Aisha Yusuf #endsars

As Nigerian government try to grapple with their cover-up of the apparent shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos Nigeria, on the fateful day of 20/10/2020, the question continues to reverberate both in Nigeria and across the world. Who ordered the shooting?

Who ordered the shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters is a question Nigerian leaders, especially the Lagos State government led by Mr Babajide Sanwoolu wish could disappear. But the pain of witnessing such horror is one that remains so ingrained in the minds of Nigerians and anyone who watched with absolute shock how innocent citizens who were waving their country’s flag and singing the national anthem were cold bloodily massacred. That is not a memory that can easily be wiped away as Mr Babajide and President Buhari would want it to.

As we help you to continue to ask that question, here is the timeline of the #endsar protest leading up to the Lekki Tollgate massacre of 20/10/2020, in Nigeria.

What is #Endsars protest?

The #endsars protest is a leaderless movement by young Nigerians to demand an end to what the call the rogue section of the Nigerian Police Force – The SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) unit, as well as, other reforms in the entire Police Force. According to reports, The Nigeria Police unit – SARS has been instrumental to millions of extortions, human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings of thousands of innocent citizens. The SARs is said to have been profiling mostly young Nigerians labelling any neatly dressed young person with laptops, iPhone, dreadlocks or tattoos as criminals such as internet fraudsters or doing illicit deals, without any proper investigations or proof of such allegations.

Some victims of police extrajudicial killings remembered during the #EndSARS protest.

The Birth of The #Endsars protest and ‘Disbandments’ of Unit.

The #EndSARS movement first came to the fore in 2017, when Nigerian youths began to use the hashtag to share their experiences of violence and assaults from the members of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Following these calls and reports, the Nigerian government in 2017, 2018, and 2019 each time, announced either reformation or disbandment of this unit. Unfortunately, at each time, even after such announcements, this unit will carry on as they have always done with no one held to account, charged or remanded for the atrocities.

However, the movement regained momentum early October 2020, after a video emerged of police officers thought to be members of the SARS unit, allegedly killed an unarmed young man, whom they had extorted, abused and pushed out from a moving vehicle.

Just as in the case of George Floyd in the United States, this ignited the old flames of #EndSARs prompting Nigerian youths to once again take to Twitter to call on the Federal Government’s attention to their old long request to reform the police and scrap the unit entirely, with the hashtag, #EndSARS, #Endpolicebrutality, among many other hashtags. However, the #EndSars hashtag quickly gained support and began to trend continuously on Twitter as Nigerian youths continued to mount pressure both on local and international organisations, celebrities and government bodies to lend their voices to their plight.

How Did The #EndSars Spiral From Online Hashtag To Street Protests Across Nigeria? Follow our date by date highlight of events.

3rd October 2020. A Viral Video of SARs Killing A Young Nigerian Triggers a Nationwide Protest.

  • A viral video broadcast of alleged men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS who gunned down a Nigerian youth snatching his car, and speeding off with it.
  • The frantic calls and pain in the voice of the person who recorded the video could be heard asking people to see what has happened and for people not to keep quiet at such atrocity.
  • Further reports continued to emerge alleging that the SARS officials stopped the young man, pushed him out of his vehicle, shot him, and went away with the vehicle.
  • This video re-awakened the experiences many other Nigerian youths, mostly the tech community, had had in the hands of the Police officials. As more and more people came forward, narrating their ordeals, the pain began to build up which eventually came spontaneously as an outburst of collective anger like that of a pregnant woman in labour. The push and eventual birth of which led to one of the largest youth organized protests in the history of Nigeria. A leaderless one!

4th October 2020. IGP Announces Ban of SARs Members from Patrols and Stop and Searches.

  • The Inspector-General of Police, announced the ban of SARS members and other Tactical Squads from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties, stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, etc with immediate effect.
  • Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari wants to see reforms in the Nigerian Police Force.“We reviewed several of these issues. The President and I have had discussions on this, he is very concerned about it. He wants to see reforms.”

