One year after #EndSARS, 300 protesters still in Kirikiri, says victim
One year after what victims described as genocide against #EndSARS protesters, 300 of them are still in Kirikiri Correctional centre in Lagos prison.
The victims were arrested on October 20, 2020, when soldiers stormed the Lekki toll gate in Lagos and allegedly shot at protesters, who had gathered that Tuesday, following a movement to end the excesses of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an armed of police formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes.
Protesters and passerby were reportedly shot and killed by troops deployed by the Nigerian army, who had earlier denied involvement in the shooting, while manyt were arrested at random after the protest for arson, illegal gathering and armed robbery.
The movement started nationwide on Thursday, October 8, 2020, after weeks of outrage and anger with videos and pictures showing police brutality, harassment and extortion across the country.
According to an activist and a coordinator of Coalition for Revolution in Lagos, Banwo Olagokun, there are 311 protesters who should be released unconditionally.
One of such persons was Nicholas Mba, who was arrested a week after the protest.
He explained to The Guardian how he spent eight months in Kirikiri medium prison with 300 others.
He said: “ In that prison, there are over 300 EndSARS protesters there.
“The worst day of my life was my first night in prison, when they told me that I was going to be embalmed. I never understood what they meant because I said why would I be embalmed, am I dead, it was at night I understood.
“That night was hell, they stripped me naked, and a lot happened that I cannot say all. It was a group that mounted pressure on the EndSARS panel for my release. Even till today my case is still in court and I am yet to understand the meaning of it all.”
Mba said he was charged for armed robbery, arson and rioting.
He said: “I had a casemate I never met in my life, except in prison. So I was surprised how he became my casemate in court. You see, that is the kind of country we are in. From Panti, we were transferred to Kirikiri medium prison at 2:00 a.m. I met a lot of scary people in the prison, murderers and real armed robbers.”
However his case was changed to illegal gathering at the last day he went to court after, which he was released in June.
“I asked my lawyer, if that was supposed to be the reason for my staying in prison for eight months. Anytime I remember this my mood changes, anytime I’m being asked or I remember this I feel bad, it reminds me a lot because I went through a lot things I wouldn’t want to recall. Since they have no compensation for what I have been through, I can’t fight the government. All I ask for is my free movement and the case in court should be discharged so I can live my normal life,” he said.
Another victim, Theophilus Ivwrogbo, who worked as a truck driver at a Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in Apapa, Lagos, got to the tollgate at a time when soldiers had begun shooting.
According to him, the employees of the company were asked to go home, following announcement of curfew by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on October 20, 2020.
He said: “When the shooting began, I was there and I was trying to run to the other side, when I was hit by a bullet. At first, I didn’t know I had been shot until I tried getting up again, then I fell. Someone who saw when I fell began to pull me by my shirt, while I struggled to move with him. It did not take long when he too was shot and he fell on me. My whole body was covered with his blood. There was no strength left in me to run, which made me pass out.”
Theophilus, a father of two has not been compensated and his case is not included among those at the EndSARS panel at Lekki.
DESPITE the lessons of the EndSARS protest, police brutality has not stopped.
Between November 2020 and October 2021 there have been over 100 cases of persons killed, brutalised and illegally detained by security agencies.
For instance, 17-year-old Oluwaferanmi Moses, a first-year student of Mechanical Engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), was arrested on September 19 in Mushin , where he repairs cars and was transferred to Ijede, Ikorodu, where he spent 20 days while his mother was forced to pay N80, 000 for his release on October 8.
A motorist identified as Akorede was shot in the leg by a police officer in Oru, ijebu ode on Wednesday, October 13 by a police officer.
One of the officers was said to have shot him during a search. The State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi has said investigation would begin into the shooting.
Monsurat Ojuade, an18-year-old college graduate awaiting admission was killed by a trigger-happy cop, Sergeant Samuel Phillips on September 11, at her residence in Ijeshatedo, Surulere area of Lagos.
Sergeant Phillips has been dismissed and he is to be tried.
On May 31, a businessman based in Germany, Ugochi Unachukwu was killed at a checkpoint on his way to the airport in Imo State, as the police are yet to release report of investigations into the incident.
Another businessman, a 45-year-old Mathew Opara, was shot by soldiers on May 25 in Imo state, near Owerri.
According to reports he was killed by soldiers during a shooting at residents, while returning from work.
His relatives said the military admitted the killing but is yet to release details of the investigations.
According to Amnesty International, in May 2021, the Imo State Government announced the arrest of at least 400 people allegedly linked to Eastern Security Network (ESN).
Investigation by the group indicated that most of them were randomly picked up in their homes and off the streets and had nothing to do with ESN.
Some victims were allegedly arrested while walking on the streets, at a public bar and some for having birthmarks and tattoos.
For instance, Osai Ojigho, a 37-year-old man, was arrested by the police at Orji, in Imo State, on May 26 allegedly allegation belonging to IPOB.