My heart still bleeds today whenever I think of the gruesome massacre of innocent and harmless Nigerian youths by Nigerian soldiers at the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. It was a night that bloodthirsty soldiers threw caution to the wind and killed promising Nigerian youths with reckless abandon.
The killing was likewise extended to other parts of Lagos State where the lives of protesting youths were wasted without blinking an eye. A day after the conclusion of this murderous exercise, the military hierarchy at the time, led by General Tukur Burutai bluntly denied the killing of innocent and harmless youths, despite shreds of evidence to the contrary.
More so, in fulfillment of his ignoble role as the lying machine of the then Buhari-led administration, Alhaji Lai Mohammed promptly addressed the press and denied that nobody was killed at the Lekki Toll gate on October 20, 2020. In addition, the judicial investigative panel on EndSARS protests that was set up by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu equally toed the lying line of Alhajj Lai Mohammad. Sadly, the panel brazenly concluded that nobody was killed at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020. This is nonetheless a very faulty conclusion that could not have emanated from good consciences. Although the Lagos Judicial Investigative Panel did make some far-reaching and commendable recommendations; the report has since then been gathering dust.
Irrespective of the misleading position of the federal government as well as the findings of the Lagos State judicial investigative panel on EndSARS Protests, the obvious truth remains that innocent youths were killed for protesting the brutality, harassment, and excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of Nigeria Police. In the end, though, the long-covered truth could not be hidden for too long. A time came when there was a pressing need to purge the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) morgue of the bodies of 125 EndSARS victims.
It is however worth stating that some states did well to have set up judicial investigative panels as directed by the federal government. Although some of these panels made some useful recommendations, the reports were never implemented till today by the concerned state governments.
The 3rd anniversary of EndSARS truly calls for a sober reflection on what led the youths to the streets for protests and how best to avoid similar protests in the future. As the youth representative in the judicial panel set up by the Ondo State government at the time, membership of the panel gave me deep insight into the atrocities perpetrated by some reckless, greedy, and corrupt police personnel across the country.
Aside from the recommended compensation for identified victims of police brutality, it is regrettable however that most of the identified police personnel who committed atrocities against innocent Nigerians were left unsanctioned to date. Although some of the guilty police officers were given slaps on their wrists by the police hierarchy. The best that could come from the police authority was the disbandment of SARS and the move of the same set of officers to the newly created SWAT. A few months after the EndSARS protests, some of these police officers returned to the roads to resume their extortion, brutality, and other corrupt practices.
Meanwhile, in my capacity as the representative of Ondo State youths in the judicial panel set up by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, I wholeheartedly commiserate with as many families that lost their loved ones to the EndSARS protests. I also deem it necessary to commiserate as many Nigerians who have been permanently maimed due to the careless brutality of the personnel of Nigeria police.
While it is important to urge as many state governments that have failed to implement the reports of the judicial panels they willingly set up to find the courage to do the needful. As a matter of fact, the expected healing on the part of brutalized innocent citizens as well as family members of the deceased will continue to remain elusive, unless the reports of the judicial panel on EndSARS protests are implemented.
More importantly, the Nigerian police cannot remain in sin and expect grace to abound. There is a need for the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police to determinedly position the force towards the path of professionalism. Regular training and sensitization of the police personnel on community-friendly policing should also be prioritized. More so, the recruitment process of police personnel must also be sanitized. After all, It is only a professional police force that can truly become the friends of Nigerians.
Oluyemi Fasipe (@YemieFash)
Youth Representative, Ondo State Judicial Panel Of Inquiry On Police Brutality And Related Matters.