A humanitarian mission on its first post-Covid-19 trip to Nigeria was caught up amidst the most significant sustained protests in a generation.
Mission objective was to conduct fact-finding and humanitarian relief in northwest, northeast and north central Nigeria.
However due to the degenerating security situation, the itinerary was restricted to north central Nigeria with the mission scope extended to include #EndSARS (#ES).
Nigeria is the world’s third most terrorized state at the hands of non-state actors and violent extremist organizations according to the Global Terrorism Index.
The #ENDSARS protest draws attention to state terrorism in the form of police brutality against innocent young citizens.
The scale of the systemic decades long extrajudicial killings far eclipses the fatalities from terrorist groups Boko Haram and Fulani militia at various times the 2nd and 4th deadliest terrorist groups in the world.
The situation summary therefore is that between state and non-state actors, Nigeria’s youth are sandwiched in a crucible of senseless deaths.
Apart from corruption and misgovernance that have made Nigeria the world’s poverty capital, Nigeria also has record infant and maternal mortality rates and out-of-school children.
From birth to death, life expectancy in Nigeria is brief and brutish and government is a cause not a cure of these underwhelming indices of failure.
- PEOPLE-POWERED PROTESTS ACTUALLY PIONEERED BY YOUNG LADIES
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the #EndSARS protests were started in part by “girl power.” Several of the top movers behind the scenes are young ladies.
In patriarchal Africa where age and gender are sociocultural disqualifiers, this is hugely significant.
That Women are rising and finding their voices in a society where they tradition don’t is a testament to the severity of the provocation and the courage of these #ES activists.
- POLICE WERE TOLERANT AT FIRST INTERACTION
The initial protest at the police headquarters was not just peaceful but amiable.
Police told the protesters that their commissioner was unavailable to meet them expecting they would leave. However the activists camped outside the police offices for so long that he ultimately came to listen to their demands.
- THE ACTIVISTS WORKED TO MITIGATE RADICAL ELEMENTS
At a point, some radical groups who saw the long standoff at the police station on the news, came to join the #ES Activists sporting revolutionary uniforms.
At this point the police indicated that peaceful dialogue would breakdown if the revolutionaries were allowed to join so the #ES activists disassociated and relocated away from them.
- HOW ACTIVISTS THWARTED NEAR MASSACRE
At a new protest location outside the government secretariat, the protesters demanded to speak with an elected official. They declined one proposed official because he was not an appointed official and insisted on being addressed by the governor or speaker of the house.
Suddenly the lights were off and the #ES activists were surrounded by policemen who cocked their weapons ominously.
The frightened activists fearing for their lives quickly asked protesters to immediately live stream on their phones what was happening. This, they believe, preempted a massacre on October 8th.
Later, the speaker came and addressed them promising to look into their demands with 72 hours.
- CLERIC & AMBASSADOR CALLED FOR VICIOUS CLAMP DOWN ON PEACEFUL PROTESTERS
Several people urged the government to brutally crush the peaceful protests. Three prominent ones were:
- Islamic Cleric Tells Nigerian Government To Be Brutal On #EndSARS Protesters – Opera News Official http://opr.news/3e4dd185201015en_ng?client=news and
- a campaign official of President Buhari https://news.phxfeeds.com/share?docId=7804195955739245440&source=phx
- The top party chieftain of the President’s ruling party Bola Tinubu also called for force against the protesters for political cover. http://saharareporters.com/2020/10/20/endsars-ex-lagos-governor-tinubu-justifies-use-force-peaceful-protesters-president and
- FOR-PROFIT MOTIVE IN MASSACRE OF INNOCENT PEOPLE AT LEKKI TOLL GATE
One of the most shocking allegations we heard was that the Lekki toll plaza that became the Lagos #ES public square was operated by Bola Tinubu’s son. There was therefore a personal financial benefit to be derived directly by ending the protests.
Tinubu actually complained that the protest was affecting Lagos State’s economy https://www.thecable.ng/icymi-some-persons-told-the-presidency-i-sponsored-endsars-protests-says-tinubu/amp?fbclid=IwAR2zdXXYz5TQJHadd0YC6M1rkT7Dxn7S7btDQuMT-9z2P8IbnDWvWJ8YCD8 Tinubu is the official revenue collector for Lagos state and the Lekki toll plaza was reportedly managed by his son.
A knowledgeable source alleged, “Tinubu owns the toll premises. Seyi his son manages companies within the premises.
Seyi put off the billboards and removed the surveillance cameras. In anticipation of the impending massacre..”
- LAGOS GOVERNMENT.
The army were invited by Lagos Governor Sanwo-Olu who said “a small unit of the army was deployed”. According to notable lawyer and scholar Dr Sam Amadi, “That was a terrible failure of intelligence and administrative wisdom. There was no serious threat to peace….The murderous history of the Nigerian military should have informed the Governor of the likely consequences. if as they Army has claimed the Lagos Governor invited it to enforce the curfew and remove the protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, then the Lagos Governor is vicariously responsible for any deaths that occurred as well as any soldier who may have pulled the trigger.”
From all accounts, progress was being made by the parties on the issues and there was simply no urgency, exigency or emergency that required escalation to military intervention.
- VIOLENT THUGS UNLEASHED IN LAGOS STATE.
