What happened across Nigeria on Oct. 20, 2021, the memorial of the #EndSARS protest against police brutality, showed that the end to injustice in the country is not near.
Yesterday, most crowds were forcefully dispersed with Tear Gas and there were also records of illegal arrests and mishandling of protesters and journalists covering the events.
One of the victims is a Lagos Uber driver, Adedotun Clement. He was beaten, pepper-sprayed and forcefully dragged into a Black Maria van by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force during the #EndSARS memorial which took place at the Lekki tollgate.
Oct. 20, 2021 marked the day the Nigerian Army deployed soldiers to the epicentre of the nationwide #EndSARS protests at Lekki Toll Gate plaza, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria where they opened fire at youths protesting against extra-judicial killings and all forms of Police brutality.
Multiple evidence showed that the bullets fired by the soldiers killed a yet-to-be ascertained number of protesters that night.
To mark a year of the killings at the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza, #EndSARS mobilisers and supporters agreed to protest in remembrance of those who lost their lives.
Despite a police ban on street protests in the state, hundreds of youths flooded the Lekki Toll Gate and other parts of the country for the memorial. They were seen waving the Nigerian flag, displaying placards with different inscriptions, and chanting solidarity songs.
As the protest gathered momentum, Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Muhammed, addressed the press in Abuja, insisting that no protester was killed at the toll plaza in 2020, a position contrary to media reports backed with evidence from families of victims.
The minister also demanded apologies from Amnesty International and CNN. Hours after Mohammed’s address, police started random arrests and attacks of protesters and journalists.
The social media went agog with videos of attacks on Adedotun, the Uber driver brutally injured by the police at Lekki. Narrating his ordeal, the driver said he was in his car when he heard people shouting.
“I decided to run for cover and left my vehicle. When I returned trying to locate my car, some police officers stopped me and started dragging and beating me.”
He said while he was struggling to prevent the operatives from pushing him into their van, they pepper-sprayed his eyes.
Other named victims of police brutality in Lagos include Ade Adewunmi, a journalist with Sahara Reporters, Abisola Alawode of Legit TV, Arise TV crew, and one Blessing Uko.
“They accused us of using machetes to incite violence,” one of those arrested told HumAngle.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, justified the police’s activities, saying they dispersed protesters after it was discovered that miscreants had infiltrated them.
Journalist arraigned in Osun
In Osogbo, Osun State, police attacked protesters in the Oke Fia area, while the state correspondent of Daily Post newspaper, Sikiru Obarayese, was arrested and brutalised.
The journalist was later arraigned before an Osogbo Chief Magistrates’ Court on two-count charge of making a video recording of the Divisional Police Officer of the Dugbe Division, Oyegbade Akinloye, and assault of the police boss.
Sikiru pleaded not guilty to both counts. The police prosecutor, Adeoye Kayode, later informed the Magistrate to withdraw the case, saying the Commissioner of Police informed him to discontinue.
The presiding magistrate, A.O. Daramola granted the request and struck out the case.
Speaking about his experience, Sikiru said “six policemen arrested me at Freedom Park on the instruction of Chief Superintendent of Police, Oyegbade Akinloye, the DPO of Dugbe Division. I was hit by a gun’s butt before they forcefully took me to the station.”
“One Yakubu hit me with several fist blows. I was told to write a statement but I refused. One Inspector Charles wrote the statement on my behalf and ordered me to sign but I declined. I insisted they should give me my phone. The charge was immediately prepared. Twelve policemen brutalised me during my stay at the station.”
“They threatened to kill me if I chose not to cooperate with them. I was arrested around 1:12 p.m. [WAT] and I arrived at the court exactly at 2:00 p.m. I sustained open wounds on the knee and wrist. I lost my earpod valued at N25,000,” he lamented.
Police harass protesters in Abuja
Protesters in Abuja converged at the Unity Fountain and marched to the National Assembly to protest over the operations of the panels of enquiry set up by states and the continued cases of police brutality in the country, among others.
They were, however, dispersed by armed security operatives who mounted a barricade along the road leading to the National Assembly complex.
To counter the rally, some pro-Buhari supporters also took to the streets, claiming that nobody died in the Oct. 20, 2020 Lekki toll gate shootings in Lagos.
Like Abuja and Lagos, protesters told HumanAngle that they were also forcefully dispersed by police in Kwara, Enugu, Edo, and Cross Rivers states.
Fair encounter in Ondo
Unlike other states, police in Ondo did not attack nor arrest protesters as scores of youths from different parts of the state converged at the popular Oja Oba Market on Oba Adesida Road, Akure.
They marched to the state police headquarters to submit their demands to the Commissioner of Police, Bolaji Salami.
Speaking with HumAngle on Thursday, a lawyer who led the protest in the state, Tope Temokun, said the police have not stopped harassment and brutalisation of citizens in Nigeria.
“They are back on the streets searching for people to extort. It is sad that Nigeria did not learn any lesson from all that happened last year. Brutality has not ended and the only way forward is for us to continue to protest and demand a better Nigeria through revolution. We need to continue to fight for our rights.”
‘Nigeria has not learnt any lesson’
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) expressed regrets that the nation has not learnt its lessons from last year’s #EndSARS protest, condemning the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators commemorating the first year anniversary of the historic events on Wednesday.
The association’s president, Olumide Akpata, said this in a commemorative statement, describing the protest as “an epochal moment in the relations between the Nigerian state and her citizens.”
Speaking on the #EndSARS memorial, an activist, Joe Okei-Odumakin, remembered “all the young Nigerians killed or maimed during the #EndSARS protests one year ago, in bizarre circumstances.
“We remember them because, one year after, we have not moved an inch from a spot. The grievances which led to the protests and eventual killings remain fresh and unaddressed.”
The Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) condemned the brutal and unprovoked attack by the police on peaceful protesters and journalists. In a statement by its National Coordinator, Adaramoye Lenin, it said police actions on Wednesday further shows that “the Buhari government is nothing but a civilian dictatorship that relishes violating the democratic and constitutional right to assemble and protest peacefully. The government has actually shown it has failed to learn the lessons of #EndSars.
“We stand in solidarity with the youth and urge them not to relent until victory is won. However, as we have variously argued, while every reform is welcome, the only fundamental way to end police brutality is by ending the rule of the capitalist ruling class which requires state repression in order to exploit the working class and subdue dissent. The time has come to build the alternative political platform of the workers and oppressed classes.”
Meanwhile, the United States Mission to Nigeria advised the #EndSARS protesters to take a political approach to addressing their demands.
“Today (Wednesday) is a day to reflect on the loss of lives and property during last year’s #EndSARS protests. We appreciate the work done by the various judicial panels and look forward to the implementation of recommendations and compensation to victims of police brutality,” it said in a Facebook post, expressing support for ongoing police reforms.
The Nigeria Police Spokesperson, Frank Mba, did not respond to HumAngle’s calls and text
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