Text of Media Briefing on the Memorial of the Repression of the #EndSARS Peaceful Protests and #LekkiMassacre, held on Wednesday 19 October 2022.
Good day, compatriots, and members of the press.
We are here today as part of the series of activities being organized by #EndSARS Activists in remembrance of the heroic resistance of Nigerians against police brutality two years ago, to demand justice for those who were brutally killed and those still in incarceration and to call for the implementation of the demands of the 2020 #EndSARS Peaceful Protests, towards ending police brutality and rebuilding our country on the pillars of social justice.
As you would recall, the #EndSARS Peaceful Protests was a spontaneous response of Nigerian youths who have borne the scars of illegal detentions; missing loved ones and extra-judicial murders of family members and friends by police, and the military-like repression by a supposedly democratic government.
The protests were peaceful and forged a sense of oneness in the hearts and minds of Nigerians from all walks of life and ethno-regional backgrounds. We were “armed” only with our conscience and patriotism. The “weapons” we had were ideas, slogans and placards. People who did not know each other before the protests stood together, sat together, marched together, ate together, sang together, prayed together and shared the hopes of a better Nigeria in their hearts and through their actions.
As you would recall, we were violently attacked at different times during the three weeks of our peaceful protests by armed security personnel of the state, and vagabonds who were revealed to have been backed by agencies of the state, as captured in several videos circulated. The vehicles of #EndSARS peaceful protesters were burnt in Abuja; and known thugs associated with the ruling political party were unleashed on protesters in several states, including Lagos, Osun, Anambra and Enugu. In Abuja, on the same day that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was banned, the police used water cannons against protesters, and would later fire volleys of teargas canisters.
Despite all these, we were undeterred. The protesters met these brutish displays of force with love. We had hope – hope that love would overcome hate, hope that the truth would prevail, hope for a renewed nation where all rights would be duly respected as enshrined in the Constitution. This hope was dashed as the peaceful protests was drowned in blood on 20th October 2020 – a date forever marked by ignominy for the Nigerian state; a date forever etched in our minds as a marker in the struggle to remake Nigeria.
It was not enough for the government of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) to massacre Nigerian youth, at least nine families came out to speak up about losing their children on that day – Olamilekan, Victor, Abouta, Kenechukwu, Ifeanyi, Jide, Kolade, Lekan, and Wisdom – were all murdered in cold b. We painfully recall the attack as our colleagues were shot at while peacefully singing the National Anthem and waving the Nigerian flag. The federal government dismissed their deaths as mere figments of our imagination, despite the presence of physical eye witnesses as well as virtual eye witnesses who watched the events unfold in real time on Instagram Live!
The Lekki Toll Gate Massacre symbolises the tragedy of state violence against innocent young Nigerians, fighting for their country with flags and the National Anthem as their only tools. It is the symbol of a direct assault on the aspirations of young Nigerians for a better country. While the government has tried to deny its responsibility and gaslight anyone that spoke the truth, we know that the Labour of our EndSARS martyrs and heroes past shall never be in vain.
We have continued to stand up against police brutality and demand for justice for #EndSARS victims over the last two years and we will not stop until our pursuit of justice is achieved. We stand united for justice for #EndSARS victims and the realisation of the ideals and demands they fought for. And we dare to stand up for justice now, for justice delayed is justice denied.
- RECOGNITION OF BRUTAL KILLINGS AND PUBLIC APOLOGY BY GOVERNMENT
It has been established by a government-instituted panel that beyond all reasonable doubt, there was a massacre of harmless citizens on 20.10.2020, at Lekki Toll Gate and other parts of Lagos. It can also be said without any doubt that Nigerians were killed in different states as well, at different times during the mass movement.
We thus demand that the Federal Government of Nigeria respect the dead and heal the wounds it inflicted on the nation by accepting responsibility for these dastardly acts and tendering an unreserved apology with a “Never Again” commitment.
- RELEASE OF EVERY PERSON INCARCERATED OVER THE #ENDSARS PROTEST
It has been established that the police and other security forces went on an orgy of arrests during and in the immediate aftermath of the #EndSARS peaceful protests. The state has been forced to release a number of persons so arrested and incarcerated with fake charges, including Kemisola Ogunniyi a teenager who had to go through the dilemma of delivering a baby in prison in Akure, Ondo State.
Working closely with bodies of patriotic lawyers, we further established that there are still at least thirty-two (32) people incarcerated over the #EndSARS peaceful protests, whilst mischievously charged for sundry contrived “crimes”, in Lagos and Oyo states.
However, we are aware that there are many more #EndSARS victims incarcerated across the federation and we are making efforts to ensure a comprehensive list of them.
Thus, we demand the immediate release and dropping of all charges against every #EndSARS victim already identified as being incarcerated for no just cause; enabling full access to prison records for concerned lawyers and NGOs to document all those incarcerated on bogus charges to facilitate their release.
