One year after Nigerian security forces violently suppressed protests against police brutality, survivors and families of victims of the “Lekki tollgate shooting” are still waiting for justice.
The authorities had pledged that those involved would be held accountable. Now the victims have lost hope, says Steve Dede, editor of Pulse Nigeria.
It’s just a story of sadness and of despair, he says. “People who have lost hope. You know, just the common man and woman. The common parent, the average nigerian who does not even know what to do, where to even start from. Some people are still looking for the relatives, who were there that day at the Lekki Toll Gate that night and still nothin has been done. There’s not been any investigation. There’s not been any findings, there’s not been any conclusion at all, and that has left them frustrated and really tired of the whole process”.
In October 2020, young people across Nigeria took to the streets, demanding the disbandment of the SARS special police unit and an end to police violence. A movement, END SARS, to which the security forces responded by firing live ammunition into the crowd on 20 October 2020 left at least ten dead and many missing.
Justice is going to be hard because the government has not even acknowledged that the incidents happened, so where there’s no acknowledgement, there’s no justice. Even the judicial panel that was set up to investigate the claims, it has not even concluded its findings a year after. The army who were the main actors of the alleged crime, they’ve stopped replying, they’ve not cooperated very well with the judicial panel. So that’s made justice for anyone, the survivors, the victims, even more difficult. It’s not even gotten to that level.
Faced with popular pressure, the authorities dismantled the unit and promised to reform the police, but the youth remained unconvinced by the government’s promises.
SARS has been disbanded, but the general overview of that protest was just about all security agencies overstepping their boundaries and their rights , and really using their powers and a uniform to abuse Nigerians. That message has been passed across although nothing has changed. There is still some reports of EFCC officials, police officials doing the same thing. But the general message that protest gave to everyone, including our leadership, is that young people are not scared to come out and express their frustration. While nothing has changed from the police perspective, I think that fear that we don’t want to push these young people over the edge again to make them come out and protest again, I think that is already there. And I think that’s one of the things that we’ve benefited from thatEND SARS protest.