Despite warnings by police authorities, Nigerian youths yesterday trooped to the streets, major highways and public places, to mark the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protests held last year against police brutality and other unprofessional conducts.
On October 20, 2020, the youths across the country engaged in what has been described as the biggest campaign against police brutality in the country.
The protest which was against police brutality ended on a violent note after it was hijacked by hoodlums.
Security operatives were also killed; government properties were torched, while detainees were freed in some parts of the country.
In commemoration of the campaign, hundreds of youths yesterday gathered at strategic areas in most states of the federation to mark the one-year anniversary of #EndSARS protest.
In most states, they demanded automatic employment for the victims of the protest in the state and the implementation of the report of the judicial panel that was setup by the state governments.
They also requested that Nigerians who are still in detention as a result of the protest should be released unconditionally.
But a combined team of security personnel drawn from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and members of local vigilantes were on ground to ensure peace during the peaceful protests across the states.
In Abuja, convener of the RevolutionNow Movement, Omoyele Sowore, and activist Deji Adeyanju led the #EndSARSMemorial protest, with the protesters chanting anti-government songs.
They also sang the national anthem amidst tight security, urging the government to stop police brutality.
In a statement on Tuesday, Sowore had insisted that the planned protests would still hold yesterday.
The police had also stated that only indoor and virtual protests would be allowed on Wednesday.
Sowore said, “Our attention has been drawn to the latest statement credited to the Lagos State Command of the Nigeria Police to the effect that no “street protests” will be allowed tomorrow (Wednesday) to mark the historic #Endsars rebellion of 2020 and its attendant fallout due to police repression and Nigerian army’s murderous intervention.
“We state unequivocally that is not within the powers of the Nigerian police to stop citizens from engaging in street protests, the right to engage in protest against unjust policies, tyranny, and oppression is an inalienable right, and as such these latest claims are at best superfluous and belligerently arrogant.
“We urge the police authorities to ensure they carry out their duties to protect protesters who will be on the streets by way of cars, bicycles, tricycles, skateboards, and by foot all over Lagos and its environs tomorrow (Wednesday).
Other protesters marking the first anniversary of the #EndSARS movement also gathered in front of the ministry of Justice building in Maitama district of Abuja.
The protesters gathered in the front of the building with banners and placards, majorly dressed in black.
There was also a heavy presence of security personnel at the venue to control the crowd and moving vehicles, as the protesters occupied a part of the road.
Some Pro-Buhari protesters were also sighted alighting from buses at the Unity Fountain to stage a counter-protest against the #EndSARS memorial protest.
Armed operatives of the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigerian Army and the Civil Defence Corps were also on the ground to make sure that the protests go on peacefully.
In Lagos, journalists and other protesters who were mainly youths were arrested by officers of the Nigeria Police Force during the protest held in the state to commemorate the one year anniversary of #EndSARS protest held across the country last year.
A journalist reporting for the PM News, an online medium identified as Taiwo Okanlawan was beaten and manhandled by the police.
Some other journalists and protesters were arrested by the Police, led by the Lagos state commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu.
Speaking with journalists after their arrests, the commissioner of police, Hakeem Odumosun, said the command had issued a statement banning any form of protest in public places.
He said the ban on protest was to forestall destruction of lives and properties as witnessed in 2020 across the state.
He, however, said he will not allow hoodlums and miscreants to hijack peaceful protest by making it violent.
He said, “I held meetings with them yesterday and we agreed there will be no protest that will disturb lawful business of the day because Lagos state is the hub of economy in Nigeria.
“They should allow business to go on accordingly and no one stops the movement of vehicles”.
Odumosun further said that he will be ready to provide security for indoor protests that will not lead to break down of law and order.
“Yesterday, when they were at Adeniyi Jones I provided security. They were there and they had their seminars and when they said they are going to protest today, I said no problem because I can’t stop you from moving with your vehicles, banners, singing peacefully but not aggressively,” henoted.
He further explained that only two Journalists were arrested but they didn’t identify themselves, saying’’ Now that someone has called for his identification, I will look into his case.’’
He also disclosed that 10 miscreants were arrested with machetes, saying they may belong to the group that looted Shoprite during the last protest.
His words: “We arrested 10 persons with machetes. The question is, are they protesters? And that’s exactly what happened last year. Are the protesters out to kill policemen? The protesters may be those that went to loot Shoprite and set several places ablaze.
“Like I said earlier, Lagos is the economic hub of the country and today is a working day and we all know the volume of traffic on this axis. We will not allow them to break the law and cause disorderliness,” he said.