7th October 2020. Three Days Into The Nationwide Protests

  • Today marks three days since the youths took to the streets to demand an end to police brutality in the country.
  • Now the protests have become widespread around the country with the strongest still in Lagos and Abuja.

8th October 2020 Celebrities Join The Protests.

  • A good number of Nigerian artistes and celebrities joined the street protests carrying placards with the inscription – ~Endsars. Amongst them include; Tiwa Savage, Runtown, Falz, DJ Spinal and others.
  • The same day, The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, warned against protesters to not attack law enforcement officers following alleged reports of the murder and injuring of a policeman, and stealing of arms and ammunition by the protesters. An allegation the protesters quickly refuted alleging police and government deployment of thugs and hoodlums to disrupt the peaceful protest.

9th October 2020. Protesters Took To Police Headquarters, Abuja.

  • Nigerian youths took their ENDSARS protests to the headquarters of Nigeria Police Force in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, vowing to camp at the headquarter until Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, addresses them.
  • President Buhari via Twitter announces he had ordered the Inspector General of Police to address Nigerians. The president also used the medium to appeal for calm and patience. He wrote – “The IG already has my firm instructions to conclusively address the concerns of Nigerians regarding these excesses, & ensure erring personnel are brought to justice. I appeal for patience & calm, even as Nigerians freely exercise their right to peacefully make their views known.”

10th October 2020. Police shoots and kills Jimoh Isiaka

  • The EndSARS protest in Ogbomosho, Oyo State turned violent when Nigerian police allegedly injured seven protesters and shot a young man known as Jimoh Isiaka during the protest. He was taken to Bowen University Teaching Hospital where he later died. Police, however, denied having any hand in Jimoh’s death.
  • However, the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde sent a condolence message on the demise of the protester and promised to investigate the incident.

11th October 2020. SARS Again Was Disbanded.

  • The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu announces the “dissolution” of SARS. An announcement Nigerians received with scepticism citing similar announcements in the earlier years. Protesters mainatained that the government’s plan was to reassign SARS officers to other police departments rather than eliminate them from the force entirely. The protest continues despite the “dissolution” as many do not believe the pronouncement.
  • David Adeleke, one of Nigeria’s most popular musician, Davido joins the #EndSARS protesters in Abuja. The police use tear gas, live bullets and water cannon to disperse the protesters.
  • Three more protestors were shot dead in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, despite the killing the previous day.

12th October 2020. Protest Continues.

  •  In Lagos: The Governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, urged protestors to believe that SARS has been disbanded.
  • The protests in Lagos at Lekki-Epe Expressway toll gate, Murtala Mohammed International airport toll gate, Alausa, Ikorodu Road and Yaba caused heavy traffic gridlock and crippled businesses as young people continued to demand #EndSARS #SARSMustEnd.
  • A bystander watching the protest was shot dead by members of the Nigeria Police Force in Surulere while leaving 4 injured and they also arrested and detained peaceful Protesters.

In Abuja, Capital Territory: Protests continued in Abuja blocking the Berger roundabout to draw attention to their demands. Earlier in the day, the protesters had been challenged by Pro-SARS sympathizers who were marching in support of the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu and the Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari under the aegis of Citizens Action for Good Governance.

In Oyo State: The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde barred Police from engaging with the protestors in order to avert further casualties from the pandemic.

  • Protesters in Oyo State with placards calling for the disbandment of SARS, an end to Police brutality extortion and extrajudicial killing demonstrated in front of University of Ibadan and Iwo Road in Ibadan. The protests locked down Iwo Road causing traffic standstill.

In Rivers State: The Governor, Nyesom Wike announced that the End SARS protests are disallowed in the state banning all forms of protests in Rivers State.

13th October 2020. EndSARS Garnered some support.

