Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Genesis – How it all Began
The #Endsars protest started in 2017 and lingered till this present moment as a result of negligence. Whose negligence? Of course that of the government! The protest started peacefully online (twitter) in 2017, against a series of reports of police shooting unarmed youths of Nigeria. The evil which was mostly perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force. The protest however took a new turn in 2020, when the same unit was accused of killing a boy in Ughelli, Delta State. When the video of the SARS vehicle chasing the boy appeared on the internet, it incited anger. An anger which led to a mass protest, that gave other citizens a chance to narrate their experiences in the hands of this notorious police unit. One of the popular stories that gained media attention was the case of a young man Chijioke Illoanya. According to the sister, her father was made to swim “in a river filled with dead bodies to see if he can find his son”
5 Demands of Protesters
- Immediate release of all arrested protesters
- Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families
- Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of Police misconduct (within 10 days)
- In line with police act, psychological evaluation and retaining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed
- Increase Police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of citizens .
Police Official Response
What Was Done to the SARS Unit?
The Nigerian Police authorities in October 2020 established SWAT to replace the supposedly disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the police force. However, the news was met with mixed reactions from concerned Nigerians. Many claimed the SARS unit was only and craftily renamed SWAT. Subsequently, various training videos of the SWAT team appeared on the internet. According to social media comments, the training program is substandard, hence, people started mocking the Nigerian police authorities. Here is a link to one of the popular videos: Nigerian SWAT Training Video
Revelations – Where are we now?
The #Endsars protest without an iota of doubt revealed the inherent violent attitude of the Nigerian government towards its people. On 20th October, 2020, men of the Nigerian Army were sent by the Nigerian government to release fire on peaceful protesters. Perhaps it was forgotten that we are in the 21st century, where citizen journalism is at its peak. Obianuju Catherine Udeh a.k.a DJ Switch, not only captured the event, but went live on instagram to reveal the evil that was being perpetrated by men of the Nigerian Army. Amidst this evidence, the Nigerian government on many occasions denied the presence of the Nigerian army at the Lekki Toll Gate. At one point, Lagos state governor was caught in a press briefing, saying there were no fatalities. At another time, the army tweeted through there official handle that the news concerning Lekki shooting was “fake news”, a tweet they later denied again
At other times, they affirm the presence of the military men, but refused that they shot at protesters. The cover-up went on and on…
To douse the tension, a judicial panel was set up on October 19th, 2020, to look in Lagos, to look into citizens complaints of human rights abuse by men of SARS. The panel, however, after the incident of October 20, 2020, expanded its terms of reference to look into Lekki shooting. According to Punch Newspaper reports, the panel which sat for one year, receiving testimonies of petitioners, witnesses, experts and lawyers,, treated 235 petitions and awarded N410 million as compensations to 70 victims. Meanwhile, After back and forth at the panel, Nigerian Army admits deploying live rounds but insists only blanks were used.
Lekki Judicial Panel Report & Recommendations
On November 15, 2021, the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel of inquiry on the restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses, Lekki Shooting and other matters submitted a 309-page report( Download PDF here) to the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwoolu. The report established that 9 persons were gruesomely murdered by the Nigerian Army, four remain missing, while 48 names were classified as casualties of the Lekki shooting.
The panel in their recommendations suggests that men of the Nigerian Army excluding Major General Omata deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, be made to face appropriate disciplinary actions, and/or stripped of their status and dismissed. Also disciplinary actions should be meted out againstMajor General Godwin Umelo and Lt. Col S.O. Bello, for frustrating the panel investigation by their choice of refusing to honour the panel invitations.
However, the Sanwoolu led government faulted the panel’s report by describing the claim of the panel that 9 persons were gruesomely shot dead as “assumptions and speculations”. Mr Governor disclosed this in a white paper released from his office sequel to the panel submission of their report.
Repercussion of Lekki Shooting
The repercussion of this action by the government has continued to feed the rope of distrust between the government and the people. Nigeria as often said is sitting on gunpowder. The actions by arsons, post Endsars protest is only a revelation of the amount of damaged youths we have. Those who have nowhere to call home and vulnerable to politicians to perpetuate their evil course. They were hired severally during the protest to disrupt the protest, hijack it and cause mayhem. Although they failed on several occasions, the Lekki shooting created an opening for these damaged citizens to inflict pain on fellow Nigeria; burning public facilities.
Links for further reading:
- Nigerian SWAT Training video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5swrFx6nTs
- ”#EndSARS: Chijioke’s dad swam in river of dead bodies to identify ….” 17 Oct. 2020, https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/10/endsars-chijiokes-dad-swam-in-river-of-dead-bodies-to-identify-his-son-%E2%80%95-lady-narrates-ordeal/. Accessed 10 Feb. 2022.
- “Lekki shooting: Between facts and fiction | The Guardian Nigeria News.” 30 Nov. 2020, https://guardian.ng/opinion/lekki-shooting-between-facts-and-fiction/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.
- “Judicial Panel: I’m unaware Army called Lekki shootings ‘fake news ….” 21 Nov. 2020, https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/11/judicial-panel-im-unaware-nigerian-army-called-lekki-shooting-fake-news-on-twitter-general/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.
- Judicial Pannel – https://punchng.com/breaking-endsars-lagos-releases-white-paper-on-lekki-panel-report/#:~:text=The%20panel%20treated%20235%20petitions%20and%20awarded%20N410%20million%20as%20compensation%20to%2070%20victims.
- Nigerian army admits deploying officers – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crtTA-u6hTA
- “Ex-army spokesman: Soldiers fired blank bullets at Lekki protesters.” 29 Oct. 2020, https://www.thecable.ng/ex-army-spokesman-soldiers-fired-blank-bullets-at-lekki-protesters. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.
- “#EndSARS White Paper: Sanwo-Olu ‘dancing on Lekki victims ….” 2 Dec. 2021, https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/498511-endsars-white-paper-sanwo-olu-dancing-on-lekki-victims-blood-groups.html. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.
- Judicial Panel Report – https://barristerng.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/JPI-REPORT-FOR-LEKKI-INCIDENT.pdf
- “EndSARS: Lagos releases White Paper on Lekki panel report.” 30 Nov. 2021, https://punchng.com/breaking-endsars-lagos-releases-white-paper-on-lekki-panel-report/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.