It took a dozen lawyers and an estimated 24 hours to secure the release of Ayomide Ayonrinde on Tuesday, October 13.
The young Nigerian was arrested in Lagos State by men of the Nigeria Police Force during the nationwide protests calling for an end to police brutality in the country.
Ayomide came out of police custody beaten, bruised and shaken.
Only hours earlier, a statement was released by the presidency saying that it had approved the five-point demand of the #ENDSARS and #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY protesters.
According to the statement signed by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu had met with stakeholders and agreed that all demands of the protesters would be met.
One of the demands referred to is the release of all persons arrested and justice for victims of police brutality.
Sadly, as of the time of Ayorinde’s release, volunteer legal representatives of the movement were still struggling to secure the release of Nnanna Okpanku, a protester taken into custody by police officers in Benue State.
Since the commencement of the anti-police brutality protest, at least ten people have been killed and several injured.
How did we get here?
After the video of a man allegedly being killed by the police in Ughelli, Delta State, went viral on October 4, Nigerians took to social media to express their frustration at the spate of extra-judicial killings by security operatives in the country.
What kicked off as rants on social media snowballed into a leader-less but organised movement demanding governance and accountability across the six geo-political zones of the country.
The protesters first took to the streets on Tuesday, October 7, holding banners reading – “respect for human rights” and “equal society.” Chanting of Aluta slang – “how many people SARS go kill”.
The campaign gained momentum as celebrities showed up and lent their voices to the call for an end to police brutality and extrajudicial killings in Nigeria.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, on Sunday, October 11, announced the dissolution of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
In a statement signed by the police spokesperson, Frank Mba, and shared via the Twitter handle of the Nigeria Police Force, announced the dissolution of SARS with immediate effect across 36 states of the federation and FCT.
The State governments also assured the safety of protesters, promising that their demands will be met.
The attacks and denials continue…….
The worry situation came less than two hours after President Muhammadu Buhari addressed Nigerians on Tuesday, affirming his administration’s commitment to the reform of the Nigerian Police Force, officers at a Surulere barrack arrested and detained protesters.
Among those arrested were two ladies – Treasure Chiamaka Nduka and Felicia Okpara.
Video recordings that surfaced online showed the policemen mishandling and beating the ladies, dragged to the Ojuelegba barracks.
It took the intervention of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to secure their release.
Days before, on October 11, a student of Ladoke Akintola University Ogbomoso, Jimoh Isiaq, was shot dead by the police during a #EndSARS protest in Ogbomoso, Oyo State.
Isiaq, a resident of Ogiri Compound Ita Alasa, Ogbomoso, was killed when a police team opened fire at #ENDSARS protesters who had gathered to lent their voices to anti-Police brutality protest.
Eyewitnesses said that the police officers used live bullets to disperse the crowd, which hit Isiaq.
The Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, via a statement signed by the command’s spokesperson Fadeyi Gbenga, initially said that the police did not fire a shot or kill any protester.
The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, however, confirmed that a stray bullet from the police killed Isiaq during the peaceful protest.
Two days later, President Buhari said he had ordered an investigation into the death of Isiaq. Since then, no arrest or update has been given.
The same day, the Ogun State Police Command arraigned three protesters for attempted murder.
The Command arraigned them on trumped-up charges despite the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu’s assurance a day earlier that it had disbanded FSARS and commenced reform for men of the force.
Protesters in Abuja were also repeatedly tear-gassed. It took the intervention of personalities to release Gimba Kakanda, one of the Abuja protesters arrested.
When he was eventually released, he had been badly beaten and his phone screen broken.
Protesters remain on the street, demand justice
Protesters have continued to troop out across states, insisting that despite the government’s assurance that their demands had been met, it was yet to take any action.
The demands include halting use of force against protesters; unconditional release of arrested citizens; justice for the victims of police brutality; including payment of compensation, and the psychological evaluation of policemen, including increasing their salaries.
As the calls for justice gain momentum, young Nigerians highlight their various experiences as the motivation behind not backing down on the protest.
Rilwan Akeye’s younger brother was arrested while waiting for a cab at the bus stop.
“When he was in the police van with the other people arrested, the police gave him a car key.
“Two seconds later, the police accused him of stealing a car and where he got that car key from,” he recounted.
Anytime he attempted to say they gave him the key, he was beaten to stupor. They frustrated him till he ‘confessed’ he stole the imaginary car,”
Another protester, Nwankwo Obiora Everest recalls how he was nearly framed by men of the unit shortly before he exited Nigeria.
He was on his way to the airport when his brother was arrested because his phone contained confirmation emails for registration and details of an online purchase.
Everest said he went with the operatives of SARS who were hell-bent on taking his brother to their office, only to be accused of being a fraudster and cultist at the office.
He said: “They arrested my brother because he had confirmation emails for registration and buying something from an online store.
They discharged my Uber driver and proposed that I should go to the airport to avoid missing my flight while they took my brother for questioning.
“Which sensible human being will leave his brother, and enter flight to Europe in good faith?” he asked.
“They said I should call someone that would bail him. I called my parents, called my godfather in high places, called a lawyer too and I could not reach them. I wanted to sound smart, and all judicial.
“Things started escalating, they were about to frame us as yahoo boys, and cultists. I showed him my passport, visa, and scholarship.
“They said there is every chance I am a drug peddler and decided to ransack all my bags. At every instance, he will emphasise how he will deal with me,” Everest narrated.
Fed up with trying to prove their innocence, he was forced to pay the policemen to let them go and still recalls the incident with dread.
“All of this happened in Ajao Estate, Lagos. I had Goosebumps all over and after crying a few drops of tears, I asked one of them how much it would take to sort things, explaining that I had already changed all my money to foreign currency except to pay for the Über.
“We settled and I cried to the airport. The imagination of that drama has not left me. I wonder what would have happened to my brother if I thought my flight was more important than his life,” shared Everest.
Explaining her interest in continuing the protests, Eketi Edima said the stories of brutality were pathetic and there was a need to get justice for victims.
She wrote; “It’s because you have not seen the police drive a bicycle spoke through the eye of a man’s penis while he was in custody.
“They snatched him up from the street, accused him of loitering. By the time they arrived at the police station, loitering had turned to armed robbery. Torture followed.
“Another time, three SARS officers stormed a house in Lokogoma, Abuja, to arrest a man. Charges, unknown.
“They didn’t find him. So, they picked up his fiancée, twenty-eight-year-old Ifeoma Abugu, and took her to the SARS office at Guzape.
“They RAPED her, KILLED her, and DUMPED her body in the mortuary. Then they called her fiancé to come and carry her body.
“This is Nigeria. This is why we want SARS to be disbanded. This is why we want justice,” Edema lamented.
Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian security forces to immediately end the intimidation, harassment, and attacks on peaceful protesters.
“The police have been responding with excessive force, including firing live ammunition, water cannon, throwing tear gas into crowds, beating and arresting protesters.
“They beat journalists and their filming equipment confiscated or destroyed,” Amnesty International noted.
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