• Protesters, security agents may clash as youths insist on commemorative rally
• Organisers reject indoor anniversary, to converge under bridges, hold procession
• Police deploy massive operatives in Federal Capital Territory’s strategic locations
Security agents and protesters are expected to clash in many cities across the country today (Wednesday), as activists and youths insist on gathering in public spaces to mark the one-year anniversary of the #EndSARSprotests, which shook the country last year.
For example, heavily armed police officers took control of the Lekki tollgate area on Tuesday, which was the epicentre of last year’s protests.
The PUNCH has also learned that some plainclothes cops will join the protesters in order to keep a close eye on them.
In October of last year, spontaneous protests against police brutality, particularly by members of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, erupted across the country, and the #EndSARSmovement quickly gathered international support.
The protests, however, turned violent on October 20, 2020, when soldiers and police officers in Lagos opened fire on the demonstrators.
Hoodlums attacked protesters in Abuja, the nation’s capital, injuring many of them. They also ransacked warehouses, set fire to 18 cars, and vandalised more than 12 others.
The President’s regime, led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd. ), disbanded the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit in response to the outcry, the fourth time the Federal Government had done so.
The President accused the protesters of attempting to cause anarchy on October 19, 2020, and warned that the government would not tolerate it.
The organisers and attendees of the commemorative protests, on the other hand, have been warned by the police that if they go ahead with their plans, they will be arrested and prosecuted.
The PUNCH learned on Tuesday in Abuja that the police would station personnel in strategic locations in order to deter youths from staging street protests in commemoration of the rally.
Security agencies are expected to deploy personnel at various entry and exit points throughout the Federal Capital Territory, including Mararaba, Nyanya, Zuba, and Airport Road, according to sources.
Our correspondents also learned that security around many public buildings and infrastructure in the FCT would be tightened.
The Unity Fountain, which is Abuja’s main protest spot, is expected to be cordoned off to prevent any sort of gathering there.
“The security agencies are concerned about plans by some emergency activists to stage a protest,” a source said. As a result, we’ve devised a strategy to ensure that the protest or street walk does not devolve into violence.
“I won’t be able to reveal our strategic plan, but suffice it to say that security at strategic locations, government offices, banks, and other public utilities will be beefed up. Many undercover operatives will be among the protesters, looking for troublemakers.”
On Tuesday, members of the Lagos State Police Command used a show of force to intimidate the organisers and participants of the state’s #EndSARSmemorial protests.
In a show of force, fully armed officers in police patrol vehicles were seen patrolling potential protest sites.
At the Lekki tollgate, there was a large police presence.
“In memorial of the lives lost on the 20-10-2020, there will be a memorial car procession on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, taking place at the Lekki Tollgate by 8.10am,” according to a notice sighted by one of our correspondents. We should all try to stay in our cars for the duration of the procession.”
The commemorative protest in Oyo State will begin at 9 a.m. under the bridge on Iwo Road in Ibadan, with a candlelight procession following at 4 p.m. at the Ojoo roundabout.
“There will be a morning walk for #EndSARSheroes at 9 a.m. at Iwo Road, under bridge, opposite Tantalizers, followed by a candlelight procession at 4 p.m. at Ojoo roundabout, Ibadan,” the organisers said in a notice.
Protests on the streets of Lagos are still prohibited.
– The cops
The Lagos State Police Command, on the other hand, has stated that no form of street protest marking the #EndSARSanniversary will be tolerated in any part of the state.
CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, the state Police Public Relations Officer, denied rumours circulating on social media that the police had agreed to allow street demonstrations to commemorate the #EndSARSprotest anniversary, which is set to take place today (Wednesday).
In honour of the anniversary, he said the command would only allow indoor and virtual events.
“The Lagos State Police Command’s attention has been drawn to a post being circulated on social media insinuating that the police in Lagos have agreed to allow street protests in commemoration of the one-year#EndSARSanniversary on October 20, 2021,” Ajisebutu said.
“On the contrary, in commemoration of the #EndSARSanniversary, the police will only allow indoor and virtual events and will provide adequate security at the venue(s) if known. This is in recognition of every Nigerian’s right to express his or her opinion.
“We wish we could allow such street demonstrations.” However, we have intelligence that some unnamed groups or individuals are planning an anti-#EndSARSanniversary protest in the state on the same day.
“In light of the conflicting interests and threat of mayhem between pro and anti-#EndSARSanniversary groups, the command once again cautions both sides against any form of street protest between now and October 20, 2021 and beyond.”
In Osun, police have issued a warning against unlawful assembly and protests.
Similarly, the Osun State Police Command issued a warning on Tuesday against any unlawful assembly or gathering in the state to commemorate the #EndSARSprotests anniversary.
Yemisi Opalola, the command’s spokesperson, said intelligence available to it indicated that some youths and groups of people were planning protests.
According to Opalola, the state Commissioner of Police, Wale Olokode, has issued a directive to area commanders, divisional police officers, and tactical units to be on the lookout for any act that could jeopardise the state’s peace.
She added that the commissioner also advised parents and guardians to warn their children and wards to be law-abiding and refrain from protests and public gatherings, and that anyone who disobeyed the directive would be arrested and prosecuted by the police.
Amnesty International claims that the #EndSARS panels have dashed victims’ hopes.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International, a global rights organisation, has said that despite promises of reform, police impunity persists, accusing investigation panels set up to investigate police brutality of sabotaging victims’ chances of receiving justice.
‘Nigeria: No justice for victims of police brutality one year after #EndSARSprotests,’ Amnesty International said in a statement.
It stated that no one has been held accountable for the torture, violence, and killings of peaceful protesters, and that reports of police violations of human rights continue.
On October 20, 2020, at least 12 people were killed at the Lekki tollgate and Alausa in Lagos, according to Amnesty International.
