Almost a year ago mass protests broke out across Nigeria against police brutality, through the widespread hash-tag #EndSARS, referring to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Unarmed protesters were brutalized, shot, and even killed by police officers during the outbreak that occurred in October 2020. According to the Humans Right Watch, this information was not public until a judicial panel was held.
“The authorities should stop denying the truth and focus instead on correcting their wrongs by officially releasing the report and acting upon its findings.” – Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The panel said authorities attempted to cover this information up, yet the 309-page report became widely available online after the judicial panel that was set up to receive and evaluate public complaints of police abuses, including extrajudicial killings following the protests–sent the report to the Lagos State Governor, November 15th, 2021. The official report has yet to be officially released to the public, according to the Human Rights Watch.
Governor Sanwo-Olu extended the panel’s mandate to include investigations into the incidents that occurred on October 20, when army officers shot at a large group of protesters holding a peaceful sit-in at a toll gate in Lekki, a Lagos suburb. While the authorities responded to protests in other parts of Lagos and across Nigeria – including in Ogun, Oyo, and Abuja – with excessive force, the crackdown at the Lekki Toll Gate was by far the worst, and was streamed live on social media by protesters. – HumanRightsWatch.org
Bababjide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Governor, is claimed to be behind the set up of the judicial panel on October 15th, 2021, attempting to “identify officers who should be prosecuted and to recommend compensation for victims.” Currently there is an extensive investigation happening on officers and the Nigerian army that is claimed to be responsible for 48 casualties, including 11 dead, 4 missing and presumed dead, and 21 wounded by gunshots, during the protests in October 2020.
The compilation of complaints suggest law officials attempted to spread the message that social media posts on the incidents were “false news,” with panel members disclosing many reports against law enforcement of attempts at cover ups, such as picking up bullet shells and cleaning up blood.