Lagos – Nigerian police fired tear gas and water cannon on Thursday to clear a rally in Lagos marking the second anniversary of the country’s #EndSARS protests against police brutality and bad governance.
The youth-led October 2020 demonstrations in Lagos and elsewhere evolved into the largest anti-government protests in Nigeria’s modern history before security forces ended them in a crackdown.
Rights groups say at least 10 people were shot dead by security forces on October 20, 2020 at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, the epicentre of the protests, a claim the government and the army has repeatedly denied.
Carrying banners and flags, a group of protesters rallied along the major expressway near Lekki on Thursday, before police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse them as cars passed by, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
“No justice has been found for the people who died, no justice has been found for the people who were hurt, and no responsibility has been taken,” activist Feyikemi Abudu told Arise News Channel at the rally.
Lagos state police spokesman Benjamin Hundeyin said some protesters were dispersed at Thursday’s rally after unruly behaviour.
“Some of them that decided to be lawless and start mounting the toll complex, an action threatening the existing law and order in the area, were dispersed with teargas,” he said on Twitter.
Governance, jobs and security will be the focus for many young Nigerians in February’s general election when the country votes for the successor of President Muhammadu Buhari, who steps down after his two terms allowed by the constitution.
The 2020 #EndSARS protests erupted initially against police abuses, with the rallying name referencing the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which was later disbanded.
The demonstrations grew into a broader protest to demand better governance and rights in Africa’s most populous country.
Amnesty International has said at least 10 people were shot dead when security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate two years ago.
But the army said only blank rounds were used to break up a crowd that was defying a curfew.
An investigative panel set up by Lagos state government concluded last November that the armed forces shot and killed unarmed protesters in what could be considered a “massacre”, according to a leaked copy of the report.
Amnesty International said on Thursday that more than 40 protesters from 2020 were still in prisons while panels established to investigate police brutality had failed to deliver justice to victims.
“The fact that nobody has been brought to justice over the torture and killings of #EndSARS protesters is a stain on Nigeria’s human rights records,” its report said.