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EndSARS Anniversary: Why we protest, our aspirations for Nigeria

Today marks one year since Nigeria’s youth population led a mass protest against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad otherwise known as SARS, to call for better governance and end police brutality and profiling.

The protest which turned into an unrest ended abruptly after the deadly shooting of unarmed protesters on October 20 in Lagos’s Lekki toll gate. At least 12 persons were killed, according to rights group Amnesty International.

While Amnesty International’s report has been constantly refuted by local authorities, despite CNN’s reports confirming the shootings and video evidences from the scene. Nigerians still believe that scores were killed at the Lekki Plaza where operations have since ceased.

As a result, organisers have been mobilising online for a protest to coincide with the Lekki Tollgate shooting to honour those that were killed. Expectedly, the police authorities in Lagos, Abuja and other states have been issuing warnings against the anniversary protest, asking them to halt the plan.

For years, SARS, has been a notorious unit of Nigeria’s police force accused of unlawful arrests, profiling, torture and even extrajudicial killings.

Read Also: Has anything changed since #EndSARS protests hit Nigeria?

EndSARS

President Muhammadu Buhari on Oct. 12 2020 disbanded the unit but reports of police abuse have not stopped in the west African nation.

In this photo story, some youths talk about the protest and their hopes.

I joined the protest from day one because of my personal experience with the police, I have been harassed and profiled on several occasions. I was glad when I saw the resilient spirit and ginger of Nigerian youths who are tired of getting killed and harassed daily and saying enough is enough.

It was a call to service and freedom movement, I needed to be part both physically and online as a future leader and a law-abiding youth of the country.

There has been notable progress since the protest started in 2020, the SARS police unit was scrapped, the killings and harassment also reduced. Justice has been taking its due course and some families duly Compensated.

The government needs to do better by increasing the salaries of the police officers and their general welfare. If and when they want to return the defunct SARS, they should be exclusively for armed robbery and not interfere in civil matters thereby constituting nuisance.

Akinseloyin Emmanuel, digital marketing expert

I joined the protest because the issues at hand affected me and the people around me and my business was also concerned. I joined the protest because I want a better Nigeria.

I am not encouraged [about the current situation]. We are still expecting adequate reforms as regards the policing system in Nigeria. There are still cases of police harassment that I have personally experienced. Our policemen are still not well compensated and it shows in their service to the people.

On expectations, I honestly can’t say. I am scared to admit I have lost faith in the government. A great place to start will be the fulfilment of the 5 demands that were agreed upon. That will set the pace for further expectations.

Seun Adesanya, Cyclist, Photographer

As humans we have a conscience, as patriotic Nigerians we have a responsibility to the nation to speak against societal ills, especially against anything that will ultimately harm the foundations and future of the nation.

I joined the protest basically because of my love for Nigeria, it was long overdue, too many things were not right. A nation that has 60 percent of her population under 25, it means if you don’t handle or market the 60 percent properly, you’d be de-marketing the nation as a whole.

Since every other channel had failed, the EndSARS protest became the only available means to reach the authorities and express our grievances and expectations (the EndSARS basically became the feedback channel or communication channel between the government and the larger population).

The protest is proof that there is a future for Nigeria and the future that young Nigerian sought for when they, through the protest, that their rights and the rights of every Nigerian be respected, that the police be taken care of, that the government commits to the promises they make when they seek votes during elections can and will be achieved.

It is sad that some of us who came out paid the supreme price but they’ll continue to live in our hearts and prick our consciences anytime we feel like giving up on action. We haven’t seen any reasonable change since the protest was forcefully halted on October 20th 2020, but though the change is yet to manifest there is progress and we will feel it in the long run. We understand better what we are up against and we would not go around it like we did before.

The protest has subconsciously awakened too many young people that you can’t but see that this country will be great again.

Osakue Iyobosa, event host, Hypeman, comedian

I did join the protest to make a statement as a youth that the government needed to address the yearnings of the youth by ending police brutality through the reformation of the police force and suspending the SARS unit. Beyond this, the protest in general was to speak out against corruption and bad governance in the society.

It’s been one year down the line there’s still police brutality. Nothing has changed, just the same old story since the protest. We hope those who lost their lives are someday publicly recognized by the state and justice is served.

Thompson Ayomide, financial analyst.

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