Amnesty International has said that a total of fifteen protesters arrested in 2020 are still being arbitrarily detained three years after the #EndSARS protest that took Nigeria by storm.
According to a statement by the international non-governmental organisation on the third anniversary of the protest, the majority of the protesters are in Kirikiri Medium Correctional Centre and Ikoyi Medium Security Correctional Centre in Lagos without trial.
It noted that the Nigerian authorities have filed trumped-up charges including theft, arson, possession of unlawful firearms, and murder against many of the protesters, adding that some of those detained alleged that they had been subjected to torture.
“Our investigation shows the Nigerian authorities’ utter disdain for human rights. Three years in detention without trial is a travesty of justice. This shows the authorities’ contempt for due process of law. The protesters must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Isa Sanusi Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
Seven #EndSARS protesters – Daniel Joy-Igbo, Sodiq Adigun, Sunday Okoro, Olumide Fatai, Oluwole Isa, Shehu Anas, and Akiniran Oyetakin – arrested in Lagos in 2020, are being arbitrarily held in Kirikiri Medium Correctional Centre, Amnesty International said.
Daniel Joy-Igbo, a Beninois #EndSARS protester arrested in Lagos in October 2020, who has also been detained at the Bar Beach Police Station, the State Criminal Investigation Department in Panti, and at a SARS facility in Ikeja, told Amnesty International:
“Since my arraignment in December 2020, I have been locked up in the prison without trial. Since then, there has been no adjourned date for my case. I have not been taken to court since December 2020.”
Sodiq Adigun, also arrested in October 2020, who was previously detained at the State Criminal Investigation Department in Panti, told Amnesty International:
“Let the government release me. I have been detained since 2020 without trial. I am innocent. My life has been shattered. I need my liberty.”
Eight #EndSARS protesters – Segun Adeniyi, Onuorah Odih, Jeremiah Lucky, Gideon Ikwujomah, Irinyemi Olorunwanbe, Quadri Azeez, Olamide Lekan and Sadiq Riliwan – have been detained without trial in Ikoyi Medium Security Correctional Centre in Lagos since 2020.
“All those detained solely for taking part in peaceful #EndSARS protests must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Isa Sanusi
The Amnesty International report added that many peaceful #EndSARS protesters have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment while in detention since 2020.
They include Oluwole Isa, currently held in Kirikiri Medium Correctional Centre, who told Amnesty International how he was tortured while in detention at the SARS facility in Ikeja:
“I was tied with a rope. They bent me backwards and tied my hands and legs together at my back. An iron rod was passed in between my tied legs and hands. With the iron road, I was suspended on an iron bar. Then, they started beating me with a machete and wooden batons. They were forcing me to admit that I was involved in vandalism during the #EndSARS protests. When I could not bear the torture anymore, I told the Inspector that I would confess. At that point, I was almost going to die. He brought me down; I still have the scar of the machete cut on my throat …”
The report by Amnesty International also noted that despite consistent claims of carrying out comprehensive police reforms in the aftermath of #EndSARS protests, Nigeria’s police continue to routinely commit violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings, harassment, arbitrary detention, and extortion with almost absolute impunity, said Amnesty International Nigeria.
The organisation said in the past year alone, it has documented the unlawful killing of at least six people by law enforcement officers.
These include 31-year-old Gafaru Buraimoh, who was killed in Lagos on 6 December 2022, and Onyeka Ibe, who was killed on 5 April 2023 in Delta state for refusing to pay a N100 bribe.
Other cases include Faiz Abdullahi, who died in police custody in Kaduna on 30 July 2023 following torture during interrogation, and 17-year-old student Abdullahi Tukur Abba, who died in hospital after allegedly being tortured in police custody in Yola Adamawa state on 5 August 2023.
“Any changes that followed the #EndSARS protests are fast disappearing, as police brutality is again becoming a daily part of life for people across Nigeria. The recent cases of extrajudicial killings and extortion show that the police are not ready to conduct their duties in compliance with international human rights standards. Reforming the Nigeria police force will continue to be a distant dream if impunity remains part of policing operations,” said Isa Sanusi Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
Amnesty International in its release, admonished the Nigerian authorities to take concrete and effective measures to end police impunity, including by giving clear directives to the police not to violate human rights, adding that those suspected of violating human rights should be brought to justice in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty.
It called for genuine reforms to be initiated to end widespread human rights violations by the police, as Nigerians have an obligation to ensure that torture and other ill-treatment are not carried out under any circumstances.
Okay.ng recalls that on 8 October 2020, Nigerians took to the streets protesting atrocities by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which was a unit of the Nigeria Police established to fight violent crimes.
While number of casualties of the #EndSARS protest has always been contentious, a leaked memo by the Lagos State government earlier in the year revealed the approval of N61,285,000 for the mass burial of 103 persons identified as 2020 EndSARS victims.
According to Amnesty International, at least 12 peaceful protesters were killed in Alausa and Lekki Lagos by security operatives 20 October 2020. It added that at least 56 people have died across the country during the protests.
It said victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters. In many cases, law enforcement and security forces used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.
However, in its explanation to its leaked memo dated July 19, 2023, the Lagos government maintained that the victims to be buried were not from the controversial Lekki Tollgate shooting.
The government argued that the victims were from incidents of violence that occurred in the aftermath of the EndSARS protests.