In October 2020, Nigeria’s security services brutally put down nationwide protests against police brutality, popularly known as #ENDSARS. The protest highlighted widespread abuse of human rights by the Nigeria Police and security services. Citizens came out in hundreds of thousands unto the streets of major cities in the country to protest human rights abuse by the police and other security personnel. The October 2020 memorial comes with bitter tales of high handed suppression of the protest. Civic groups recount reports of soldiers shooting protesters at the epicentre of the protest at Lekki tollgate in Lagos. According to some accounts, protesters were shot, some killed and bodies removed from the scene. Although the Nigerian security agencies, including the police have denied these reports of shootings and killings, witnesses testifying at the #ENDSARS investigation panels set up by many states in the country have given evidence to support their allegations.
In the #ENDSARS memorial protest held today, Wednesday, 20th October, scenes of forceful attempts to end the protest are evident. The police had warned protesters to demonstrate ‘virtually’ and ‘indoors’. Police personnel were deployed to protest venues to quell demonstrations. The protesters had designated 8am to 10am protest time in order to manage fears of high-handed security reprisals. In a particular incident at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, television footages show a young man beaten and bloodied by the police and resisting arrest and forceful takeaway into a police van.
The Nigeria police has established notoriety for brutality and unaccountability over human rights issues. Several years of advocacy by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and citizens led to the passage of a new Police Act in 2020. Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) drove final efforts that led to the National Assembly passing the Police Bill and the President assenting to it in September 2020. More than a year after this, a crisis of human rights violations and accountability failures with the Nigeria Police, remain.
In one of its publications, PLAC highlights some provisions of the new Police Act enacted in September 2020. Barely a month after Nigeria got a new Police law, the country witnessed the #ENDSARS protest calling for an end to police brutality and police reforms. One year later, as citizens relive the abrupt end to the protest of October 2020, observers have pointed out that little or nothing has been done in terms of reform of the Nigeria Police. It is pertinent that moving forward, the Nigerian government takes necessary steps to implement the provisions of this new Act, with a view to providing effective and responsible policing for its citizens.