In Yola, the Adamawa State capital, no fewer than 30 youths led by Tony Sudan Gompwel demanded for immediate release of over 300 youths allegedly remanded at the Kirikir maximum correctional centre Lagos.
The peaceful protest to commemorate EndSARS one year anniversary saw protesters carrying placards at Bekaji Parliament in Yola, venue of the event.
Gompwel, who is the Northeast coordinator of ‘Take It Back Home’, said those who lost their lives in last year’s protes, were killed not because they were against the nation but because their lives don’t matter to governments.
He said the shameful aspect of it all is to see the same thing was happening to youths in the state.
According to him, all efforts to present their request to the state government proved abortive.
“Governor Fintiri whom we took for a youth never stood by us in the state.
Also, scores of youths in Oyo State yesterday dared the Police to stage a peaceful protest in commemoration of the first year anniversary of the #EndSARS protest.
Marking the one year of the protest in Ibadan, the protesters said it was meant against police brutality.
The state police command had on Tuesday warned the protesters not to organise a commemoration of the protests.
The police commissioner, Ngozi Onadeko, in a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer, Adewale Osifeso, advised parents and guardians not to allow their children to take part in the protest.
The police, in a bid to resist the protesters, stationed their vehicles and officers at strategic locations in Ibadan, but the protest took place despite the warning by the state police command and heavy police presence.
The youth took the protest to areas such as Iwo Road, Agodi and Oyo State secretariat, noting that they had the right to peaceful protests.
They also called for the release of Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, a secessionist.
In Ekiti, a former governor of the state, Chief Segun Oni, urged the federal government to implement the demands of the #EndSARS protesters to regain the trust of Nigeria youth.
Oni said the #EndSARS movement would remain a watershed in the nation’s history and a major challenge to the status quo.
There was a low turnout of youths at the protest organised to mark the one-year of #EndSARS protest in Osun state.
The youths with various placards such as ‘End bad government’, ‘Police yet to change’, ‘Stop marginalization of youths’ among others took off from Ita Olookan and moved towards Okefia where they were dispersed by police.
A journalist, Sikiru Obarayese, was not only arrested but hurriedly arraigned at an Osogbo magistrates’ court.
Obarayese who was arraigned on two-count charge of assault and breach of peace pleaded not guilty.
His case was however struck out due to the prompt intervention of the state commissioner of police, Wale Olokode, who ordered the withdrawal of the case by the prosecutor.
Meanwhile, a large number of youths under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Societies converged for a round table discussion at Aurora Event Center to mark the one year remembrance of #EndSARS.
The event featured lectures, discussions and candlelight procession to honour those who died during the protest last year.
Also, youths in Akure, the Ondo State capital, trooped to the streets in their large numbers to hold a peaceful procession in commemoration of the first anniversary of the @EndSARS protest.
During the peaceful protest, business and normal official activities in the major streets of the state capital continued undisrupted.
Also, security operatives provided protection for the youths who were chanting solidarity songs to mark the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protest.
The protesters marched from Old Garage in Akure and ended the #EndSARS Remembrance Day at the Ondo state Police Headquarters on Igbatoro road.
At the police headquarters, the state commissioner of Police, Mr. Bolaji Salami, attributed the delay in the implementation of the panel report on last year’s protest to paucity of funds on the part of the Ondo state government.
While receiving the demands of the youths, the police boss promised to deliver the demands of the #EndSARS protesters to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
In Benin, the Edo State capital, members of the Public Works Volunteers (PUWOV) were on ground to control traffic while the peaceful march lasted.
Two of the victims in the state, a fashion designer, Miracle Ailenokhoriah, who has been bedridden as a result of gunshot to his right thigh and Stephen Asekhame whose left leg was amputated as a result of gunshot from soldiers in Auchi joined the protest in the state yesterday.
Asekhame who is from Uhunmora said, “During the protest last year on the 19th of October 2020, we in Auchi decided to hold our own peaceful protest. On that day and during the protest, soldiers ran into us and I was hit by a bullet that led to the amputation of my left leg. I was a student then but now I am a graduate and I am supposed to go for service next Sunday.
“I presented my case before the panel through my lawyer but till now we have not heard anything from the panel”
On his part, Ailenokhoriah who was accompanied by his mother said they were protesting in the Market Square in Ekpoma when a policeman he identified as Sergeant Ade shot him and then himself.
