Exactly this day (October 20) in 2020, Nigerians were plunged into mourning following the killing of EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State allegedly by the Nigerian Army and other security forces.
NEWSMEN recalls that the EndSARS protest was birthed by extra-judicial killings perpetrate by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a Nigeria Police Force unit created in late 1992 to deal with crimes associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling and firearms.
Some of the SARS operatives, however, allegedly deviated from their legal assignment to unlawfully humiliate, brutalize and kill innocent Nigerian youths, making life relatively miserable for them as some were scared of moving freely on the streets. Most of the time, youths were profiled based on what they wear and the cars they drive.
The development angered and triggered some of the youths to stage a protest in Benin, the Edo State capital following the death of a student who was allegedly killed by an operative of the SARS in late September 2020.
The protest spread across all parts of the country including the big cities – Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and all other states, affecting the Nigerian economy as several economic activities came to an abrupt halt.
Despite some moves by the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who swiftly disbanded the SARS on October 11, 2020, in a bid to address the grievances, NEWSMEN recalls that the protest continued as the aim metamorphosed into repealing the ‘bad governance’ experienced in the country..
The peaceful demonstration, which subsequently gained the attention of the international communities, was, however, hijacked by hoodlums who severally invaded the protest ground to unleash terror on the youths, leading to the death of many protesters.
Despite warnings and advice from both state and federal governments including security agencies, the angry youths who lamented the level of unemployment, bad management of the educational sector and the general hardship birthed by the alleged bad governance, refused to back down.
According to reports, over two hundred and five police stations and formations, including other critical private and public infrastructure across the country were damaged by hoodlums during the hijacked protest.
Policemen were killed in Lagos, Oyo, Anambra, Benue Abia Ogun and Ebonyi States. Lagos and Oyo States had the highest figure of slain cops, with six each, followed by Anambra State Police command with four, Abia and Ebonyi had two each while Ogun recorded one.
Many correctional facilities were attacked during the protest leading to the freedom of several inmates who subsequently joined the hoodlums to destroy government formations across the country.
On October 20, the protesters assembled at the Lekki Tollgate where the Nigerian Army allegedly opened fire on the unarmed protesters leading to the death of several Nigerian youths.
Despite media reports and investigations, the Nigerian government had strongly pushed back at the claims that the shooting led to massive death tolls, insisting that the reports were fake.
However, report had it that at least 99 people were killed in Lagos during the #EndSARS protest and had their bodies deposited at a morgue in the state.
Speaking with NEWSMEN , a social media influencer in Abuja, Ajeh Jennifer, expressed disappointment over how the incident was handled by the Federal Government, stressing that right to life is not a guaranteed in Nigeria.
“I still weep whenever I remember that night when the Nigerian Army opened fire on those representing us to demand good governance for the country.
“It is more disappointing to remember that the killers are still moving freely in the society without any questions from the authorities. Those saddled with the responsibility of protecting our lives are now the ones taking the lives they were meant to protect. Everything in Nigeria needs to be reformed”, she added.
Similarly, a newscaster in a popular radio station in the nation’s capital, Mr Caleb told our correspondent that the memory of EndSARS will forever remain with Nigerians.
Mr. Caleb agitated for inclusion of the incident in Nigerian history book, stating that “posterity must be taught that some youths were killed in Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020 while they were demanding for their rights.
“I was actually one of the protesters here in Abuja before it was hijacked by sponsored terrorists. The education ministry has to add the incidents to school curriculum because posterity must be taught that some youths were killed in Lekki Tollgate on October 20 2020 while they were demanding for their rights.
“My heart is still with those heroes who lost their lives not just at the Lekki Tollgate but through the protests. May their souls continue to find rest with God”, he said.
A corps member serving in Kano State, who simply identified herself as Ene, told DAILY POST that she lost a friend during the hijacked protest in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. She expressed readiness to join the planned remembrance protest organized by some activists across the country.
“I can’t forget October 17 last year when those terrorists hired by the government stabbed my friend to death in Abuja during the EndSARS protests. He was supposed to be among us that were mobilized recently for the NYSC one year compulsory service. They ended his life just like that and nothing was done about it.
“I heard that there is going to be a remembrance protest on Wednesday (today) . I don’t know if it will happen here but I’m ready to join. They should come and finish us”.
NEWSMEN reports that some activists including the publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore had vowed to shun security advice and stage protests across the country in memory of those allegedly killed by the Nigerian army at Lekki Tollgate.
However, speaking with NEWSMEN, Mr Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA advised the Nigerian youths to shun violence.
He said, “Nigerian youths should stay out of trouble, avoid violence, but should speak out in defence of their fundamental human rights as active citizens of Nigeria.
“HURIWA is urging the youths not to get involved in crimes but to meaningfully embrace pursuit of knowledge, education and capacity building and expose all acts of human rights violations unleashed on citizens by law enforcement officials and to demand redress. The youths should mobilise to join forces in political camps to take over power democratically in 2023.”
NEWSMEN observes that despite the outcries from Nigerians, police brutality has continued in many parts of the country as officers continue to assault unsuspecting citizens.
About two months ago, a video emerged on social media revealing a police officer engaging a young lady in an altercation and physically assaulting her while on duty at a checkpoint in Obeagu Awkunanaw, along Agbani Road, in the State.
Reacting to the video, the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ndatsu Aliyu on September 11, said the Command would not entertain such acts of “unprofessionalism by personnel under his watch”.
Similar incidents have continued to occur relatively on a daily basis as police operatives were accused of been responsible for the sudden disappearance of some persons.