Young Nigerians are gathering this Wednesday to pay tribute, a year later, to the victims of the bloody police repression of the #Endsars movement against police violence, despite warnings from the authorities.
On social networks, messages calling on young people to meet on October 20 to “honor the memory of the victims” in the big cities of the south of the country, in Abuja, Lagos or Port Harcourt, were shared by tens of thousands of times since Tuesday.
“Innocent Nigerian citizens waving flags and singing have been shot, injured and killed. We must never forget,” Nigerian singer Falz, also a figure in the movement, followed by more than 8 million people on Tuesday. users on Instagram.
“We will be parading with our cars through the toll plaza. We know their method, so a car procession is the safest option to minimize harassment from the police,” the celebrity added.
Authorities have warned Nigerian citizens in recent weeks against new protests organized in the name of #Endsars, saying they had degenerated into riots and looting last year.
Ahead of the rally on Wednesday, lawyer Moe Odele said on Twitter that she had contacted all the lawyers who had volunteered to release the demonstrators arrested during the movement, to ask them “to be ready”.
An important device of the security forces is expected Wednesday in Lagos, and in particular at the Lekki tollbooth, where police units have been stationed for several nights already, according to several witnesses.
Demonstrations in several cities
In Lagos, the bustling economic capital, citizens planned to march in their vehicle on Wednesday morning, crossing the Lekki toll booth with flags, an emblematic place of the protest, where the army and the police opened fire on the 20th. October 2020, causing the death of at least 10 people and thus ending the movement.
In the federal capital, Abuja, a rally is planned around the Unity fountain, another emblematic place of the protest, where thugs armed with clubs and machetes attacked protesters last year.
In other cities in the South, such as Port Harcourt or Nsukka, marches in tribute to the victims are planned at the end of the evening.
The #EndSARS movement (“end the SARS”) had initially started in the first week of October 2020 to denounce the brutalities of the SARS, a special police unit accused for years of extorting the population, of illegal arrests , torture and even murder.
Only a few kilometers away, the head of state Muhammadu Buhari is due to receive his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace, who is on an official visit to the most populous country in Africa.
Faced with popular pressure, the authorities had dismantled the unit, and promised to reform the police, but the youth, unconvinced by the government’s promises, continued their protest.
The repression of demonstrations, especially on October 20 in Lekki, was then followed by a week of looting and violence.
A Special Justice Commission was subsequently set up by Lagos State to investigate accusations of police brutality and the repression of demonstrations.
Before this commission, the army had claimed to have used only blank bullets, then admitted that its soldiers also had live bullets. Its officials then ceased to attend despite several summons.
The commission, which completed its public consultations on Monday, is due to communicate the results of its investigation and recommendations to the government shortly.
According to Amnesty International, at least 56 people were killed across the country during the weeks of #Endsars protest.
Police said 51 civilians and 22 police officers were killed as a result of the protests, while 205 police stations and other buildings were set on fire or vandalized.
In February, a few dozen demonstrators tried to gather at the Lekki tollbooth to demand justice for the victims of the crackdown, whose perpetrators have yet to be prosecuted.
Under the objectives of the journalists, they had all been arrested, without exception.
The victims of #Endsars
Among the victims is Pelumi Onifade, a 20-year-old journalist from Gboah TV, based in Lagos, who was found dead in a morgue a few days after his arrest, after covering the #EndSARS protests.
On October 20, 2020, video of Yoruba Youth Forum President Abiodun Bolarinwa firing to disperse unarmed protesters in Abule Egba was online, going viral, and causing uproar following the #EndSARS protest.
Pelumi and her colleague who were interning as a media staff for Gboah TV reportedly captured the incident and published it.
Within days of the shooting, Pelumi was back on official duty in the Oko Oba neighborhood in Agege, where he was later arrested and taken away by the Lagos State Task Force.
His colleague, who had managed to escape reported that Pelumi was injured moments before his arrest by agents sent to the area to deal with the unrest caused by thugs.
Pelumi reportedly died in custody from his injuries and his body was laid to rest at the morgue without the news of his death being released to his family members.
The young man’s family have sought justice from the Lagos State Government, the Inspector General of Police and the State Police Commissioner for the murder of their son.
The deceased’s uncle called for an investigation into the circumstances of his death, urging Inspector General of Police Mohammad Adamu and State Police Commissioner Hakeem Odumosu to ensure that police officers involved in the murder of Onifade be brought to justice book.
Jimoh Isiaq was shot dead on Saturday in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, southwestern Nigeria, by police dispersing #EndSARS protesters.
It is not known whether Jimoh Isiaq was one of the young Nigerians protesting against police brutality before he was shot dead. He was rushed to the hospital where he died while receiving treatment.
But images shared on Twitter showed him standing by the side of the road, several meters from the police. He was not armed.