One of the organisers of the memorial rally, Kola Edokpayi said, “I want the state government to implement the recommendations of the panel and the federal government to make 20th of October every year a public holiday to commemorate the #EndSARS protest and give respect to the fallen heroes. These ones here who have been injured should be given automatic employment.”
‘Lekki Killings’ Remain Phantom Massacre – FG
But the federal government yesterday described the #EndSARS protest massacre at Lekki tollgate last year as false, saying the only ‘massacre’ recorded was in the social media with no bodies or blood.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this during a briefing on the occasion of the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protest yesterday in Abuja said CNN, Amnesty International, and a popular Disc Jockey, Obianuju Catherine Udeh, better known as DJ Switch lied.
He said their narratives were ‘fake news, even as he asked them to apologize for misleading the world.
In the aftermath, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed, said Mohammed while addressing newsmen in his speech titled: “Phantom Massacre at Lekki tollgate”.
The minister insisted that the military did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th 2020, adding that there was no massacre at the toll gate.
He said, “Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ, and others like them should apologize for misleading the world that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate and for portraying the Nigerian military, police, and other security agencies in bad light.
“CNN acted unprofessionally by relying on unverified, and possibly-doctored social media videos, as well as other open-source information, to conclude that a massacre took place at the toll gate.
“The federal government remains proud of the security agencies for acting professionally and showing utmost restraint all through the EndSARS protest and the ensuing violence, an action that saved lives and properties.
“The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the Human Rights Organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre.”
Mohammed further said that one year later no bodies, no families, no convincing evidence has been made.
“One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none: No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?
“Sadly, the champions of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including Amnesty International and CNN, have continued to shamelessly hold on to their unproven stand. Recall, gentlemen, that after bandying different figures, Amnesty International finally settled at about 12 people killed.
“On its part, CNN went from 38 people killed to two to just one, after a supposed global exclusive even when the network had no reporter on ground at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
“On Monday, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that was set up by the Lagos State Government after the EndSARS protest wrapped up its sitting. During the sitting, CNN was summoned but it never showed up, thus missing a great opportunity to prove its allegation of massacre at the toll gate,” he added.
He said Amnesty International had a golden opportunity to convince the world, but it rather opted for issuing meaningless press releases.
“In its latest attempt to grasp at straws and redeem whatever is left of its battered credibility on this issue, CNN has continued with its baseless report that soldiers shot at protesters.
“In a report currently running on the network, CNN brazenly and unashamedly held on to its flawed narrative, relying on an unidentified mother whose son was reportedly shot dead at Lekki, but without convincing evidence of who shot him dead. The same CNN that tweeted on Oct. 23rd 2020 that 38 people were shot dead at Lekki is now struggling to convince the world that one boy was killed at Lekki. What a shame!”
He said the testimony of ballistic experts before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Lagos contradicts the tales by the moonlight by Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and their ilk.
He continued: “The experts, in their testimony, said inter alia: The Team finds that from the medical data examined, including the timeline of arrival at medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims, who were taken to the five medical facilities, that no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters (emphasis mine) at Lekki Tollgate on 20th October 2020, within the timeframe of reference (18.30-20.34hrs).
“That the GSW (Gun Shot Wounds) injuries (4 in number between 19:05 and 19:45 hrs), which were examined by the Team, can be safely identified as being discharged by either low velocity caliber and/or artisanal/12-gauge firearms (artisanal firearms are locally-fabricated weapons). What is certain is that had the military personnel deliberately fired military grade live ammunition directly at the protesters; there would have been significantly more fatalities and catastrophic injuries recorded. This was clearly not the case.”
He noted that the ballistic experts were not alone in reaching that conclusion.
He said in its 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. State Department wrote: “On Oct. 20th (2020), members of the security forces enforced curfew by FIRING SHOTS INTO THE AIR (emphasis mine) to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)
On other issues related to EndSARS, he said the National Economic Council (NEC), which comprises all State governors and representatives of the federal government and chaired by the Vice President, has already addressed other issues relating to the EndSARS protest.
He said at its meeting on 15th October 2021, the NEC received an update on the Reports of Judicial Panels of Inquiry into Allegations of Human Rights Violations against Members of Nigeria Police Force and other Security Agencies.
“Note that 28 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) – under the auspices of the National Human Rights Commission – had set up Judicial Panels/Commissions of Inquiry to investigate allegations of violations of human rights levied against members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, especially members of the disbanded SARS,” he said.
He said out of the 28 States, 11 States (Abia, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, and Rivers) have submitted their final reports to the council.
He said governors of other states have also indicated that their reports would be submitted soon.