The Human Rights Watch has lamented the failure of the Federal Government to hold accountable security operatives who brutalised and killed #EndSARS protesters in October 2020.
The international human rights group said the victims are still awaiting justice a year after security forces violently suppressed protests calling for an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
Scores of young Nigerians were arrested and also killed during the nationwide protests which demanded an end to police brutality and called for police reforms.
The attack on the protesters climaxed on October 20, 2020 when troops fired live shots at the youths at the Lekki tollgate, Lagos, killing scores and injuring many others.
Many states consequently set up probe panels but their reports have not been implemented while the Lagos panel had yet to submit its report.
The HRW in a statement on Tuesday titled, ‘Nigeria: A year on, no justice for #EndSARS crackdown,’ noted that the prospects for accountability remained inconclusive and bleak.
It said, “Nigerian authorities should take concrete and decisive steps to ensure that those implicated in abuses against protesters are held accountable.
“In October 2020, young people across Nigeria took to the streets calling for disbanding an abusive police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and for ending brutality in a movement tagged #EndSARS. Security forces responded with excessive force, including gunfire, which resulted in death and serious injuries.”
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Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang admonished the government to ensure justice for those abused during the nationwide protests.
“Failure to pursue justice will strengthen the culture of impunity and reinforce the perceptions that brought protesters to the streets in the first place,” she noted.
Between October 2020 and August 2021, HRW said it interviewed 54 people, including victims and their family members, protesters, protest supporters, representatives of civil society groups, medical service providers, political analysts, and journalists, on how the crackdowns unfolded and how the victims have been affected.
The rights group also wrote letters to the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army to share findings and ask questions about officers’ conduct during the protests but has yet to receive a response.
The statement read, “Despite the slow progress, justice could still be achieved, but the full cooperation and support of the federal government, the Lagos State government, and the Nigerian military and police force will be critical.
“Officers who have been summoned by the panel should testify and answer necessary questions, and the Lagos State government should also commit to releasing the full report of the panel’s findings and recommendations.
” The federal government should then ensure that those implicated in abuses against protesters, including as a matter of command responsibility, are brought to justice.
“Beyond accountability for abuses during the #EndSARS protests, the authorities should tackle the systemic problems that foster a culture of impunity in the security sector and push forward comprehensive and meaningful reforms to end the abuses and injustices Nigerians have long experienced.”