Tensions are high in Nigeria following the callous shooting of peaceful protesters in Lagos on Tuesday, 20 October, 2020 by soldiers of The Nigeria Armed Forces.
The EndSARS protests began as a social media campaign and have graduated to street protests following the release of a video showing a SARS officer shooting a young man and driving off in the deceased’s Lexus. This video surfaced on October 3 and has sparked nation-wide outrage.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a sub-department of The Nigeria Police Force that was created to deal with crimes associated with robbery, motor vehicle theft, firearms, and fraud. For years, this sub-department has been killing, extorting, terrorizing, kidnapping, and oppressing youth under the guise of protecting civilians. They profile young people who own cars, or have relatively expensive gadgets, and ask them for large sums of money with the threat of harming them if they don’t cooperate.
“I was stopped once by a SARS officer just because I had a new phone,” explained Savage, a Nigerian graphic designer. ”The officer asked me what I did for a living to be able to afford a new phone. I told him I was a graphic designer and he snorted and asked ‘Is that the new name for internet fraud?’”
On October 20, after 13 days of protests, the Governor of Lagos State issued a mandatory 24-hour curfew beginning at 4 p.m., which was later extended to 9 p.m. in a bid to stop the protests.
At 6:45 p.m., the electricity supplying lights to the Lekki Toll Gate was cut, and the large electric billboards were turned off. 20 armed military men pulled up and started firing rounds of ammunition into the crowd. The shooting continued for approximately half an hour, while people fled for cover. The shooting left at least 20 people dead and many more injured.
During the shooting, and for approximately 20 minutes after, the army men barred any ambulances from entering the scene. Subsequently, the Nigeria Army denied having anything to do with the shooting.
The CCTV cameras at the Toll Gate were reported to have been taken down shortly before the shooting, but they were later confirmed by Lagos State Government to have been laser cameras and not CCTV cameras.
Now violence reigns in the country. Police stations have been burnt, stores looted, prison inmates escaped, and many more people have been killed. Protests have been banned by the Lagos State government and people who still have placards and banners in their cars are being arrested. There are curfews in ten of the 36 states in Nigeria and, in cities where no curfew has been placed, residents are scared to leave their houses.
Approximately 100 have been killed nationwide in the course of the protests, and those numbers continue to rise.