For 13 consecutive days, from the 7th of October 2020 down to 20th, we were all over the streets of Nigeria, alongside hundreds of thousands of other young people, demanding a permanent end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
SARS is a police unit tasked with the prevention and combat of violent armed robbery. Notorious for extortion and extrajudicial killings, this police unit has now been nicknamed Special ‘Armed’ Robbery Squad.
However, it should be noted that the EndSars protest may have begun as a revolt against an infamous police unit. But as the protest grew larger, it became clear to all that it was indeed a revolt against the culture of impunity characterised by bad governance and a burning desire to live in a country that respects the citizenship of its people. What began as a protest with a few of us gathered first at the Lagos and Abuja police headquarters and then overnight at the Lagos house of assembly, snowballed into a massive crowd of thousands at the Lagos house of assembly Alausa and Lekki toll gate, Abuja, and then across the country. The anger that fired up the whole actions has been culminating in the heart and mind of most youths and workers for the donkey years.
After we had protested for a week, making it clear to the government that we were not going to backdown until drastic decisions beyond lip service are taken ( not only to EndSars but also to address the culture of impunity, lack of respect for citizenship, and misgovernance that have been characteristic of our political leadership over the past 60 years), the government started massive deployment of thugs to attack protesters.
At the Lagos House of Assembly barricades Alausa, the Babajide Sanwoolu-led government has been deploying armed thugs to attack the protests and notable faces on the protest grounds. These serial attacks on peaceful protesters in Lagos peaked on the early morning of 15th of October when they deployed a large contingent of thugs loaded in a Lagos State bus, armed to the teeth with dangerous ammunitions such as guns, machetes, cutlasses, bottles, etc. Many of us sustained injuries and barely escaped with our lives. Similar attacks happened at other protests grounds across the country. States like Abuja, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, and across the country had similar experiences, and in some cases, lives were lost.
This unprovoked aggression against peaceful protesters incited massive participation of an overwhelming majority who eventually were prepared to make more revolutionary demands on the government. By 19th of October, the protest had taken hold of every nooks and crannies of Lagos. The economy had been practically shutdown by the whims of resistance, even the airports were not spared from the waves of protest that grounded the economy of Lagos; Nigeria’s commercial centre.
With no “leader” to bribe, after all, the protest was “leaderless”, the government apparently arrived at a decision to quash the protest at any cost. On the night of October 19, the Lagos State Government announced a curfew which was to take effect on the 20th of October by 9 pm. Before this time, the Buhari government had intimidated Abuja protesters with combined forces of thugs and the military. In responding to this new development we were confronted with at our barricade, the Lagos House of Assembly, Alausa took an important position on this matter.
To be clear, the significance of the Alausa barricades on this matter is much more than the fact that it was domiciled night and day at the Lagos House of Assembly, but also that it is the progenitor, whether directly or indirectly, of all barricades in Lagos (aside Lekki) and encouraged a spring up of other barricades across the country aside Abuja that started more coherently and quite stronger at the beginning. On the 20th of October at exactly 12 noon, the Alausa barricades argued for its constitutional right to peaceful assembly and forthwith resolved to continue its peaceful occupy of the Lagos House of Assembly. We then communicated the same to the Lekki Tollgate Barricades whom we later discovered had come to a similar conclusion earlier than we did. All through this time, we had observed numerous vehicles of the Rapid Respond Squad (RRS) strategically stationed around our protest ground and it had been clear what their aim was.
At about 4pm, no less than three convoys of military trucks stormed the Alausa protest. They stormed in violently with a clear intent to disperse the protest at whatever cost. They were, however, taken aback by the level of organised yet harmless and armless resistance they got from the overwhelming numbers of young people gathered therein. It was at this point that they retreated, apparently temporarily. It wasn’t until about 7pm did we begin to get very disturbing reports on how the military had violently dispersed, injured, and killed scores of protesters.
Our colleagues in Lekki, like all barricades, were armed only with the Nigerian flags and solidarity songs, this didn’t stop the military from hunting and killing our friends like games. Little did we know they had closed up on us at Alausa too, even though we had longed expected their return. And just like it happened in Lekki, we were hunted down like mere animals. A number of our friends were killed and their lifeless bodies whisked into the ambulance. Those of us that survived being killed couldn’t escape bullet injuries and injuries from other dangerous ammunitions in the possession of the combined forces of military and police. A number of our brave ladies were sexually harassed, and we had accounts of attempted rape. It was the same dreadful story at other barricades across Lagos and beyond.
AFTERMATH OF OCTOBER 20 KILLINGS: THE LIES AND CONTRADICTORY REVELATIONS
Nigeria’s ruling elite and particularly the Lagos State government did not expect the global outrage that greeted the massacre and mindless brutalization of peaceful protesters. They had planned to cover up these atrocities but for the instagram livestream from one DJ switch that captured the horrors unleashed against Lekki peaceful protesters. The Lekki massacre helped amplify killings and shootings that eventually happened at other places like Alausa, Badagry which in any case, were either under reported or not reported at all.
In all of this madness of massacre, the Lagos State governor, on CNN and several other local and international media, tried to wash his hands off the gory events and subsequently placed the blame of the wicked onslaught on the Nigerian Military. The Military who had earlier deny involvement despite visual evidences that suggests otherwise, confessed to have been invited by the governor of Lagos, BabaJide Sanwoolu. This shocking confession from the miliitary forced the Lagos governor into making a U-turn on his earlier position of not being aware of military involvement. In reaction to the revelations by the military, BabaJide Sanwoolu then admitted inviting the military to quash the protest but that he had not asked them to shoot at protesters. Giving the character of the Nigerian armed forces, that position is like saying you invited pack of wolves into the gathering sheeps but did not ask them to attack or kill? Sounds stupid and very hypocritical.
Recall that the Lagos State governor had initially instituted a Judicial panel of inquiry over extrajudicial killings by the Police and SARS. The terms of reference of the committee were then expanded to include an inquiry into the Lekki Massacre that took place on October 20. In the light of recent events, in which case, the Nigerian Military had admitted being at Lekki and the Lagos State governor had also admitted inviting the military, I, therefore, posit forthwith that:
- The panel instituted by the Lagos State governor lacks moral and legal competence to institute a panel to inquire into the killings and shootings of protesters on 20th october, 2020. The governor cannot be a judge over his own case
- The Lagos State governor and the Chief of Army staff should immediately resign upon admitting to the roles played in the killings of Black Thursday.
- That an independent and public panel of inquiry be instituted by the Judiciary to probe into the events of black Tuesday.
Also, recall that the protests began as a revolt against harassment and extrajudicial killings of citizens by SARS. The Police IG and the President, Mohammadu Buhari, had announced the disbandment of this rogue police Unit. The tragic events of Black Tuesday, the rising body counts and direct role of the police and military, has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the struggle against police brutality and extrajudicial killings is far from over, and Nigerians no doubt will be returning to the barricades sooner than expected.