  •  The Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa said the #EndSARS protest is as a result of failed leadership. The Governor also announced the constitution of a five-member Police Complaints Committee with two representatives from youth organisations. The Governor had earlier appealed to the police to desist from harassing the protesters as people were free to express grievances in a democratic dispensation. 
  • The Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Police Force, Frank Mba, announced the setting up of a Special Weapon and Tactics Team (SWAT) to replace SARS. The new outfit, which is expected to take off within the next 7 days, will undergo a psychological and medical evaluation to determine their fitness.
  • The protest was taken to the National Assembly. Moving from Banex junction Abuja, protesters peacefully marched to the junction leading to the National Assembly around 2 p.m. where they were stopped by soldiers who violently resisted their movement and injured some protesters in the process. 
  • ARISE TV news crew who were recording the fracas at the entry of the National Assembly were attacked. Ferdinard Duruoha was one of the crew members who were assaulted while Francis Ogbonna a cameraman with the same news outfit was attacked the previous day while covering the announcement of the dissolution of SARS by the Inspector General of Police.
  • The Governor of Lagos State promised to set up a two hundred million naira (N200M) fund for residents of the State who have been victims of police brutality. He met with President Muhammadu Buhari to present the demands of the protesters in Lagos State. A video surfaced from the meeting showing the President chuckle as Governor Sanwo-Olu talked about his state’s compensation fund for victims. The President’s actions met a lot of negative criticism from Nigerians.
  • According to a press release signed by the spokesman of the president, Femi Adesina the Nigerian Government had agreed to the five demands of the End SARS protesters. The agreement was reached at a meeting organised by the Office of the Inspector General of Police and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was attended by stakeholders which include officials of Ministry of Police Affairs and Police Service Commission, representatives of Civil Society organisations and activists from the entertainment industry and #EndSARS movement.
  • Men of the Police SARS unit were still seen to be operational in some parts of Lagos and other places in Nigeria despite the debanment announced earlier. The protests continued in Lagos. Young people carrying placards denouncing SARS and appealing for an end to police harassment, extortion and brutality blocked the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

14th October 2020 – Police and Government Are Said to Have Hired Thugs To Disrupt The Protests.

Alleged government hired thug to disrupt protests and attack protesters.
  • Protesters in Lagos were attacked by thugs with cutlasses, sticks and charms. 
  • In Abuja, protesters were attacked by people with cutlasses and cudgels at Berger roundabout. Cars were destroyed and some of the protestors were injured.

15th October 2020 – Protests prohibited in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

  • On Thursday, 15 October 2020, the prohibition of demonstrations in the Federal Capital Territory Security Committee was announced. The decision was taken at a meeting which held on Wednesday, 14 October 2020 and which was chaired by FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello. The announcement claimed to have recognised the rights of citizens to gather and demonstrate, however, points out that the EndSARS protests were unruly, caused discomfort to people, violated COVID-19 protocols and should be discontinued in view of Government having met the demands of the protesters. However, this again was met with resistance as Nigerians thought it was absurd since there had been elections in Ondo and Edo along with massive rallies in preceding weeks. Buhari’s daughter had also had her wedding ceremony. At the peak of the pandemic, Abba Kyari, late Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria, was buried without adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.
  • People conveyed by Lagos state buses attacked protesters near the state secretariat in Alausa.

16th October 2020 – Anonymous hacks Twitter Account of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

  •  Anonymous hacked the Twitter account of the National Broadcasting Commission and posted a message which stated “We #Anonymous will continue supporting Nigerians” in support of the ongoing protests.
  • Thousands of protesters gathered at the Lekki toll gate and Alausa, Ikeja to hold a candlelight session for the various victims of SARS/police killings.
  • A day after the FCTA banned protests across the Capital territory amidst fear of a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak due to the protests, youths protesting against Police brutality and abuses moved their protest from City gate to airport road where they obstructed both incoming and outgoing commuters.

20th October 2020 – Lekki Tollgate Massacre.

