October 21, 2023
FILE – People hold banners as they protest against police brutality at Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos, Nigeria on Oct. 15, 2020. Many Nigerians on Friday Oct. 20, 2023 remembered the victims of the historic protests against police brutality which took place three years ago, with Amnesty International reporting that at least 15 of the protesters are still being detained illegally. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File) SA
By Chinedu Asadu | The Associated Press
ABUJA, Nigeria – Many Nigerians on Friday remembered the victims of the historic protests against police brutality which took place three years ago, with Amnesty International reporting that at least 15 of the protesters are still being detained illegally.
In October 2020, thousands of Nigerians staged nationwide protests to kick against the abuses of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS. In the economic hub of Lagos, security forces opened fire on demonstrators, prompting global condemnation. A government-commissioned inquiry described the shooting and resultant deaths as a massacre.
At least 15 protesters arrested three years ago are still held in Lagos prisons, the majority without trial and some being tortured, Amnesty International’s Nigeria office said in a statement listing the names of the victims.
In Lagos, a small group of people held a rally to demand justice for victims of police brutality. “Nobody is going to be happy when you are unjustly killing people, suffering them, oppressing them,” said Adebowale Adebayo, one of the organizers and a Nigerian actor popularly known as Mr. Macaroni.
Across various social media platforms, the #EndSARS hashtag trended in Nigeria as many spoke about the continuing abuses allegedly committed by Nigerian police officers.
“Our investigation shows the Nigerian authorities’ utter disdain for human rights,” Isa Sanusi, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said, echoing accusations against the government that protesters were targeted while their demands for justice were neglected.
“Three years in detention without trial is a travesty of justice. This shows the authorities’ contempt for due process of law. The protesters must be immediately and unconditionally released,” Sanusi added.
People also asked questions about the true death toll from the shooting in Lagos, with the government still accused of a cover-up.
A judicial panel commissioned by the Lagos state government reported that 11 people died. But in July this year, the government confirmed a memo leaked by local media that said more than 100 bodies recovered during the protests. Officials, however, said the fatalities occurred during violence in many parts of the state and not at the protest site where soldiers opened fire.
“Nigerian authorities must take concrete and effective measures to end police impunity, including by giving clear directives to the police not to violate human rights,” Amnesty International Nigeria said.