In October 2020, Nigerian youths embarked on an EndSARS protest to demand the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit, as well as other reforms in the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). The protests, which began as a peaceful gathering of thousands of young people, quickly devolved into chaos after being hijacked by hoodlums. The hijacked protest subsequently led to mob attacks on security personnel, killings, and vandalization of public and private properties.
The Birth of SARS
Set up in 1992 to mainly combat the rise of armed robbery in Nigeria, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigerian police has since become notorious for kidnapping, random arrests, extortion, torture of suspects, gruesome extra-judicial killings, and running detention facilities which some survivors have called an “abattoir.”
The unit was investigated several times in response to protests, but without results; reforms were then promised in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. However, the unit was eventually disbanded on October 11, 2020, after worldwide protests moved the government to act.
The Birth of the End SARS Movement
The End SARS movement started in 2017, where Nigerian youths protested against the defunct police unit. However, the movement was revived in October 2020, after a viral video emerged of police officers thought to be members of the SARS unit, allegedly killing an unarmed young man in Delta State. He was later said to have survived the assault.
This prompted Nigerian youths to troop to social media, especially Twitter, calling on the Federal Government to put a stop to the menace.
Unfortunately, on October 20, 2020, the Nigerian security forces, according to reports, killed at least 12 peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate – a temporary end to the protest.
In this article, we bring to you the timeline of the End SARS protest in Nigeria as it happened in October 2020.
Saturday, October 3, 2020
The EndSARS protest started with a viral video broadcast on Twitter on October 3, 2020, where men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS allegedly brutalised a young man in Delta State, snatched his car, and sped off with it. Anyone watching the video to see what had happened may hear the individual who recorded it yelling frantically.
Subsequently, the hashtag #ENDSARS started to garner momentum as more young people demanded an end to the notorious police unit that has brutalized many young Nigerians for years.
Sunday, October 4, 2020
The next day on Sunday, October 4, 2020, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu announced, with immediate effect, the ban of SARS members and other Tactical Squads from carrying out routine patrols, stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks, and so on.
However, in the House of Representatives, Honourable Akin Alabi of the Ona-Ara/Egbeda Federal Constituency of Oyo State filed a motion to dissolve SARS.
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Nothing noteworthy occurred on Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, youths in Lagos State embarked on a three-day protest to demand the disbandment of the Nigeria Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit, as part of a push for reforms in the police system to end the agency’s extrajudicial activities. This was the beginning of a 14-day protest that turned violent and was taken over by thugs.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
On Thursday, October 8, 2020, IGP Adamu warned against attacks on law enforcement officers by the ENDSARS protesters following the reported murder of one policeman, injury to another, and alleged stealing of arms and ammunition by the protesters even as Nigerian musicians and artistes joined the protests showing their solidarity for the calls to End SARS.
Friday, October 9, 2020
President Buhari, on Friday, October 9, 2020, through his Twitter handle, revealed he had ordered the Inspector General of Police to address Nigerians while appealing for calm and patience just as former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar condemned any use of force on #EndSARS protesters across the nation urging the Federal Government to listen to the youth and investigate the use of force on protesters.
In Lagos, Gbenga Omotoso, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, said the administration has noted the protests against police brutality and it agreed that such acts of brutality must be stopped.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
On Saturday, October 10, 2020, a certain Jimoh Isiaka was allegedly killed by the Nigerian Police in Ogbomosho, Oyo State, over the #EndSARS protests against police brutality. Although the police denied shooting the poor man, Isiaka’s killing angered more protesters leading to a massive coalition to move the protest from social media to the streets.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
The first major gathering of protests along the Lekki-Epe expressway took place on Sunday, October 11, 2020, disrupting the traffic along the 49.5-kilometre road. Iconic images of the protests then spread across social media spurring more young Nigerians to join the protest to show their support.
