Today, three years ago, in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria, what began as a civil disobedience and a push for a better policing standard ended in a bloodbath.
The scene was Lekki Tollgate, “the Nigerian Tiananmen Square.” As the memory of those events continues to live and be remembered by well-meaning Nigerians, Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a human and environmental rights advocacy group, considers it ideal for the nation to begin the conversation on how to reform the Nigeria Police Force.
It is tragic, quite, that restorative justice and restitution have not been awarded the victims, most of whom are still in illegal detention, three years after. Worst is, the security landscape of some regions in the federation – Southeast being the most notable in this case – has taken dramatic decline, post-protest. Police are now victims of what may be termed post-protest security breach which began with jailbreaks from Benin to Lagos and thence to Owerri and other parts of the country. In Abia State, for example, the aftermath of the protest culminated in rise in street cultism and security breaches.
To FENRAD, the positive lessons of the EndSARS protests must be emphasized, and also amplified. FENRAD, like Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, salutes the courage of the martyred youth who paid the ultimate price “that this nation may survive.”
FENRAD regrets that the “5 for 5” demands of the protesters had long been abandoned. The government must work towards ensuring that all the remaining victims of the said protests are released, bar none. After the White Paper released by the Lagos State Government dropped some of the recommendations made by the post-protest panel report, the federal government has yet to act on the recommendations in the report which are within its own jurisdiction to address. There had been CNN independent report and other evidentiary findings calling the killing of unarmed citizens “a massacre,” still government has been silent.
Today, in commemoration of the slained Lekki youth whose only crime was holding the nation’s flag and singing her anthem, FENRAD calls on the federal government, as led by President Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, to, among other things, begin real police sector reforms, drawing on those five demands tabled by the youth; see to the release of victims still being detained without trial or conviction, so as to narrow the confidence gap and trust deficit post-protest era has birthed.
Regrettably, the post-EndSARS era, three years after, has witnessed a surge in “japa syndrome” among the youth, who now leave in droves for abroad searching for “the golden fleece” or greener pastures. It should be in the interest of both the state and federal governments to do justice to the matter regarding those young people felled by bullets bought with taxpayers’ money by ensuring that SARS-like Policing standard everywhere in the country is ended.
The Foundation regrets that after the protests, police exploitative checkpoints continue to increase on roads in the Southeast, even as the youth are still being harrassed, cowed, intimidated and exploited for wearing dreadlocks, having tattoos or body piercing, including for being in possession of laptops, tablets and other gadgets. These are antithetical to the ideals of the protests, the greatest organized protest movement in modern history of Nigeria, especially after the Aba Women of 1929.
Only justice will do.
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) Nigeria.