  • Following violent escalations which included attacks by agitators against both protesters and police, the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, declared a state-wide 24-hour curfew at 12 noon to take effect from4:00 PM and was later extended till 9 pm.
  • Images of some individuals alleged to be working with the Lagos State government and the Lekki Concession Company removing cameras (later confirmed by the Lagos State Government to be laser cameras and not CCTV cameras as earlier publicized on social media) at the toll gate circulated on End SARS on Twitter and street lights at the toll gate vicinity were turned off.
  • A few hours later, it was reported that armed men of the Nigerian Army arrived at the scene of the protest and opened fire on peaceful and unarmed protesters who were waving the national flag and singing the national anthem, thereby resulting in a disputed number of deaths. A clip of the shooting trending on the Internet. There were also reports that at least 50 other people were injured.
  • However, the Lagos State government later reported that the shooting resulted in up to 25 injured, and only 2 dead. Despite extending the curfew till 9:00 PM, soldiers of the Nigerian Army started shooting before 7:00 PM

From 21 October 2020. The denials and cover-ups. 

  • As recorded earlier, Mr Tinubu flew out of the country just before the shooting began. Early morning of 21/10/2020, the Army began their campaign to discredit reports of actions of their men shooting unarmed citizens, doing everything to deny the shooting as the world began to unravel the extent of what had happened. Using social media, they began to mark all posts and images as fake news.
  • However, the overwhelming evidence of live-streamed videos, tweets and images made it impossible for them to cover up their act. The army released a presser denying their involvement in the shooting. The army simply said their men were not at the tollgate and that their men were not responsible. 
  • Shortly after, Mr Babajide Sanwoolu the governor of Lagos state released photos of his visit to the hospitals where some of the injured protesters were taken to. And he said, “forces beyond his control” had been responsible for the shooting also denying fatalities. 
  • On Thursday, President Buhari made a ‘pre-recorded live’ broadcast address to the nation and totally avoided mentioning what happened at the Lekki Tollgate.  However, the Vice President, Prof Osibanjo had condoled with the families that lost their lives, apologising to Nigerians for what had happened. 
  • 26th October, Nigeria Broadcasting Commission warns media houses not to embarrass the government with their coverage of the Lekki Massacre.

27th October 2020, Nigeria Broadcasting Commission fines Channels TV, AIT, and Arise TV N3m (Three Million Naira) each over coverage of Lekki massacre and ongoing unrests in the country.

Youths resistance and amplifying of the correct narrative. 

  • Nigerian youths continued to be unrelenting, not allowing politicians to confuse them or change the narratives. They continued to release information to the world. The youths were not accepting what was happening. Having left the streets, they began to push their stories through social media. Debunking any government cover-ups. Shortly, the protesters released the name of the commander- Omata – who they alleged led the shooting at the Tollgate. Interestingly, Mr Omata came out to say it wasn’t him that led the group rather he named another commander- Bello who did. In other words, accepting the involvement of the Nigerian Army in the first place.
  • The Nigerian Army later came back to say they only shot in the air and never directly at individuals stating also that there were no fatalities. In fact, the challenged the protesters to produce corpses of the alleged deaths. For which the protesters have continued to accuse them of taking away corpses as well as showing the world images and videos of the dead. Also, there’s been a countless number of people reported missing who were last seen at the protest ground at the Lekki Tollgate.  
  • The undeniable truths in youths accounts have long drawn support from around the world including international media, Amnesty international and international communities and leaders, calling for justices. 

The Continued killings and further unrests in the country.

  • Following the killings on 20 October, video evidence showed that more shootings were still being carried out by the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police on unarmed protesters.
  • Some people, allegedly the thugs and hoodlums hired by the government to disrupt the peaceful protests who are now out of control, also attacked and burnt buildings, vehicles, TV stations and raided the Oba of Lagos’ palace.
  • The governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwoolu had said there were no casualties from the incident of the previous day but later tweeted that there had been reports of one casualty which negated the report sent in by various Twitter and Instagram users who had live recordings of the killings. While the protesters gathered again at the Lekki toll gate where the shooting took place on Tuesday 20 October, they were forced out by police.
  • While the protesters defied the curfew imposed by the Lagos state Governor, hoodlums burnt about 30 government buses at a bus station. Also burnt was Television Continental Station (TVC) linked to a former governor of the state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)

What Happens Next?

We are keeping an eye on the happening around this protest and developments in Nigeria and protests by Nigerians in the diaspora. Comeback for more as we update you as we gather more facts. Follow us on Twitter @Chubmagazine