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, via his Twitter handle, disclosed that the operations of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) had been dissolved across all 36 states and the Federal Capital with immediate effect.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Protesters, on Monday, October 12, 2020, gathered at the Lekki VI toll gate making it the epicentre of the End SARS protests as President Buhari addressed the protest in his first televised speech.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike announced the ban on all forms of protest in the state, in reaction to the proposed #EndSARS protest in Port Harcourt for the next day.
The day ended with reported Police shootings around Surulere, Lagos, with one protester allegedly killed by the Police. Videos on social media also revealed a Police officer was shot from an alleged friendly fire.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
On Tuesday, October 13, 2020, Port Harcourt residents defied Governor Wike and marched to the Government House while chanting solidarity songs as former president Goodluck Jonathan opined that Nigerians did not deserve to lose their lives while protesting peacefully for the advancement of their country.
IGP Adamu announced the setup of a new Police outfit known as the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) to take over from the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The police chief also ordered all personnel of the dissolved unit to report to the force headquarters in Abuja for debriefing, psychological, and medical examination.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Panel on Police Reforms acceded to the five demands made by the #EndSARS protesters across the country, just as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos set up a ₦200 million fund for Lagosians who had been victims of police brutality.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Feminist Coalition, one of the leading NGOs during the End SARS protests in Nigeria, announced on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, that it had raised ₦38 million in crowdfunding for the protest.
The Federal Government barred any Police Officer of any unit from looking into people’s phones or profiling them just as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey joined in supporting the #EndSARS protest that has overtaken the country.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) through its chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, demanded that all the police officers who participated in actions that led to the injury or death of Nigerians must be brought to justice. Fayemi disclosed this in a meeting with the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu on Thursday, October 15, 2020.
Meanwhile, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) announced the ban on all street demonstrations after a wave of #EndSARS protests in the city.
Friday, October 16, 2020
The Police Service Commission on Friday, October 16, 2020, reportedly dismissed from active service 37 former members of the dissolved SARS unit, just as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced the setup of judicial panels of inquiry across the 36 States and the FCT.
In the United Kingdom, the Minister for Africa James Duddridge said the UK was monitoring the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria and called for a peaceful police reform process.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
As of Saturday, October 17, 2020, protests had spread nationwide with many other cities joining in to demand an end to SARS.
Interestingly, the Nigerian Army announced that it will commence a nationwide Exercise Crocodile Smile from October 20 to December 31, 2020. The Army said it would be a cyber-warfare exercise designed to identify, track, and counter negative propaganda on social media. However, the military claimed that the exercise was not targeted at protesters.
Sunday, October 18, 2020
On Sunday, October 18, 2020, the End SARS movement launched a helpline centre and an online radio platform named Soro Soke to aid the coordination of the protesters nationwide through effective and timely communication.
In Abuja, Senate President Ahmed Lawan called for an end to the #EndSARS protests after a closed-door meeting with President Buhari and Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila at the State House.
Meanwhile, Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos State, has spoken out in response to media accusations that he is one of the people funding #EndSARS protests around the country. Tinubu asked Nigerians to ignore the news while refuting the charge and exonerating himself.
Monday, October 19, 2020
Down south in Edo, the Government, on Monday, October 19, 2020, announced the imposition of a 24-hour curfew across the state with effect from 4 p.m. in the evening. This was due to incidents of vandalism and attacks reportedly carried out by hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protests.
In Abuja, soldiers were deployed to the streets and stationed in strategic places to curb the #EndSARS protest that had, in some cases, gone out of hand as suspected hoodlums reportedly attacked protesters and pro-SARS groups.
Meanwhile, protesters continued their protests at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos with more youth pouring into the streets. Reports indicated that Lagos State had lost at least ₦234 million to the closure of tollgates since the commencement of the #EndSARS protests, although the state continued to generate money from adverts at the toll plazas.
Tuesday, 20th October 2020
At 11:49 am, on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, the Lagos State Government announced the imposition of a 24-hour curfew in all parts of the state, with effect from 4 p.m. This was due to the hijacked #EndSARS protests in the state, where hoodlums attacked citizens and destroyed properties.
