As we reflect on the third anniversary of the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria, it becomes painfully clear that the fight for justice and human rights is enduring. The protests, primarily spearheaded by the country’s youth, were an embodiment of unity, strength, and resilience. Yet, the aftermath reveals a stark reality: the arbitrary detention of at least 15 protesters arrested in 2020 and the persistent spectre of police brutality in everyday life.
The perseverance of detained protesters:
The stories of these detained protesters provide a window into the harrowing challenges faced by those seeking justice within Nigeria’s legal system. For these 15 #EndSARS protesters, life remains in limbo within the confines of Kirikiri Medium Correctional Centre and Ikoyi Medium Security Correctional Centre. Their lack of trials and the egregious charges brought against them, including theft, arson, unlawful firearms possession, and even murder, highlight a grave disregard for due process and human rights. This grim reality calls for immediate intervention.
Consider Daniel Joy-Igbo, who has been held without trial since December 2020. His ordeal mirrors that of many others, underscoring the dire need for justice and their unconditional release. Their continued detention infringes upon their human rights and serves as a formidable obstacle to Nigeria’s aspirations for a just and impartial legal system.
Torture and the descent into inhumanity:
The plight of detained #EndSARS protesters takes an even darker turn when one delves into the accounts of torture and inhumane treatment endured while in custody. Oluwole Isa, a current inmate at Kirikiri Medium Correctional Centre, recounts the horrors he faced at the hands of the authorities. His testimony is just one thread in a much larger tapestry, casting a stark light on the urgency to address these systematic abuses and ensure that torture and ill-treatment are never meted out to any individual.
The persistence of police brutality:
Despite promises of comprehensive police reform in the wake of #EndSARS, Amnesty International Nigeria reports that police brutality remains a day-to-day concern. Extrajudicial killings, harassment, arbitrary detention, and extortion continue with alarming impunity. Recent cases, including the tragic deaths of Gafaru Buraimoh and Onyeka Ibe, are stark reminders that the progress achieved during the protests remains perilously fragile.
A call to action:
To truly honour the spirit of #EndSARS and the sacrifices of those who fought for justice, Nigeria must take decisive and resolute measures. Authorities must be unwavering in their commitment to ending police impunity, offering clear directives to law enforcement agencies to respect human rights and ensuring that those suspected of violating these rights face impartial and fair trials. Genuine police reforms must be undertaken urgently to uproot systemic human rights violations. The international community’s persistent vigilance and pressure for change are indispensable.
The critical role of civil society:
Amidst these challenges, civil society organisations in Nigeria have emerged as beacons of hope and drivers of change. Many have taken up the cause of detained protesters, providing legal support, advocating for their release, and raising awareness of their plight. These organisations play a vital role in holding the government and law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions, ensuring that the voices of the unjustly detained are not silenced.
In addition, civil society has been instrumental in documenting and publicising cases of police brutality, both domestically and internationally. Their efforts bring international attention to Nigeria’s ongoing human rights violations and pressure the government to enact meaningful reforms.
Moreover, the #WhyWeMarch campaign, orchestrated by Gatefield, serves as a dialogue and activism catalyst. By highlighting instances of diverse groups and individuals uniting during the #EndSARS movement, the campaign emphasises the potential for change through collaboration. It also celebrates the courage of known and unsung activists who risked their lives for change.
Inspiring future action:
The #EndSARS movement has had a profound impact on the Nigerian youth. It galvanised a generation to stand up against injustice, corruption, and human rights violations. It showcased the power of collective action, illustrating that when people unite for a common cause, they can bring about significant change.
While the initial #EndSARS protests subsided due to government-sanctioned violence, the spirit of activism has not waned. The #WhyWeMarch campaign aims to rekindle hope and resilience among Nigerian youth, reminding them that continuous perseverance makes change possible. It encourages dialogue and action, inspiring young Nigerians to advocate for their rights and work towards a brighter future.
The global response:
The #EndSARS movement garnered international attention and support. Celebrities, activists, and organisations worldwide expressed solidarity with the protesters. This global response put additional pressure on the Nigerian government to address the issues raised by the protesters and enact meaningful reforms.
In the aftermath of #EndSARS, the international community has continued to monitor the situation in Nigeria. Amnesty International has been instrumental in documenting human rights violations and advocating justice for the detained protesters. The global community’s continued vigilance is essential to ensure that the promises of reform are upheld and that those who have suffered injustices find resolution.
A long road ahead:
The third anniversary of #EndSARS is a reminder of Nigeria’s enduring struggle for justice and human rights. The detained protesters, victims of police brutality, civil society organisations, and the global community all play critical roles in pushing for change. The road ahead is long and fraught with challenges, but the resilience and determination of those who continue to fight for justice are a powerful testament to the enduring spirit of the #EndSARS movement.