just got there with our placards and decided, they started throwing us tear gas. That was it," another protester said.

One protestor and one police officer were killed on Thursday while another sustained life-threatening injuries during a protest in the southern town of Ughelli, Hafiz Inuwa, Delta State Commissioner of Police said, adding that nine suspects had been arrested.

Protestors gathered peacefully in the economic hub Lagos, but in the capital Abuja, the crowd was met with tear gas, according to one of the organisers.

"Our members were close to 200 in the protest. We were tear-gassed," said human rights activist Deji Adeyanju.

"It's just sad that they are clamping down on peaceful civil protest."

Anger has been brewing on social media after a video went viral showing the alleged killing of a man by a police officer in Delta state – a video that authorities denied was real.

The man who filmed the video was arrested, provoking even more anger.

READ MORE: Nigerians unite against an extremely brutal police unit

Government condemns police violence, but protesters want more than words

Nigeria's vice president denounced police violence when asked about the issue by reporters.

"I'm very concerned, in fact, very angry about what I see, happening to young men and women who are arrested, in some cases maimed or killed by men of the police force," Yemi Osinbajo said.

The movement initially targeted the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), widely accused of unlawful arrests, torture and even murder, but has since broadened to include all police forces.

While the SARS unit was suspended on Sunday, groups such as Amnesty International said the government had not gone far enough, pointing to previous unsuccessful attempts to ban the force.

The police pledged to reform the unit soon after the alleged incident, including by banning SARS agents from carrying out routine patrols and requiring them to wear uniforms when on duty. But protesters have called for the unit to be abolished.

The hashtag #EndSARS was the most trending topic on Twitter on Friday.

"There's a lot more people than yesterday. The movement is growing," 29-year-old Chinoso Esengba, a doctor participating in Friday's protest, said.

"This problem affects us all. We all risk being tortured, arrested, extorted for no good reason," he added.

Several Nigerian celebrities have expressed support for the movement.

READ MORE: Nigeria security forces kill at least 18 over virus lockdown

Source: AFP