Subsequently, IGP Adamu ordered the immediate nationwide deployment of an anti-riot police unit, Police Mobile Force, over attacks on police facilities by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protests.
Meanwhile, Delta, an American airline, turned back a passenger flight from the United States to Nigeria. Following repeated reports of violence, the plane was forced to return to the United States after a stopover in Dakar, Senegal. Following that, the airline cancelled all additional flights into Nigeria.
Due to the hijacked #EndSARS protests, the United States embassy and consulate in Nigeria, announced the shutting down of its consulate in Lagos State for two days with effect from Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
Lekki Toll Shooting
At about 6.45 p.m., multiple social media accounts revealed that peaceful protesters were allegedly being shot at by some operatives of the Nigerian Army at the Lekki toll gate holdout. The Lagos State Government had issued a directive to extend the enforcement of its 24-hour curfew from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on that day so that residents stuck in traffic could get to their destinations.
At about 10 p.m., the Lagos State Government orders an investigation into the Lekki Toll Plaza shooting that was allegedly done by men of the Nigerian Army on Tuesday evening just as former US Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, calls on President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the Nigerian Army to stop the killing of young protesters in the country. A number of other world leaders would start tweeting about the purported “massacre” at the Lekki Toll plaza.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
The next day, Wednesday, October 21, 2020, IGP Mohammed Adamu ordered the withdrawal of all Police Officers attached to VIPs across the country, with the exemption of those in Government houses, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Lagos State Government suspended all government activities and declared a lockdown for 72 hours in view of growing violence in the state. The Governor had earlier paid a visit to the injured protesters at the hospitals where they were being treated and had also announced on air that no one had died in the infamous Lekki Toll Plaza shooting the night before.
However, the Governor confirmed two people had died as a result of the Lekki Shooting as the United Kingdom High Commission in Nigeria announced the shutdown of its VISA application centres in Nigeria for the next 48 hours, with immediate effect, due to the ongoing #EndSARS protests in the country.
Television Continental (TVC) station in the Ikosi-Ketu area of Lagos State was burnt down by hoodlums who attacked the building. The headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority in Marina, Lagos, was also set on fire by purported hoodlums.
In addition, Nigerian football players, local and international celebrities take to their Twitter handles to condemn the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate as the Nigerian Army, through its official Twitter handle, denied deploying soldiers to attack #EndSARS protesters who defied the imposed curfew and peacefully assembled at the Lekki Toll Plaza.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
In an interview session with Arise TV, on Thursday, October 22, 2020, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu responded to the question of who ordered the removal of the cameras at the toll gate and then switched off the light. The governor said nobody ordered the action as the Managing Director of Lekki Concession Company, LCC, did not report to him.
President Buhari would, later in the evening, address the country in a nationwide broadcast where he said he was pained that innocent lives were lost without a mention of the Lekki Tollgate shooting.
Friday, October 23, 2020
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said his administration was working towards stabilizing the state and rebuilding through verification of victims while calling on youth leaders to provide representatives for a judicial panel.
Feminist Coalition, one of the leading supporters of the #EndSARS campaign, informed all financial supporters of the campaign to stop sending funds to the group while revealing plans for the remaining donated funds.
Consequently, Coca-Cola Nigeria announced a donation of ₦20 million to cover the medical costs of hospitalized victims of the #EndSARS protests.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
With the announcement of curfews all over Nigeria, the #EndSARS protests actively came to a stop on Saturday, October 24, 2020. However, Nigerians in the diaspora continued with protests in Zurich, Paris, New Zealand, Berlin, Toronto, Brussels and other cities around the globe.
Until October 2020, Nigerians had been content with whatever the system offered. The country’s leaders took its citizenry for granted. However, a generation that has learnt to do things differently, spoke up about their demands for justice, a better society, and insisted with grim determination on a reform in the security architecture of the country.
These youths decided to stop playing the ostrich…and took the bull by its horns. At the top of their voices…they only wanted one thing….END SARS.
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