Photo by NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two Years After #EndSARS, Nigerians Say Nothing Has Changed

It has been two years since one of the most poignant protests in Nigeria caught the world's attention, but police brutality rages on.

The hashtag #EndSARSMemorial2 is currently viral on social media as the world remembers the #EndSARS protests, which began in 2020, after young people across Nigeria took to the streets in a days-long protest against incessant police brutality.

The demonstration was aimed at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a department of the police bureau that was accused of heinous crimes, including intimidation, kidnapping, and murder. The #EndSARS protests quickly blew up, drawing the world's attention to what quickly became one of the most poignant and memorable social justice initiatives in recent history. On October 20, 2020, the protests came to a screeching halt after soldiers opened fire on unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgates in Lagos. After the shooting, about 12 people died, and hundreds of others were wounded, according to Amnesty International.

The incident would later go on to be dubbed the "Lekki Massacre," an occurrence that left a dark memory in the minds of many Nigerians and people all over the world. A leaked copy of a report set up by the investigative panel of the Lagos state government concluded last November that the armed forces shot and killed unarmed protesters in what could be considered a "massacre."

Although two years have passed since the #EndSARS protests swept through the country, activists say that nothing has changed, and police brutality is still at an all-time high.

According to an Aljazeera report, there were 164 recorded killings by Nigerian law enforcement personnel between January and September of 2021. The publication also reported that according to Global Rights, a Washington, DC-based human rights group, Dave Umahi, governor of Ebonyi in southeast Nigeria, reportedly ordered soldiers to beat civil servants for coming late to work.

On Thursday, Amnesty International reported that over 40 protesters from 2020 were still in prisons while panels established to investigate police brutality had failed to deliver justice to victims.

Osai Ojigho, country director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, told Aljazeera that the families of the protesters who were slain and injured two years ago have not yet received compensation or justice.

"Justice is still elusive and more so where representatives of the government continue to dispute the number of dead and injured people at the Lekki tollgate shooting," said Ojigho. Ojigho also said that the situation was dire, and justice needed to happen.

The lack of progress at these #EndSARS panels is discouraging and reveals the authorities’ lack of commitment to ensure justice for victims of police brutality across Nigeria,” said Ojigho.

Today, many Nigerians converged at the Lekki Toll Gate to commemorate the lives of those who lost their lives during the shooting two years ago. According to Barron's, Nigerian police fired tear gas and water cannon at some protesters carrying banners and flags and rallying along the major expressway near Lekki.

Below are some social media reactions

Photo by NurPhoto via Getty Images.

A Year After #EndSARS, Nigerian Youth Maintain That Nothing Has Changed

Despite the disbandment of the SARS units, young Nigerians are still being treated as criminals. We talk to several of them about their experiences since the #EndSARS protests.

On September 12th, Tobe, a 22-year-old student at the University of Nigeria's Enugu Campus was on his way to Shoprite to hang out with his friends when the tricycle he had boarded was stopped by policemen. At first, Tobe thought they were about to check the driver's documents, but he was wrong. "An officer told me to come down, he started searching me like I was a criminal and told me to pull down my trousers, I was so scared that my mind was racing in different ways, I wasn't wearing anything flashy nor did I have an iPhone or dreads — things they would use to describe me as a yahoo boy," he says.

They couldn't find anything on him and when he tried to defend himself, claiming he had rights, one of the police officers slapped him. "I fell to the ground sobbing but they dragged me by the waist and took me to their van where they collected everything including my phone and the 8,000 Naira I was with."

Luckily for Tobe, they let him go free after 2 hours. "They set me free because they caught another pack of boys who were in a Venza car, but they didn't give me my money completely, they gave me 2,000 Naira for my transport," he says.

It's no news that thousands of Nigerian youth have witnessed incidents like Tobe's — many more worse than his. It's this helpless and seemingly unsolvable situation which prompted the #EndSARS protests. Sparked after a viral video of a man who was shot just because he was driving an SUV and was mistaken as a yahoo boy, the #EndSARS protests saw millions of young Nigerians across several states of the country come out of their homes and march against a system has killed unfathomable numbers of people for invalid or plain stupid reasons. The protests started on October 6th, 2020 and came to a seize after a tragedy struck on October 20th of the same year.

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When Nigerian youth shout the line "Why everybody come dey para, para, para, para for me" at protests, it is an act of collective rebellion and rage, giving flight to our anger against the police officers that profile young people, the bureaucracy that enables them, and a government that appears lethargic.