It’s been weeks of unrest all across Nigeria as young Nigerians continue to demand to at least be allowed to live and peacefully do so. The #Endsars and #EndpolicebrutalityinNigeria protest that led to the unrest started on the 8th of October 2020.
There has been massive protests by the youths who are calling on the government to put an end to the long unquestioned system which was set up to protect them but rather, has over the years become same reason why they die daily without getting justice, ‘Police brutality’ with the #EndSARS.
The Special Anti Robbery Sqaurd (SARS) is a Nigerian police Force unit created in the late 1992 and saddled with the responsibility of handling outrageous robbery and criminal cases across the country but the reverse has been the case since its inception. Evident in the numerous cases of anti judicial killings, robbery, extortion , assault, and other sorts of criminal activities perpetrated by the unit for decades.
Prior to this uproar by young Nigerians, there had been complaints and cases of unjust/ illegal practices carried out by the squad where the attention of those in power was drawn to. Thus, there were disbandments of the squad in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively without any feasible results whatsoever. And that’s because there has never been any realistic reform in the unit and the government would only rename the “disbanded” unit and boom!…it’s business as usual thereafter.
This has been going on for years until young Nigerians had had enough of being killed illegally without getting justice, they have had enough of being profiled and wrongly prosecuted, they have had enough of being extorted and being assaulted for no reason at all. Thus, the birth of #EndSars movement over the years in order to put an end to Police brutality across the country.
The protests which started with a campaign on Twitter in 2017 with the #EndSars might result to revolution in the light of the youths’ readiness never to back down until their demands are met.
In same year, a petition signed by 10,195 people was submitted to Nigeria’s National Assembly calling for a total disbandment of SARS where only few Senators backed the call for total disbandment of the unit. But business as usual, the outrage and call for justice was carpeted by those in power.
In 2018, Nigerian rapper Micheal Ugochkuwu Stephen known by his stage name as RuggedMan, had said that his involvement with #endsars campaign was aimed at ending the police brutality perpetrated by the squad. Thus, he has been an active protestor ever since.
“I am a hardworking and not a lazy Nigerian youth I have conscience and never liked the idea of war, being people bullied but unfortunately that is what sars has become” – RuggedMan had said in one of his old tweets, the bold step which earned him the “face of campaign against SARS.”
Just like RuggedMan, a lot of young Nigerians have been in the journey towards this social justice reforms and ensuring a safer nation for generations to come.
While the journey to what we have today as a global protest against Police brutality in Nigeria as well as reforming the force generally started three years ago after decades of nonstop violence, robbery, unlawful killings, extortion, profiling and more, the year 2020 has been it’s peak yet.
There was a horrific incident in Ugheli, Delta state where the men of Sars unit attacked a young man , left him to die by roadside as they sped off with his white Lexus utility car. He was shot dead in front of West Land hotel. There was a huge social media outcry all over social media as usual over their nefarious activies .
The Nigerian police did nothing about the incident neither where the killers of the man brought to book, even the presidency was silent. A few days later following Donald Trump’s announcement that he was down with Covid_19 , President Muhammadu Buhari took to twitter to wish him quick recovery saying:
“I wish US president Donald Trump and his Wife Melania quick recovery from Covid 19 .”
This didn’t sit properly with one of Nigeria’s biggest music stars, Wizkid, seeing that Buhari was quick to respond to an outside issue but slow or completely ignoring the countless problems in his home front.
He then replied the president thus:
“Donald Trump is not your business!
Old man ! Police /Sarz still killing Nigerian Youth on a daily !do something !
Nothing concern you for America face your country. “
Wizkid’s reply like always, went viral like wild fire which woke already angry youths up to action and back to the discussion board about SARS anti judicial killings without getting justice nor any active reforms in the entire system.
Seeing how Nigerians supported Wizkid, One of the presidential aides Laurreta Onochie replied Wizkid :
“Its disrespectful to call anyone old it’s the way and manner Ayo Balogun addressed the president that leaves a sour taste in the mouth .”
“He exhibited crass
ignorance ,insensitivity and childishness but hey he’s a #Dumbkidnotwhizkid
When he grows up he must learn respect .”
Of course Wizkid had a stronger comeback for Onochie.
Wizkid replied again:
“Lol a 77 year old man is not young ma you are a woman and mother and kids are getting killed by police and sars and this is all you have to say ? Shame on you shame on you .
I am a father and age has nothing to do with demanding for a better governance in my country !!.”
