#EndSARS Protests: Amnesty International Says Police Impunity Still on Despite Promises of Reform

  • Says investigation panels dashing victims’ hope of getting justice

DESPITE promises from federal authorities to carry out comprehensive reform of the police to stem human rights abuse, nothing has changed as reports of human rights violations by the police continue to grow, Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement to mark the one-year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests by Nigerian youth across the country in October 2020.

Aisha Yesufa at #EndSARS Abuja Protest

According to AI, not a single security personnel has been prosecuted “for the torture, violence, and killings of peaceful protesters,” just as judicial panels of inquiry set up to investigate abuses by security officers have made meaningful progress since last year.

“A year on, despite the gravity of these human rights violations, not a single member of the security forces has been prosecuted while judicial panels of inquiry set up to investigate abuses by officers have made little progress,” the statement reads.

AI had, in an investigation it carried out, found that the Nigerian army and the police killed at least 12 people on 20 October 2020 at Lekki Toll Gate and Alausa in Lagos. It further established that pro-government supporters instigated violence at many of the demonstrations, where they provided cover for the police to use lethal force against peaceful protesters. The organisation also found that detained protesters were tortured and refused or denied immediate access to lawyers.

Police clamp down on protesters at the Abuja demonstration. Credit: Abimbola Oluwakayode: Instagram; tistagreat Twitter; Tistagreat

Mr Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, the statement said, is therefore calling on President Buhari to “fulfill his promise of reforming the police to end the reign of impunity Nigerians have been protesting against for many years. Failure to bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for the torture and killings of #EndSARS protesters on 20 October 2020is yet another indication that Nigerian authorities lack the political will to ensure accountability for these atrocities, and end police brutality.”

The statement further quoted Ojigho to have said: “Under the pretext of restoring order, horrific injuries were inflicted on hundreds of people and at least 56 people were killed, among them dozens of young people lost their lives as Nigerian security forces used unnecessary and excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters across the country. It is unacceptable that despite overwhelming evidence, the government continues to deny the use of live ammunition on protesters at Lekki toll gate exactly a year ago.”

Also from Abuja protest credit: Oluwakayode Abimbola

AI said it documented incidents at Lekki Toll Gate and other parts of Nigeria showing the violent response of the Nigerian security forces to peaceful protesters. “The clear aim of the crackdown was to instill fear, discourage peaceful protests and punish those demanding an end to widespread human rights violations by the police, said AI in the statement.

The #EndSARS nationwide protests demanded an end to police impunity in Nigeria following a viral video on 3rd October, 2020 showing police officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) dragging two men from a hotel and shooting one of them outside. A few days later, protests erupted across Nigeria.

In the course of the protests, the federal government, on 11th October, purported to have disbanded SARS and pledged to carry out reform of the police. Amnesty International said that was the fifth time since 2015 that the Nigerian authorities pledged to reform the police and disband SARS.

With protests continuing demanding more practical actions than empty promises, the Nigerian army and police on 20th October, violently repressed peaceful protests and killed at least 12 people at Lekki Toll Gate and Alausa in Lagos.


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