Several protesters in Nigeria’s city of Lagos were arrested on Saturday after they tried to hold a peaceful rally against the reopening of the Lekki tollgate, where security forces shot at protesters in October, which became the epicentre of the #EndSARS movement.
“I’m not here with any weapon. I’m here for human rights. This is not done, everybody knows,” said arrested protester Jay D Boy, an artist who spoke from inside a police van.
“Even those police officers today, they know. They know that things are not going well in this country. Three of my friends were killed here last year. And we are not hearing anything about it, this is not a crime.”
Police bundled around 17 protesters into a black truck and some other people drove past shouting “End SARS”, referring to Nigeria’s police unit accused of committing the deadly abuses.
“Picked up because I was walking, in my country. Picked up because I was walking,” said Christopher Emmanuel Ogboji, another arrested protester,
Many view the reopening of the tollgate as ill-timed and inconsiderate to victims of the Lekki shootings.
The huge highway tollgate became the centre of the protest movement against police brutality by the SARS unit, which has been disbanded.
The demonstrations ended abruptly after the shooting in Lagos and a wave of looting and unrest followed.
The government promised reforms in response.
An investigation into last year’s violence at Lekki has stalled with representatives of the armed forces failing to appear before the panel.
Security forces say they only used blank rounds to break up protesters who had defied a curfew, though Amnesty International said soldiers shot dead at least 10 people
Nigeria’s government this week had warned against holding new protests at Lekki, saying the rallies could descend into violence in the name of justice.
“We are calling on all Nigerian authorities to demonstrate commitment to protect the right to peaceful protest,” watchdog Amnesty International said on Twitter.
After October’s deadly shooting, the United Nations, African Union, European Union and Britain urged the authorities to refrain from using excessive force.