Three years have passed since the #ENDSARS movement erupted at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria. What began as a peaceful protest by Nigerian youth to address the alleged killings and extortions perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) took the nation by storm and sparked a nationwide conversation about police brutality, government accountability, and the power of collective action.
The Roots of the Movement:
The seeds of the #ENDSARS movement were sown on October 3, 2020, when a video showing a SARS police officer shooting a young Nigerian in front of Westown Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, went viral. This incident, combined with other reports of police brutality and extortion, fueled public outrage, particularly on social media. The #ENDSARS hashtag trended, becoming a symbol of defiance against these injustices.
Just two days after the movement began on Twitter, on October 5, 2020, news surfaced of SARS officers killing an upcoming musician, Daniel Chibuike, known as Sleek, in his neighborhood. The response was immediate. Nationwide protests were ignited, led primarily by young Nigerians in different cities, joined by activists and celebrities.
The government’s response was heavy-handed in some cases, with the Nigeria Police Force using tear gas, water cannons, and even firing on unarmed protesters in places like Abuja and Osun. Tragically, these actions resulted in the death of Jimoh Isiaq in Ogbomoso, Oyo State. But the protests continued, and young people across Nigeria intensified their calls for police reform and accountability.
Five Key Demands:
The protesters outlined five key demands: the immediate release of all those arrested during the protests, justice, and compensation for victims of police brutality, the establishment of an independent body to investigate and prosecute police misconduct, the psychological evaluation and retraining of SARS operatives, and an increase in the salaries of police officers.
Government Response and Ongoing Struggles:
In response to the public outcry, the Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police disbanded SARS, but this announcement was met with skepticism, as similar promises had been made in the past. Many protesters insisted on comprehensive police reform and the complete disbandment of the notorious police unit. Despite government assurances, the protests continued.
A Glimpse of Hope and Tragedy: The Tragic Lekki Toll Gate Incident:
While there were moments of hope, such as the government agreeing to some of the protesters’ demands, the movement was marred by tragic events.
On October 20, 2020, the situation took a devastating turn when the Nigerian Army reportedly opened fire on protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. The government and the army have consistently denied these allegations, but the events of that day remain deeply etched in the nation’s memory. The Lekki Toll Gate shooting cast a dark shadow over the protests, and violence erupted in some areas.
Three Years On:
Three years have passed since the #ENDSARS movement began. While it achieved some initial success in raising awareness and forcing the government to acknowledge the need for reform, the issues of police brutality, extortion, and the government’s responsiveness to the people’s demands persist.
The movement’s impact remains significant, reminding the world of the power of collective action and the determination of the youth to bring about change. The fight for a just and accountable Nigeria continues and the legacy of #ENDSARS endures as a symbol of resilience and unity in the face of adversity.
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