Young Nigerians all across the globe could relate to Police brutality issue in Nigeria and so they took sides with Wizkid and the result is what we have today.
In the heat of the moment, singer, Naira Marley who also shared his sad experience with the Nigerian Police on twitter, announced he was going to stage a physical protest in Lagos and asked his fans to support him. Following the massive support and response he got on twitter seeing his decision to contribute towards bring an end to the deadly squad, The Nigerian Police spokesman Frank MBA succeeded in convincing the singer to cancel the protest on the grounds of their usual empty promises.
This got young Nigerians pissed and so it was such a relief when other singers, Runtown and Falzthebadguy came up with another protests arrangements in Lekki Lagos on October 8th, 2020 and the turn out was more massive than anyone thought.
“This has gone long enough and we must take action I’ll be leading a protest to #endsars on Thursday October 8th 2020..
They must listen to us they must make/effect Real and visible changes empty promises won’t wor this time !!!
Let’s us come out to peacefully reach out to our Elected leaders beyond social media
Venue take off point lekki phase 1 toll gate.”
“Tommorow morning we move out for #endsars protest we are not to cause trouble but our voices must be heard 10am we link up at the lekki toll gate.
“I will be at the #Endsarsprotest taking place on Thursday Oct 8 by 10am we take off from lekki 1 gate cc@Runtown.”
They marched all around Lekki to the Police head office on the Island where they made their grievances known and asked for quick response else the protest continues.
There was no response thereafter and the protests continued the following day, till continued nonstop. What’s more intriguing here is the unity in diversity as young Nigerians came out staging protests in different States all across the country.
An action which drew global attention to the plight of young Nigerians as top American politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and artists such as Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Beyoncé and Cardi B have been lending their voices towards this cause .
The protests also received a massive support from the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey who did not only lend his voice but also went as far as opening a bitcoin coin link to raise funds to support the #Endsars protests.
As the protests continued to spread all across the country, comedian, Mr. Macaroni , with other social media influencers were holding it down at the government house in Alausa Ikeja, singer, Small Doctor was also having constant massive protests at Agege-Lagos while rap act, Phyno and singers, Flavour, KCee, Zoro and other celebrities were headlining and staging protests in the Eastern part of the country.
The efforts of Phyno and Flavour to campaign for this noble cause in the Eastern part of the country didn’t go down well with Enugu State governor, Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as they were accused of disturbing the “peace” of the state simply because the rapper, Phyno called his poor leadership into question during one of the rallies in Enugu State.
In the same light, Enugu lawmaker, Hon Mrs Bibian Anekwe, shared on her Facebook page a signpost carrying Phyno and Flavour’s photos accusing them of using the #ENDSARS protest to blackmail the governor.
Her actions which was slammed by most Nigerians on social media.
No doubt, the #EndSars protests did not only unite the youths but they also remain resilient in fighting their common enemy, Police brutality with no gender, tribal nor religious segregation.
This unity in diversity was also evident during the protests at Lekki Toll Gate when Christians gave way and ensured orderliness at the venue so their Muslim brothers and sisters could observe their Jummah prayers and same happened the following Sunday when the Muslims gave room for Christians to observe their Sunday service on the protest ground.
The protest was powerful and meaningful that some government officials tried to distrupt the protest by bringing hoodlums with machetes in a BRT bus to attack and scare the protesters away , some of them were hurt but they were able to overcome the hoodlums who ran fast away before the protesters could catch up with them and probably give them the beatings of their lives .
The same incident happened in Abuja, the protesters were ready, fought with the hoodlums, overpowered them , they had serious injuries and were still kind enough to take them the hospital.
As the protests continued to gain momentum, the Inspector General of Police announced the disbandment of the squad AGAIN but the Nigerians youths knew better, they knew it was just one of those empty announcements/promises without feasible results and so they called on the president to put an end to the unit instead of renaming it as usual with same people in different uniforms and title carrying out same brutality against the masses.
The Nigerian police renamed SARS to SWAT.. immediately the youths rejected SWAT they included the hashtag #EndSwat in the movement. There was now a confluence of confusion between the Nigeria government and the Nigerian police . It was obvious they have ran out of ideas of how to manage the situation especially in Lagos state which was the arrow head of the protest .
The five demands made by the Nigerian youths (#EndSars protesters) after the supposed disbandment of the squad were ;
– Immediate release of all arrested protesters.
– Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensations for their families.
-Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within a period of 10 days.
– Carrying out psychological evaluation and retaining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can deployed (this should be verified by an independent body).
