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Banjul, 22 October 2020

The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) strongly condemns police brutality manifested during the peaceful protests by youths in Nigeria calling for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and structural reforms of the Police.

Nigerian youths across the major cities had in the last two weeks embarked on a peaceful protest tagged #ENDSARS to ask the Nigerian government to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit notorious for many human rights abuses. The youths were also calling for an end to police brutality, and for the Government to investigate all Police abuses and embark on structural reforms of the Police.

In response to this protest, Nigerian government agents unleashed more abuses on the protesters including arbitrary arrests, torture and even extra-judicial executions.

These abuses reached a climax in the evening of Tuesday, 20th October 2020, when protesters gathered at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos for a sit-in protest. Armed soldiers opened fire on the protesters and killed several of them. The shootings came after Government agents had been seen removing security cameras in the area, and then all lights in the vicinity were switched off. In addition, the soldiers surrounded the protesters with barricades, and prevented medical aid from reaching the protesters who had been shot. These actions were captured on videos taken on several cell-phones and posted on social media.

On 21st October 2020, the Nigerian security agents killed more unarmed protesters in a number of Nigerian cities. Videos posted on social media show policeman in Lagos shooting live rounds at protesters fleeing for their lives, with other videos showing an already captured unarmed protester being murdered by police men who shot him at very close range.

These abuses and killings go against many provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights instruments to which the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a State Party, and are a violation of several fundamental rights, notably the rights to life, the right to freedom of expression and the press, freedom of assembly and association, the right to dignity and personal liberty.

We therefore call on the Government of Nigeria to:

  • Put an end to the ongoing police brutality against peaceful protesters;
  • Allow protesters the free exercise of their right to peaceful protest;
  • Investigate all the acts of police brutality and prosecute all those responsible; and
  • Carry-out security sector reform and put in place measures to curb police brutality in Nigeria.