2ND ANNIVERSARY OF THE #ENDSARS PROTESTS AND THE LEKKI MASSACRE
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY, BAD GOVERNANCE AND FOR A SOCIALIST NIGERIA CONTINUES
* YRC Condemns Police for Dispersing and Arresting Activists who rallied at Lekki Tollgate in Honour of the Martyrs
The Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) joins Nigerian youth to honor the memory of the martyrs of the Lekki massacre and all other victims of the #EndSARS protests against police brutality in October 2020, which was met with brutal clampdown by the Nigerian police and army.
Unfortunately, today’s event whereby activists rallying at Lekki tollgate in honor of #EndSARS martyrs were attacked, fired at with teargas, and arrested by the police shows that police brutality persists despite public outcry two years ago. We hereby condemn the attack by the police and demand the immediate release of all those arrested. Protest is an inalienable right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (As Amended). Therefore the action of the police today is not only reprehensible and shows that nothing fundamental has changed, yet. It is also an assault on the memory of the struggles waged by the Nigerian workers and youth for the enthronement of civil rule in the year 1999 which.
Going forward, the YRC joins the movement to demand justice including adequate compensation for all victims of the shootings at Lekki toll gate and elsewhere in the country, victims of police brutality and state repression. We also demand the release of all protesters still being held in detention and freedom for all politically detained activists and journalists.
The #EndSARS protests which started as a campaign against profiling of young Nigerians who get arrested, tortured, extorted, and sometimes killed extra-judicially by the brutal SARS unit of the Nigerian police force soon became a protest for an end to corrupt and incompetent government as the protests grew. Other issues like unemployment, elite looting and poverty, etc also came to the fore during the protests. The protests which climaxed at the Lekki massacre by the Nigerian police and soldiers have again exposed that the military and police only exist to protect the rich from the poor and defend the capitalist system of inequality.
Two years after, the five demands of the #EndSARS protests have not been fully met. Although SARS has been dissolved, police brutality and state repression continue. In the aftermath of the #EndSARS, the state has effectively outlawed youth protests and political gatherings using the state-sponsored violence and destruction of properties that occurred after October 20, 2020, as blackmail to discourage youth political activities.
Also, all victims of police brutality have not been properly compensated while some #EndSARS protesters arrested at the protest two years ago are still languishing in prison up till this moment, Amnesty International says that these number at least 40. Equally, protest leaders have been targeted and brutalized by the government and their thugs. Also, #EndSARS panel reports across states have not been executed in most states, and selectively executed in some.
Police Brutality Continues
Earlier this month on October 4, it was reported that up to three people were shot dead during anti-EFCC protests in Ughelli, Delta State which were organized by youths who claimed they were tired of the exploitation by the EFCC who had continued to arrest them on suspicion that they were fraudsters and then demand bail of up to two million Naira from them. This was the same issue most Nigerian youths had with the notorious SARS that led to the original #EndSARS protests where protesters were killed in Lekki, Ogbomoso, Osogbo, etc.
Earlier in May this year, a journalist (Toba Adedeji) and another student were shot in Osogbo, Osun state by the police while trying to protest an extrajudicial killing of a student of Osun State Polytechnic named Afolabi Abiola, who was shot in the leg during a police raid of his friend’s house and then kept him in police custody until he died. The extrajudicial killing was covered up until it was later exposed by his girlfriend.
In July 2021, Police fired bullets into a Yoruba Nation Separatist rally killing 25-year-old Jumoke Oyeleke who was hit by stray bullets after police officers started firing live ammunition and tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota, Lagos. The police claimed that they did not fire a single live bullet but less than a week ago, the coroner’s inquest presented at the Magistrate Court in Ogba concluded that the deceased died from a weapon of the Nigerian Police.
Two years on, it is clear that police brutality has not ended in Nigeria even though the protests were able to force the dissolution of the brutal SARS unit.
Labour leaders’ betrayal
Before the movement broke out, we must recall that the NLC called for a general strike and protest on September 28, 2020, over the increments in fuel prices and electricity tariffs by the government, but it was later called off by the labour leaders. This led to disappointment and anger that culminated in the #EndSARS protests.
During the #EndSARS protests, we in the YRC called on the labour unions to declare a general strike in solidarity with the protests to mobilise wider numbers to drive home the demands of the protests and make the protest less liable to armed repression by the government. This call was never yielded to. In fact, the labour centers only commented on the protests after the protests had been crushed by the army.
The important lesson here is that there is a need to campaign for a fighting labour movement with a program to mobilize workers and all oppressed Nigerians to always fight against all anti-poor policies. If such a fighting labour movement existed two years ago, the #EndSARS struggle could have had a different outcome.
Any Genuine #EndSARS candidate on the ballot?
We also find it important to address the fact that this year’s EndSARS memorial is coming after the commencement of the 2023 general election campaigns. This must be addressed as different candidates like Tinubu, Atiku and Obi try to appropriate or rewrite the #EndSARS history to suit their different campaigns. While Tinubu, then a national leader of the ruling party, was fingered as one of those who gave the order for the Lekki Massacre to be carried out, his foot-soldiers like the notorious MC Oluomo of the Lagos State Park Management are seen in APC rallies claiming that the Lekki Massacre did not happen.
Atiku of the PDP, who lent his voice on social media to some demands of #End SARS protests is not also different, as he was the Vice President during other massacres like the Odi Massacre and the Zaki Biam Massacre. Peter Obi, who was Atiku’s vice-presidential candidate in 2019 and a member of the PDP until three days before the party’s presidential primaries, is presently the presidential candidate of the Labour Party which claims to be the brainchild of the leadership of Labour centers that kept criminal silence during the EndSARS protests. The same Peter Obi was indicted in many petitions submitted to the Anambra #EndSARS Panel for using SARS for human rights abuses. Unfortunately, Willie Obiano who succeeded Peter Obi frustrated the #EndSARS Panel to the point that five members of the judicial panel tendered their resignation to the government.
The truth is that of the current contenders only Omoyele Sowore, the Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) can be said to have genuinely stood for the aspirations of #EndSARS aside from the role he played in calling for and participating in the protests two years ago. While the YRC does not at the moment campaign or call for a vote for Sowore, we consider it important to make this point given the present political situation in the country vis-à-vis the 2023 general elections.
By and large, the significance of #EndSARS lies in the united aspiration of young people to say “enough is enough” to police brutality and bad governance. As Socialists, we believe that police brutality is inevitable with bad governance. Bad governance, corruption and oppression are products of an unjust capitalist economic system based on the exploitation of the working masses for profit and the appropriation of the wealth of the society for the benefit of a rich few.
This is why we urge the youth and workers to link their day-to-day struggle against the effects of capitalism like poverty, unemployment, hike in school fees etc with the need to build a mass workers’ political party that seeks to end capitalism and enthrone a workers’ and poor people’s government armed with Socialist programme.