-The government should increase police salary and they should
adequately compensated for protecting lives and property of the citizens.
The irony of it all is, the Nigeria Police is the biggest beneficiary of the 5 for 5 agenda , l guess the junior officers probably don’t understand the demands of the youth because they are use to collecting bribes from their victims because if they do, they would have dropped their guns and supported the nationwide protests which was largely in their favor but because almost all the Sars unit have committed grievous offenses the number 3 of the demand will send a lot of them to jail and out of work , they decided to join government especially Lagos to frustrate the protest .
More celebrities became very vocal towards this cause. Burna Boy replaced his album cover placed on billboards across the country with that of #Endsars, Wizkid staged an #Endsars protest in London, Davido also staged a protest in Abuja etc.
Actors, filmmakers, musicians and organizations alike, #EndSars was the goal.
The likes of Aisha Yesefu, Tiwa Savage- first female artist to go out for the protest, Kiki Mordi, Toyin Abraham, Seun Fakorede, Zoro, Paul of the former PSquare, Ayo ,AY’ Makun, Seun Kuti, Rinu Oduala , FK Abudu and Don Jazzy, Rita Dominic, Kate Henshaw, Timi Dakolo, Uche Nnaji , Paul and Peter Okoye, the defunct music duo amongst others, have also been very vocal about this movement as well. A lot of people from the business and corporate world joined the protest . It was a unified protest with a congent conspicuous message laced around a gong that cried out to the world about police brutality in Nigeria.
While remembering the fallen heroes and victims of SARS/Police brutality, on October 16th, thousands of young Nigerians held a candle night all across the country at different protest centers.
Some of the names of the victims of SARS/police killings mentioned at the sessions include;
Jimoh Isiaq, who was killed the Sunday before by a stray bullet during a #EndSARS protest in Oyo State, Kolade Johnson who was alsokilled by a stray bullet at a football viewing center,
Daniel Chibuike (aka Sleek), Ayomide Taiwo, Peter Ofurum, Chika Ibeku, Chibuike Anams, Ifeoma Abugu, Christian Onuigbo, Emmanuel Egbo, and Victor Maduamago among many others.
The protests have been very peaceful in and outside Nigeria until October 20th 2020 which some people prefer to write 20:10:2020 when the Nigerian army and later the disbanded SARS opened fire on peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate . They were singing the national anthem and gospel songs that evening before the Nigerian army attacked them.
Popular Nigerian disc jockey, DJ Switch who was at the protest ground that night, went live on Instagram to show the world the atrocity that the army was committing.
She gave an witness account that about 15 persons were killed , according to DJ Switch the military also took away some dead bodies maybe in a bid to hide the evidences and with her help thousands across the globe were able to witness the massacre of innocent young Nigerians in the hands of those placed to protect them through her lnstagram live.
The Toll Gate had been one of the venues for the protests in Lagos. Thus on the said day, though there was a curfew in the State which again was announced too late and most of the protesters couldn’t make it home that day and had to pass the night there.
Prior to the shooting, the CCTV cameras at the Toll gate were all removed at about 5.30pm then later about 7.pm the lights went off as well, leaving young innocent and peaceful Nigerian protesters in total darkness. At about 7.45pm, safe to say it was all preconceived as some soldiers or is it unknown soldiers as the late Fela Anikupola Kuti will called theme ‘Unknown’ soldiers pulled up and opened fire on the protesters. When they felt they had caused enough havoc , they took some of the dead bodies away and almost immediately the disbanded SARS officers arrived the scene and started shooting at the protesters. The shooting continued till the wee hours of the morning.
Celebrity disc jockey DJ Switch started her Instagram live so people can also witness the killings . Davido was also on her live watching , he posted on his Instagram timeline announcing “Whole world please turn in on @djswitch ig live !! They are killing our pple!! Please tune in all news platforms!!Fuck it all platforms!!!
DJ Switch was seen on her live assisting some of the protesters who had gun wounds and could not walk or run before her battery died . She was begging Nigerians or whoever was watching to help record her live . Almost all the Nigerian celebrities were on her live including CNN who tried reaching her but she couldn’t pick because she was helping to save lives .
This made many Nigerians tag the young, brave woman a ‘Hero’ and we agree.
