Protesters gather with placards in their hand, during a protest to commemorate one year anniversary of EndSars, a protest movement against police brutality at the Unity Fountain in Abuja, on October 20, 2021. - Hundreds of youth match to commemorate one year anniversary of Endars protest that rocked the major cities across the country on October 20, 2020. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP) (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

State of Affairs: How Did We Get to October 20, 2020?

In October 2020, Nigerian security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria. The shooting took place after the Lagos State government had imposed a curfew on the city in an attempt to quell the EndSARS protests that had been ongoing for two weeks.

Witnesses to the shooting said that soldiers arrived at the toll gate and opened fire on the protesters without warning. The protesters were unarmed and were peacefully singing and chanting slogans. The soldiers fired live rounds and tear gas at the protesters, killing at least 12 people and injuring many others.

The aftermath of the shooting was chaotic. Protesters and bystanders fled the scene in terror. Many people were injured and some were killed. The bodies of the victims were left lying on the ground for hours.

The Nigerian government initially denied that the shooting had taken place. However, videos and eyewitness accounts of the shooting soon emerged, contradicting the government’s claims.

In the days following the shooting, the Nigerian government launched a tribunal to investigate the incident. However, the tribunal has been criticized for being biased and for failing to hold the government accountable for the shooting.

The government has also been accused of trying to cover up the shooting. The government has refused to release the full results of the tribunal’s investigation and has blocked access to the Lekki Toll Gate, making it difficult to investigate the incident independently.

Despite the government’s attempts to cover up the shooting, the truth eventually came out. In November 2021, the EndSARS Panel, which was set up by the Lagos State Government to investigate the EndSARS protests, released its report. The report found that the Nigerian security forces had opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, killing at least 12 people and injuring many others.

The report also found that the government had engaged in a number of cover-up attempts, including denying that the shooting had taken place, tampering with evidence, and intimidating witnesses.

Despite the findings of the EndSARS Panel, the Nigerian government has continued to deny responsibility for the shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate. The government has also failed to take any steps to hold those responsible for the shooting accountable.

As a result of the government’s inaction, youths in Nigeria continue to complain of targeted assaults by the security forces. For example, in February 2023, a group of youths in Lagos were allegedly assaulted by the police for protesting against the government’s handling of the EndSARS shooting.

The Nigerian government’s continued denial of responsibility for the Lekki Toll Gate shooting is a gross injustice. As we mark the third year of the #EndSsrsMemorial, it is evident that there are still many stones unturned and questions that need answers. Did the government hold those responsible for the shooting accountable? What steps have been taken to ensure such atrocity never repeats itself? Has the Police Force been reformed? Are Young Nigerians Truly Safe? These are the issues. 

The EndSARS movement started in 2017, where Nigerian youths protested against the defunct police unit. However, the movement was revived in October 2020, after a viral video emerged of police officers thought to be members of the SARS unit, allegedly killing an unarmed young man in Delta State. He was later said to have survived the assault.

This prompted Nigerian youths to troop to social media, especially Twitter, calling on the Federal Government to put a stop to the menace. Later that evening, officers and soldiers of the 65th Battalion of the Nigerian army arrived at the toll gate and opened fire on the protesters. 

The EndSARS Panel set up by the Lagos State Government found that the security forces fired blank and live bullets directly and pointedly into the midst of the protesters, with the deliberate intention to assault, maim, and kill.

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