“Amnesty International was able to establish that pro-government supporters instigated violence at many of the demonstrations, giving police cover to use lethal force against peaceful protesters,” says the organisation. Detained protesters were also tortured, according to the organisation, and were denied or denied immediate access to lawyers.
Despite the gravity of the human rights violations, “not a single member of the security forces has been prosecuted,” according to the rights group, “judicial panels of inquiry set up to investigate officer abuses have made little progress.”
According to Amnesty International, the President must follow through on his promise to reform the police in order to put an end to the impunity that Nigerians have been protesting for years.
It said that under the guise of restoring order, Nigerian security forces used unnecessary and excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters across the country, causing horrific injuries to hundreds of people and killing at least 56 people, including dozens of young people.
“It is inexcusable that the government continues to deny the use of live ammunition on protesters at the Lekki tollgate exactly a year ago, despite overwhelming evidence,” Amnesty International’s Country Director, Ms Osai Ojigho, said.
It found that in nearly 21 incidents of violence between peaceful protesters and pro-government supporters, security forces not only failed to take preventive measures to prevent peaceful assemblies from being disrupted, but also failed to protect protesters from violent attacks, according to videos and photos of the protest sites.
“In many cases, police and other security agents stood by and watched as armed thugs allegedly backed by the government attacked peaceful protesters. In some cases, government vehicles were used to transport the thugs to the protest sites. At least two protesters were killed as a result of these attacks, according to Ojigho.
Detainees were also denied or delayed access to lawyers and medical care, according to Amnesty International. Despite repeated requests from detainees to see or call a lawyer – and repeated requests from lawyers at detention facilities to have access to the detainees – this remained the case.
Long adjournments, intimidation of witnesses by police lawyers, and the failure of police officers to appear as witnesses, it claimed, had marred the work of investigative panels set up to look into police brutality.
Some panels had failed to sit in some states and had taken indefinite breaks, according to the report.
“What we saw at these panels was depressing, and it clearly demonstrates that there is no genuine commitment to ensuring justice for victims of police violence in Nigeria.”
These panels raised hopes of getting justice but in some states, this is quickly vanishing,” Ojigho stated.
Ensure prosecution of protesters’ abusers, HRW tells FG
Human Rights Watch has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Government’s failure to hold security operatives accountable for allegedly brutalising and killing #EndSARSprotesters in October 2020.
A year after security forces violently suppressed protests calling for an end to police brutality in Nigeria, an international human rights organisation said the victims were still waiting for justice.
The Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday that the prospects for accountability remained inconclusive and bleak a year after the #EndSARScrackdown began.
“Nigerian authorities should take concrete and decisive steps to ensure that those responsible for abuses against protesters are held accountable,” the report stated.
“In October 2020, young people across Nigeria took to the streets in a movement dubbed #EndSARS, calling for the disbanding of an abusive police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and the end of brutality. Excessive force, including gunfire, was used by security forces, resulting in death and serious injuries.”
Anietie Ewang, a Nigerian researcher at Human Rights Watch, advised the government to ensure that those who were abused during the nationwide protests receive justice.
“Failure to seek justice will strengthen the culture of impunity and reinforce the perceptions that drew protesters to the streets in the first place,” she said.
The HRW said it interviewed 54 people between October 2020 and August 2021, including victims and their families, protesters, protest supporters, representatives of civil society groups, medical service providers, political analysts, and journalists, to learn more about how the crackdowns unfolded and how the victims were affected.
The rights group also sent letters to the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Army, requesting information and asking questions about officers’ behaviour during the protests, but has yet to receive a response.
In the last ten months, police have harassed 146 civilians.
According to investigations by The PUNCH, 146 civilians were harassed by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force across the country between January 1, 2021 and October 16, 2021, with 15 allegedly shot.
Despite the #EndSARSprotests that swept the country last year, the PUNCH reports that citizens have been harassed and brutalised.
Despite the disbandment of the SARS, our correspondents discovered that police harassment and brutality against citizens had continued.
During the period under review, six journalists, including Solomon Odeniyi and Chidiebube Okeoma of The PUNCH, were harassed and arrested while performing their official duties.
Others include the alleged shooting of nine people on June 21 by a police inspector attached to Special Protection Unit, Base 9, Umuahia, during the Occupy Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, and the harassment of ten protesters on February 13, 2021 during the Occupy Lekki Tollgate in Lagos. Five of the victims were said to have died as a result of gunshot wounds, while the other four were said to have survived.
Others include the brutalization of a cameraman attached to the Edo State Government House and a certain Broderick Omeisan in Warri, Delta State, on September 28, 2021, who were protesting their leader’s ordeal in Abuja; and the harassment of 57 Shiite members on September 28, 2021, who were protesting their leader’s ordeal in Abuja.
However, according to a report released in August by Amnesty International, between March and June 2021 in the South-East, the army and police killed 115 people and arrested over 500 others.
The lack of punishment to serve as a deterrent to others, according to Giwa Victor, National Coordinator, Advocate for Peoples Rights and Justice, ensured that the scourge of harassment and brutalization continued to thrive in the country.
“Errant personnel are not held accountable for their actions,” he said. Because there is no punishment, this scourge will continue to spread throughout the country. How many cases have been dismissed or prosecuted just this year?
“It’s not enough to tell us they’ll be investigated, as the IG promised in the most recent case in Kogi; the next step should be to take action that will deter others.” They will continue to commit their heinous act and believe that they will get away with it until they see that they will be punished.”
The Centre for Democracy and Development expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of seriousness in addressing the trigger factors, despite the protests’ clear message.
According to the group’s Director, Idayat Hassan, if this continues to be ignored, a similar experience will resurface in the not-too-distant future.
Credit: The PUNCH , Ejes Gist News