Lagos – Joshua Samuel reminisces a year ago when a Nigerian soldier opened fire in Lagos and he and thousands of others protested police atrocities.
“People were running and some were down,” the 23-year-old said of the October 20, 2020 shooting at the Reiki Tollhouse in Lagos. “I was shot from behind.”
He is still recovering from his injury, but he is absent from work, homeless, and has not received government aid.
“I’m not well. Every word I say hurts me,” he told the Associated Press.
Samuel is one of more than 100 Nigerians awaiting a verdict on a plea for compensation and justice for alleged police misconduct. He applied to a government panel to look into previous allegations of police atrocities that led to the October 20, 2020 shootings and protests.
In Lagos, protests erupted against widespread allegations of torture, injustice and bribery against a police force known as the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad). According to Amnesty International’s Nigerian office, they were called the #EndSARS movement and culminated a year ago on Wednesday when 38 protesters were killed across the country.
According to President Muhammad Buhari, more than a week before October 20, 2020, 69 other protesters and police were killed and several government facilities and police stations were set on fire.
Buhari vowed his government would never allow such disruption again, and police deployment was heavy on Wednesday’s anniversary, with hundreds of people demonstrating tear gas and police firing. it turned out. In the chaotic situation, at least four people were arrested and others were arrested.
According to court hearings and victims’ testimony, anti-robbery forces were mainly accused of illegally arresting, torturing and blackmailing young Nigerians. Between 2017 and 2020, Amnesty International said it had found 82 cases of torture and murder of suspects by personnel of robbery forces, with little or no action on the part of authorities.
In response, Nigerian authorities have announced that they will withdraw police forces, advance police reforms and ensure justice for the victims.
However, Damien Ugu of Amnesty International’s Nigerian office said he believes the authorities “have no intention of delivering on these promises.”
In Nigeria, justice trials against victims of police atrocities are generally slow, but many police officers accused of abuse are not prosecuted or face other consequences.
And while the SARS unit is being disbanded, many Nigerians say police atrocities continue.
Ayobami Adesina, 29, was sleeping at her home in southwest Oyo when police attacked and arrested her last November. According to her sister Kemi Adesina, her family searched for her for two weeks, believing she had been kidnapped.
He eventually learned that he had been taken into police custody along with 10 others for the murder of police officers during an anti-SARS demonstration. Adesina spent six months in prison before being taken to court, her sister said, and her trial is progressing slowly.
“There is no good evidence (there) and no indication that he did it,” she said.
More than 200 #EndSARS protesters are still in prison in Lagos and have not been charged with the crime, according to Nicolas Muba, who was released on bail after spending eight months in prison for arson in October. I have not even appeared in court. protest in 2020. He still faces a trial.
“The first night in prison was the worst day of my life,” he said. A 33-year-old woman said, “In #EndSARS we have made over 1,000 arrests, some have not been prosecuted, and some do not even know how to communicate with their families.”
Lawyer OK Ridwan, who provided legal services to the arrested protesters, said he helped in the release of at least 70 people, whose charges were later withdrawn.
Following the protests, Nigerian authorities formed judicial committees in all states and the capital, Abuja, to demand compensation for those shot or arrested during demonstrations to address widespread allegations of police atrocities. ..
In Lagos, the panel considered more than 235 complaints, according to Tony Eze, who represented the Nigerian Bar Association at the hearing.
At least $637,470 has been awarded to 47 petitioners, but several people, including 39-year-old Nicholas Oke, are still awaiting the panel’s decision.
He was shot in the chest by the AP and said a year later he had open pain from a gunshot wound, but could not afford the treatment. He said that he has not received any help from the government.
“I thank the living God. I haven’t worked since that day,” said Okepe, the bus driver, before being shot, mutilated in pain.
Amnesty International and its petitioners told the AP that dozens of petitions have yet to be answered and that at least nine states have postponed the process indefinitely.
The petition was adjourned for Chijiok Iloanya, who was arrested in 2012 by a SARS operative in southeastern Ambra. The family later learned that he had died during police custody, his sister Obianuzu Irogna said. The AP could not independently identify the cause of his death.
Amnesty International’s Yugu said challenges include secret panel hearings in some states, paucity of funds, failure to present police officers and persistent adjournment of panel hearing petitions.
“We need a special court to consider issues of basic human rights matters in Nigeria,” said lawyer Lidovan. “And they would also have the authority to actually punish the officers.”
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