- COMPENSATION FOR ALL #ENDSARS VICTIMS & FAMILIES OF THOSE KILLED
We note that no amount of compensation is really adequate to fill the place of a loved one, the limbs of those who suffered amputation from wounds sustained from state terror during the crackdown, or for the physiological or mental ill health that thousands of #EndSARS victims suffered and continue to suffer.
However, we further note the critical importance of direct actions to alleviate the wounds of affected persons, families and indeed the nation, with adequate compensation, financially and in the form of a national monument to the fallen, wounded and traumatised #EndSARS heroes.
We also ask that families that have not found the bodies of their children, like Victor Sunday and Wisdom Okon, should be supported to achieve closure.
- FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF REPORTS OF THE JUDICIAL PANELS OF INQUIRY
Judicial Panels of Inquiry (JPIs) were constituted in 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the immediate aftermath of the #EndSARS protests. It has been a year since the reports of the 29 states were submitted, but there has only been partial implementation in two states – Ekiti and Lagos. This is totally unacceptable!
We demand the full implementation of the JPI report in the FCT and ALL the 29 states and we call for concrete action to stop police brutality in those states that unabashedly refused to set up JPIs.
- PROSECUTION OF ALL SECURITY PERSONNEL INDICTED IN THE LEKKI MASSACRE
The killers in uniform who murdered unarmed, peaceful citizens at the barricades are not unknown. The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry named some of them. They must be brought to justice. We must stop the culture of impunity and state terrorism. To do this, those who killed peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate and elsewhere during the #EndSARS protests must be prosecuted.
We thus unequivocally call for open trials of every ranking officer involved in the despicable killings. We make bold to say that, since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, a universal consensus has been established that there can be no excuse for carrying out heinous crimes, such as massacres. We also demand an explicit identification of those that gave the orders for the killing and the prosecution of such figures as well.
- FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE #ENDSARS #5for5 Demands
We must never forget the aim of the #EndSARS protests, the demands that emerged from the barricades, echoing the angst in the heart of the demonstrators and which ring through the demands we now make today.
The explicitly put demands, and which continue in the spirit of what is to be done today, stemmed from a quest to end police brutality and to establish peace based on social justice and freedom from fear of being killed, maimed or incarcerated unjustly by agents of the state that is expected to defend them. This took the shape of the #5for5 demands that were presented to the Federal Government by the #EndSARS peaceful protesters, and duly accepted by the government.
We appreciate the fact that some actions have been taken, in partial implementation of these demands, the police also being beneficiaries through their increased salaries. We take pride in daring to struggle and thus daring to win these, but half measures are not enough. We demand the full implementation of the letter and spirit of the five demands of the movement stated thus:
(i) Immediate release of all arrested protesters
(ii) Justice for all arrested victims of police brutality and compensation for their families
(iii) Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation of all reported police misconduct (within a period of 10 days)
(iv) Carrying out psychological evaluation and retraining of all disbanded SARS operatives before they can be deployed (this should be verified by an independent body)
(v) Increase police salaries as they should be adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.
20.10.20 MEMORIAL MARCH: JOIN US AT THE LEKKI TOLL GATE, ACROSS NIGERIA & WORLDWIDE
The #EndSARS Memorial commenced last week with visits to some prisons where #EndSARS detainees are being kept; Juma’at prayers in mosques, traditional rites of memorial at the Afrika Village, and a Memorial Service at Realm of Glory International Church, Lagos. The climax of the series of events takes place on 20.10.20 at the epicentre of the protesters’ last stand; the Lekki Toll Gate. #EndSARS United activists will also organise demonstrations by the Rose Wale Fillion Station Iwo Road in Ibadan in honour of the #Oyo11 who are part of the thousands of people in Nigeria’s prison system awaiting trial! There will also be actions in several other cities in Nigeria and globally, including; Jos, Port Harcourt, London, Toronto and Montreal.
In Lagos, we will peacefully assemble at the Lekki Toll Gate to honour the dead, as we fight and speak up for the living, and for a better Nigeria. We recall that the police attacked the peaceful demonstration organised for the 1st #EndSARS Memorial. We faced rains of teargas from the police, who harassed and arrested several members of our organisations and journalists for no just cause. Marching at the Tollgate to remember the dead is our fundamental right. We assert the FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT of all Nigerians to freedom of assembly, speech and association; and we demand that the police must not harass or harm anyone at Lekki or across Nigeria who choose to honour the living and the dead.
We know in our hearts, like the martyrs of the #EndSARS peaceful protests, that a new Nigeria lurks on the horizon. It awaits our sculpting hands to bring it to birth. We remain undeterred and irrevocably committed to midwifing the glorious future it holds for us, and generations yet unborn. And we call on you all to join us in this collective endeavour to awaken the spirit of greatness in the sleeping giant that our country has become.
Thank you for listening.