On October 20th 2021 , a year after the Army fired at #EndSARS protesters , hundreds of young Nigerians gathered to honor the memory of the victims. Meanwhile, others addressed the challenges faced by the movement through intense debates on social media platforms.
#EndSARS DISRUPTED MEMORIAL
One year after the Lekki Toll Gate Shooting, #EndSARS protesters reconvened to pay tribute to the killed protesters. They chose the scene of the killings to urge the government, and the population to remember these Fallen heroes. This commemorative protest also aims to demand justice for the victims regardless of authorities’ denial. And for this purpose, militants organized a car procession to avoid arrest. Indeed, the police forewarned militants of possible arrest in order to discourage them from gathering on the site of last year’s tragedy. But the threat of arrests did not impede the memorial protest to take place. And what was meant to be a peaceful protest was disrupted by the police. In fact, police troops fired tear gas at protesters who were not in cars. And, they arrested some protesters. While some sources affirm that two protesters were arrested, others estimate the number of arrest to be above thirty.
The turnabout of this memorial protest lead to discussions about the challenge , the future and the strategies of the #EndSARS movement .
CORRUPTION & GOVERNMENT’S DENIAL: THE MAIN CHALLENGES OF THE FIGHT AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY.
The event of this week was an occasion to revive the discussions about police brutality in Nigeria. And the challenges to the resolution of this issue was the focus of these discussions. Especially on platforms like Clubhouse, where people can have oral discussions in virtual spaces. They presented corruption as one of the main obstacles to the end police’s abuse of authority. In fact , members of the police are often bribed, and they harass civilians for money. In addition, it is hard to get justice since a significant number of officers are corrupt. Such impunity furthers the perpetuation of the abuse on civilians.
Last year’s protest highlighted the wrongdoings of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). But during one of the recent discussions, some of the speakers pointed out that the abuse was not limited to SARS. In fact, the brutality was perpetrated by all the branches of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). The entire police force is considered culpable of unlawful executions.
Besides corruption, the Nigerian government’s attitude towards the situation represents a significant barrier. The denial of the facts in particular, has a significant impact on the fight for police reformation. It prevents the populations from being protected against the abuse. Because acknowledging the problem is the first step toward resolution. This denial even has an impact on #EndSARS militants demand for justice. And That is the case of the Lekki Shooting. The government denied at first that the army shot at civilians. Meanwhile, the media reported otherwise. Furthermore, the deaths were denied at some points. Some pro-government groups even referred to the shooting as a “ Phantom Massacre”. Thus, they have discredited protesters’ denunciations, and victims’ families’ demand for justice. It is also important to mention that the contradicting narrative has also affected the populations’ description of the events of 2020 . For example, the speakers started arguing about the presence of snipers during the shooting. While others confirmed that the army brought snipers at the toll gate, others denied it. These incompatible versions raised tensions between the speakers.
THE STRATEGIES & THE FUTURE OF THE #EndSARS MOVEMENT
Another important points of the discussions were the strategies to end police brutality and the future of the movement. Despite the government’s decision to disband SARS, #EndSARS militants do not consider it a success. Because , as mentioned above, the Nigerian Police Force exercises abuse on civilians. Therefore, the reformation of the police is presented as the ultimate solution. People contemplated the strategies to reach this goal. And one of the strategies that stood out was the use of social media platforms to denounce police brutality, and maintain the peaceful protests. They suggested a better organization of the movement. Especially in the designation of leaders and spokespersons. And another strategy to be considered is the implication of the international community. Indeed, the international community should condemn the human rights violations and even initiate sanctions against the Nigerian government. The focus should be placed on the protection of the freedom of speech and the right to life . Regarding the future of this movement, the priority should be the consideration of strategies that will protect the lives of protesters. Because , in order to assure the success of the fight, protesters’ lives must be protected.