Nigeria: Two years on, more than 40 #EndSARS protesters still languishing in jail

Two years after the #EndSARS protests, over 40 protesters are still languishing in prisons across Nigeria, Amnesty International said today, while panels set up to investigate police impunity have failed to deliver justice to hundreds of victims of police brutality. 

Amnesty International has found that the vast majority of #EndSARS protesters arrested in October 2020 are still being arbitrarily detained without trial.   

The fact that nobody has been brought to justice over the torture and killings of #EndSARS protesters is a stain on Nigeria’s human rights records. Meanwhile, human rights violations by the police continue unabated. The authorities must ensure that suspected perpetrators of the deadly crackdown on #EndSARS protesters are brought to justice in fair trials and address impunity for police brutality.

Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria

“Two years ago, the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 people at Lekki toll Gate and in Alausa, Lagos State, while pro-government armed groups deliberately instigated violence at many #EndSARS demonstrations in other parts of the country to serve as a pretext for the police to use of lethal force on peaceful protesters. Rather than bringing those responsible for the attacks on protesters to justice, the authorities have engaged in a series of bizarre denials and cover-ups.”   

Since the #EndSARS protests, many people who have attempted to exercise their right to peaceful protest have repeatedly faced threats, harassment, and intimidation. 

Prolonged detention without trial 

Oyewole Olumide, Rasheed Tiamiyu, Moruf Adekunle, Taoreed Abiodun, Ikenna Amechi, Afeez Ariyo, Ikechukwu Eze, and Adesina Ademuyiwa were among those arrested in Ibadan for participating in #EndSARS protests in October 2020. Despite reportedly suffering from ill health, they continue to be held without trial in Agodi Correctional Centre, having previously been detained at a SARS facility in Ibadan and Abolongo Prison in Oyo Town. 

Ayodeji Oluwasegun, Andoh Immanuel, Yakubu Olayiwola, Olaogun Ismail, Uba Chukwuma, Dosunmu Taiwo, Daniel Joy-Igbo, Yusuf Rafiu, Olawale Marcus, Muyiwa Onikoyi, Shehu Anas, Suleman Saidu, Rasheed Wasiu Bolaji, Adigun Sodiq, Sunday Okoro, Akiniran Oyetakin, Ogidi Isah, Ibrahim Adesanya, and Faruk Abdulquadri have also been detained without trial in Kirikiri Medium Security Prison in Lagos since 2020. 

The Nigerian authorities have attempted to justify the ongoing detention of #EndSARS protesters by resorting to trumped-up charges including theft, arson, possession of unlawful firearms, and murder. 

A further twenty-one #EndSARS protesters were held incommunicado for 15 months at Afaraukwu Correctional Service in Umuahia in Abia state for participating in the protests. On Friday 4 February 2022, they were released without charge following an intervention by Amnesty International. 

“They called us into their torture room one after another

Many #EndSARS protesters told Amnesty International that they were tortured while in detention. Police abuse occurred in detention centers in police stations and other holding facilities and inside police vehicles. Several cases amount to torture and other ill-treatment.  

One of the protesters told Amnesty International: “In Umuahia, at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), they called us into their torture room one after another. When I entered, they tied my hands to the iron bars on the window so I couldn’t fight them, and then they started flogging my ankle with a rod, and also my knee…” 

“Since I didn’t do anything,” the protester added, “I maintained my innocence while they tortured me. I remembered my late wife and got angry. I told them it was better for them to kill me than to admit something I did not do. Then the man said they would release me, but when they did, I could not walk, so I just fell and the officers dragged me out of the room. Then they took another person into the torture room. In the process of torturing us, they killed one of the protesters they brought in with us from Eziama police station.” 

A 21-year-old student of Abia State Polytechnic, who was among more than 20 protesters arrested on 20 October 2020 in Waterside in Ogbor Hill, Abia state, told Amnesty International: 

When I arrived at the criminal investigation department, they started asking us why we were protesting against the police. Some of us said we were fighting for our rights. Then the police said they would kill us for going out to protest. They removed our clothes… and started flogging us. I still have some of the injuries I sustained, I still get pains from them. They were flogging us everywhere. I was bending my head to protect my eyes. We suffered there.

“They removed my shirt and blindfolded my eyes with it,” the student added. “When we got to Eziama Police Station, they asked my age. I told them I was 16, but I was 15 then. They slapped me twice and beat me with sticks for joining the protest. Then they said they would put me in a separate cell. They kept us in the cell and brought us out the next day to beat us again.” 

Many of those interviewed said they had suffered from health issues as a result of the torture they faced and the inhuman conditions they were kept in detention. All released detainees interviewed by Amnesty International said the authorities had not returned their phones, cash, and other valuables which were taken from them after the protests. 

Investigative panels fail to deliver justice for victims 

Investigative panels set up to investigate police brutality have been marred by prolonged adjournments, intimidation of witnesses by police lawyers, and police officers failing to appear as witnesses, according to observer reports verified by Amnesty International. In some states, panels have failed to take place at all, while others opted to go on break indefinitely. 

“Authorities must end the crackdown on peaceful protests, and promptly, thoroughly, independently, impartially, and transparently investigate cases of attacks on peaceful protests and bring suspected perpetrators to justice. 

The lack of progress at these #EndSARS panels is discouraging and reveals the authorities’ lack of commitment to ensure justice for victims of police brutality across Nigeria,” said Osai Ojigho. 

“All detained protesters must be immediately and unconditionally released. The Nigerian authorities must urgently respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right to peaceful protest including by publicly directing security and law enforcement agencies to stop infringing on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Authorities should also ensure that victims of police brutality and their families are provided with access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, and guarantee of non-repetition.”