Despite all the efforts of the #ES activists to maintain a pristine peaceful protest, people characterized by the government as “hoodlums” unleashed violence. It is to be noted that the ruling party APC maintains an armada of thugs in Lagos that it used to disrupt elections with impunity in 2019. Political thuggery in Lagos is a de facto institution and industry with reputed ties to Tinubu. The subsequent violence targeting the state government and properties of politicians may have been a mix of rival gangs and legitimately aggrieved citizens following the senseless massacre of protesters.
- FEDERAL GOVERNMENT INSERTION OF VIOLENT ETHNIC ACTORS IN ABUJA.
As in Lagos, there were reported sightings of Thugs ferried in government vehicles to launch violence. The state-sponsored thugs were intentionally used to inject tribalistic divisions, intimidate peaceful activists and foment chaos to justify crackdowns across the country. They were essentially private militia hired by the government to do their dirty work.
- NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT CREATED SITUATION BY IMPUNITY AND FAILED PROMISES.
The Nigerian government is responsible for the current crisis because it has failed on three different occasions to follow through on commitments to halt the excesses of the police SARS unit over the years.
In one particularly case of impunity, a police offer who had been rebuffed by a girl at a club arranged for her and four male companions to be ambushed and killed.
A policeman who testified about the incident and cover up was poisoned and the officer responsible never faced justice for these multiple murders over a dozen years later.
- NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT AGGRAVATING SITUATION BY MILITARIZATION AND REPRESSION
In addition to the massacre and cover up, the Nigerian government has taken further actions of concern: A. Deploying helicopters against civilians
- Fining media who reported the protests
- Armaments build up in Abuja (see exclusive video below)
- Army threatening the populace, defying the International Criminal Court and pledging allegiance to the president
- Threatened clampdown on social media
- Freeze of access to funds for activists
Armored tanks approaching Abuja city gate
- NIGERIAN PRESIDENT SLOW TO RESPOND AND INSENSITIVE IN RESPONSE
The president responded late and insensitively ina speech called “regrettable and forgettable” thus worsening the situation. President Buhari’s abject failure has resulted in the complete delegitimization of government, his administration and possibly even the abnegation of Nigeria as a nation.
- GOVERNMENT WAREHOUSES OF HOARDED RELIEF SUPPLIES DISCOVERED
Further crisis occurred when government storage facilities were found filled with Covid relief supplies that the government had falsely claimed had been distributed to citizens. This discovery led to “looting” as more of these hoarded foods were located across the country. These incidents were not attributable to political thugs per se but general population who were both hungry and angry at the government’s theft of foods donated for their relief by a wide variety of donors. Unfortunately the initial targeting of government warehouses expanded to hospitals and some private establishments. In some states, homes of prominent politicians were pillaged and vandalized. However there was minimal loss of life aside the trampling of looters upon discovery of cash at a warehouse and some policemen targeted by thugs in Lagos.
- RECOMMENDATIONS TO NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT A. Halt the militarization and repression of the populace B,Apologize for and hold accountable the perpetrators of the Black Tuesday Lekki Massacre and all other lethal incidents with protesters. C. Establish a national judicial panel of inquiry into the brutality of SARS and other federal agencies. Vice President Osinbajo claims only the state governments can do this but that is incorrect. The Nigerian Police is a federal government institution thus the Federal Government has the authority to establish a judicial panel of inquiry. D. The Police Service Commission and the National Assembly should also investigate police brutality. E. Compensation should be paid to victims and justice meted to perpetrators.
F.The government should apologize for the hoarding of Covid relief supplies for the public and punish those responsible.
- The government should release all detained peaceful protesters and alleged food “looters.”
- The government should establish a Truth and Reconciliation commission.
- The government should allow international observers into the processes above
- Unfreeze access to finance of the activists
- Allow the activists to peaceful hold their candle light vigil for those killed in the protests.
- GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS: The international community should work with Nigeria to address these grave human rights concerns that potentially could implode the country. The UK and US especially should confiscate and set aside the $100 million Abacha loot, currently subject to legal proceedings in UK, for compensation to victims of brutality. The EU and others should hold Nigeria accountable for millions donated for Covid relief. Nigeria’s partners should assist with technical support to the various justice, compensation and peace mechanisms above. All perpetrators should be subject to visa restrictions, international arrest warrants and referral to the International Criminal Court. Given the Nigerian army’s defiance of the ICC, the Buhari regime should not be allowed to nominate a candidate to the ICC. Bola Tinubu of the APC is believed to be the anointed successor of President Buhari in 2023. Given his role in the massacre for political and financial reasons, the international community should be concerned.
Reports allege that he is a fraud having provided fake academic credentials and further that he is a fugitive from justice in the US over drug money laundering charges. The US should clarify the status of this Criminal matter. The US should review Nigeria’s Airforce jets’ purchase agreement in view of its deployment of helicopters against citizens.
We commend the courageous young Nigerians many of whom are professionals and some of whom lost their jobs amidst the protest. There is no doubt that Nigeria took everything from them and left them with nothing.
In addition to failing to secure their lives from terrorism, Nigeria has gone from being a state sponsor of domestic terror to becoming a terrorist nation to its own children.
The world salutes your courage in the face of a country that stole your future and denied your right to cry out.
US NIGERIA LAW GROUP