It took the state Governor, Sanwo-Olu about 24 hours before he addressed his wounded, bereaved , angry and heartbroken citizens. That’s not all, the most unbelievable part of his speech was saying nobody died and that he didn’t know who ordered the officers at the scene to shoot. A lot of Nigerians like Ireti Bakare who was also active at the ends sars protest did videos to condemn killings and she called out the governor Sanwo-Olu and his god father Bola Ahmed Tinubu that they killed innocent youths for standing up to fight for their rights .
Nigerian Army denied they were not their soldiers and that the videos flying around with the military men shooting were photoshopped.
Up until this moment, young Nigerians are yet to recover not just from the shocking experience of October 20th but the unthinkable speech by his excellency.
Just when Nigerians thought they had heard it all, the president finally addressed the nation on October 22nd and he didn’t even talk about the massacre let alone send out condolences to the families of the victims as he blames the continuous protests across the country to his initial move to disband the squad saying the protesters took his action for weakness.
Now that, that’s so much to digest.
The governor of Lagos state Sanwo-Olu who obviously looked stressed during one of the CNN interviews where he was seen stuttering, he finally confirmed that the Nigerian military men were at Lekki Toll gate and that they did not only shoot at the protesters, but also killed some. And a day after, the Nigerian military confirmed to Arise News that the Lagos state government invited them to wade in at the Lekki Toll gate. This again confirms how much lies both the State governor and the Nigerian Army have told the world in the past few days; they first claimed that nobody was killed with governor Sanwo-Olu saying that he did not give the Army any order to be at the protest ground. Apparently there are loads of visual evidences and loads of surviving victims to counter their earlier claims thus, they are beginning to accept the truth.
There were individuals and organizations that supplied protesters with foods and drinks and among them was Kokun Foundation who at different occasions gave out foods and drinks to protesters at Lekki Toll Gate and Alausa center.
We can’t tell you what’s next but all we know is, this is far from being over as young Nigerians have never been this determined to fight for their rights and a better Nigeria.
And as long as they remain united, they shall birth a new country.
May the souls of our fallen heroes Rest In Peace as we wish those injured quick recovery.
Also worthy of note is the contribution of Feminist Coalition, a group that helped in the footing of bills such as legal aids, relief for victims of police brutality, medical and memorial for the fallen heroes etc.
Take a look at the comprehensive statement from the group:
“The Feminist Coalition condemns every form of violence and believes that no Nigerian life is worth losing to senseless violence. We are young Nigerians with hopes, dreams and aspirations for our country. This means we need to stay alive to pursue our dreams to build the future.
The past two weeks have been tough for many Nigerians, most especially the last two days. Many lives have been lost and properties destroyed at the height of what started as peaceful marches for the end to police brutality. The Feminist Coalition condoles with every Nigerian mother, father, son, daughter who has lost a loved one in these trying times. These Nigerians share the same vision for a better country as we all do and should be duly recognized as heroes.
We are merchants of hope. Our priority is always the welfare and safety of the Nigerian youth. Following the President’s address, we hereby encourage all young Nigerians to stay safe, stay home, and observe the mandated curfew in your state. The Feminist Coalition has made a decision to henceforth stop all donation inflows for the #EndSARS peaceful protest. The rest of the donations will go towards funding medical emergencies, legal aid for wrongfully detained citizens, and relief for victims of police brutality and families of the deceased.
Here is a summary of the total funds we received and disbursed (in Naira) over the past 14 days:
Total received = ₦147,855,788.28 (includes donations in USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, GHS, KES, and BTC)
Total disbursed = ₦60,403,235.00
Total left = ₦87,452,553.28
The remaining funds will be channeled through the following initiatives/organizations:
#EndSARSresponse (Medical) – ₦20,114,087.25
The Legal Aid Network – ₦15,741,459.59
Relief for victims of police brutality and families of the deceased – ₦40,228,174.51
Memorial for the Fallen – ₦5,247,153.197
#EndSARSMentalHealthSupport – ₦6,121,678.73
We wish to emphasize that we will no longer be accepting donations for #EndSARS going forward. The Feminist Coalition remains committed to its core mandate, which is, championing the advancement of the Nigerian woman. We hope everyone will extend the same support we have received in the past two weeks towards pursuing this mandate.
Thank you for the support.
Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi
Obiageli Ofili Alintah
Note that it will be forever be in the history of Lagos state leadership that young peaceful protesters were killed at the lekki toll gate during Sanwo- Olu era as the Executive Governor of Lagos, the military has confirmed that he invited them to kill and scare the protesters away .
It was indeed a sad Tuesday, we pray these fallen heroes get justice someday .
Long live Nigeria.
Photo Credit: Instagram/Veeqtor