October 20th, 2020 was a dark period on the history of Nigeria. It was a day that saw officials of the Nigerian Army shoot at innocent #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate
While there have been claims and counterclaims as to the veracity of the shootings and number of casualties recorded, many more victims of that fateful incident have revealed their identities.
One year since the #EndSARS shootings at Lekki Tollgate, and more than 365 days since Nigerian youths trooped out in numbers to make demands, the Nigerian government is yet to move forward on majority of the requests by the protesters. The rogue, now-defunct SARS section of the Police was disbanded and replaced with a new SWAT team, but the claws of Police brutality, although less sharp, are still dipped deep into the bodies of some Nigerians. A little of it was seen, even in commemoration.
Police officers are still not enjoying the welfare they deserve and training and retraining is an expensive route for most officers. While many states with records of Police brutality set up independent panels, very few states have been able to reach out to the victims of brutality or their families, lest admit their culpability.
The Lekki Tollgate shootings, which many Nigerians dub a “massacre” was a watershed moment in the history of the country, but exactly one year after the shootings, and despite the evidences of bullet shells, blood spillage and various media investigations, the Nigerian government has insisted nothing like it happened.
Minister of Information and the mouthpiece of the Nigerian government, Lai Mohammed made a statement denying the incident of one year ago in a Press Conference to commemorate the one year anniversary.
“Today marks the first anniversary of the phantom massacre at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, which was the culmination of an otherwise peaceful protest that was later hijacked by hoodlums,”
“At earlier press conferences, I had called the reported massacre at the toll gate the first massacre in the world without blood or bodies.
“One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none: Nobodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?”
“The federal government remains proud of the security agencies for acting professionally and showing utmost restraint all through the EndSARS protest and the ensuing violence, an action that saved lives and properties,” he said.
“The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the Human Rights Organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre,” Mr Mohammed said.
Like the families of the policemen and soldiers who died during the unfortunate incident, the families of the ordinary Nigerian civilians, who have long been victims of a system built to frustrate them, also deserve some modicum of respect from the government.
The continuous denial of the events of the day, despite its importance to Nigerians, is a show of disrespect to the victims of that day.
The worthiness of the protests, and the gains made after it has been a subject of analysis but the least the Nigerian government can do is to commiserate with the victims of Police brutality in general.
A stance made to ridicule the pains of that day is unfair to the feelings and logic of ordinary Nigerians, some of whom have lost their breadwinners and family members. That the Nigerian government keeps living in the denial of October 20th, 2020 is not beneficial to its image, the hope of the people and their trust in their government.