Friday, October 20, 2023, marked the third year several Nigerians were massacred in their protests against police brutality in the country. It would be recalled that in the corresponding period of 2020, security operatives were deployed to the infamous Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State, where the #EndSARS agitators converged to make their demands known, and unleashed mayhem on them.
The security operatives, mostly military officials fired live rounds into the crowd of unarmed youth, who had stationed themselves at the Lekki Tollgate to protest against the decades-long brutality by men of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF.
The genesis of #EndSARS
There used to be a unit in the NPF called -Special Anti-robbery Squad, SARS, which is notorious for wanton harassment, extortion, brutality, and killings of youth in particular. The killing in Lekki Tollgate, however, came after more than two weeks of protests in Nigeria against police brutality.
On October 4, the hashtag #EndSARS began trending (again) on social media. This was a result of a video of a SARS officer killing a young motorist in Ughelli, Delta state, then pulling his body out of the car and driving away with the deceased man’s Lexus SUV. Following this incident, youth across Nigeria gathered in different cities to demand the disbandment of SARS.
The demonstrations in 2020 were in response to earlier actions and official statements that SARS would be demobilized in 2014, 2015, and 2017. Despite this, SARS operatives continued to operate with impunity, carrying out violent robberies, rapes, torture, and extrajudicial executions such as the one in Delta State.
In spite of the former President Muhammadu Buhari-led government’s series of assurances that it had bowed to pressure, and the SARS unit would be no more, the agitators continued to rise in numbers amid intimidation, and violence. This prompted the deployment of soldiers, who rained live bullets on them at Lekki Tollgate.
Sadly, not much has changed…
For the young people of Nigeria who had been calling for an end to police violence for years, the dissolution of SARS was a small victory. Regrettably, not much has changed since that fateful day.
While SARS may no longer be terrorizing the citizens, other security agencies, such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), have taken their place in violating people’s rights. The anti-graft agency’s recent raid on the home of singer, John Njeng Njeng popularly known as Skales, is proof that the change Nigerians hoped for has not been fully realized.
It is noteworthy to state that one of the main concerns of the #EndSARS protests was the use of excessive force by security personnel. Going by what makes the news headlines nowadays in the country, this trend seems to have continued.
Afro World News