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- Two years after the #EndSARS protests in October 2020, Gbenga Oloniniran examines cases of protesters who are still detained in Lagos and Oyo prisons.
Ending police brutality formed the crux of their movement, “EndSARSNow!’ was the song on their lips, as they marched in Lagos, Oyo, Edo, Osun, and Ondo states, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to mention a few. Virtually, there were protests in all the six geo-political zones in the country, with youths seeking the disbandment of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
In the mass protest that began early October 2020, shortly after the Nigerian Labour Congress called off its scheduled nationwide protest, late September, thousands of youths, whose tension was already bottled up by various experiences of police brutalities cum the COVID-19 lockdown, and who could not control their erupting urge for resistance, took to the streets across various states in the country.
Fast forward to October 20, 2020, the protests had grounded Nigeria, gained international attention and supports until the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, by the Nigerian military, began.
It was a silent night, as protesting Nigerian youths began to mourn their colleagues. Admittance and denials began from state authorities, since then, the question: ‘Who ordered the shooting?’ is still being asked.
Few days after October 20, 2020, The PUNCH gathered that protesters’ arrests began even amid judicial panels set up across states to investigate cases of police brutality, before and during the #ENDSARS uprising.
Nine languish in Oyo prison
On November 13, 2020, nine youths were arrested by the Oyo State Police Command over their involvement in the #ENDSARS protest, which the the state government claimed to have led to the killing of police personnel, a charge sheet against nine youths arrested, and obtained by The PUNCH revealed.
Adeshina Muyiwa, Ikechuckwu Eze, Ariyo Sodiq, Ikenna Amaechi, Oyewole Olumide, Ariyo Afeez, Taoreed Abiodun, Adekunle Moruf, Rasheed Tiamiyu, are currently being prosecuted by the state government.
They were charged with five counts bordering on murder, stealing of police rifles, and other ammunitions, and setting of police station ablaze.
The nine of them, whose case has suffered several adjournments since 2020, are languishing in Agodi prison, Ibadan, the state capital.
23 in Lagos’ Kirikiri, Ikoyi prisons
Arrested between October 23 and 25, 2020, Ismail Muftau, Sodiq Sulaimon, Yahaya Mustapha, and Faruq Abdulquadri are being charged with arson and robbery, and tried at the ENDSARS Court 2, Yaba Magistrate Court.
According to a civil society organisation, the Take It Back Movement, which is providing legal assistance to them, Muftau was arrested at his Ikorodu residence and was only taken to court three times (with the court not sitting) since detention at Kirikiri maximum prison. “His previous court appearance was December 17, 2020. He has only been to court once this year which is June 24, 2022,” a leader of the TIB, Banwo Olagookun told The PUNCH.
Sulaimon, who was arrested at his Ijora residence, according to the organisation, also last appeared in the court on June 24, 2022. According to the CSO, Jamiu Sani, Segun Adeniji, Ibrahim Adesanya, Daniel Joyibo, Dare Williams, Onuora Odih, Jeremiah Lucky, Gideon Ikwujoma, Haruna Adekunjo, Irinyemi Oluwanbe, Joshua Adeleke, Kabiru Ajetunmobi, Moses Ofoke, Quadri Azeez, Sodiq Riliwan, Olamide Lekan, Idris Lawus, Charles Adele have been transferred to Ikoyi prison from Kirikiri maximum prison.
Another individual, Sunday Okoro, was said to have been granted bail since 2021 but had yet to meet his stringent bail conditions. Okoro was said to have been hospitalised for over a month in the prison, and is still languishing in the Kirikiri maximum prison.
Our brother died seeking Ismail’s release, family says, other laments frustration
In separate interviews with The PUNCH, families of some of the arrested protesters, lamented their ordeals since their brothers were arrested.
A detainee’s sister, Muimunat Sulaimon, spoke with our correspondent and sounded very exhausted on the matter. When asked what led to her brother’s arrest, she said, “You know when you’re not there with them, it is whatever they write that the government will follow. I pray that God delivers us. He (Sulaimon) told us that the Oodua Peoples Congress came around 4am to arrest him, leaving behind his wife and child.”
“I will not lie to you, I am not balanced over this issue. My younger brother is even fed up. We don’t have anybody but God. The government should have mercy on us,” Muimunat cried for help.
Ismail Muftau’s sister, Adetutu Lisboa, said her brother marked two birthdays in the prison. “Ismail Muftau is still there (in prison) and he is just a small boy. He clocked 19 years in the prison, he is even now 20 years old there,” she told The PUNCH.
“Our firstborn died on the matter because he (Muftau) used to stay with him. His death clocked a year on February 17, 2022. When we rushed him to the General Hospital, Ikorodu, they said his blood pressure had risen. It was uncontrollable, and it was due to the thoughts of Muftau which filled his mind. Muftau is our last born; we don’t have mother nor father left for us,” Muiminat said.
“Talking about the matter makes me cry. I don’t like to talk about it,” she said while weeping at the same time. “Since our brother died and left his children behind, I am the one carrying the entire burden,” she lamented.
“They did not find any weapon in his possession, they should release him for me,” Adetutu appealed to the government. “He was arrested for participating in the #ENDSARS protest. It was not the police that even arrested him, it was some vigilante members who arrested him and handed him over to the police,” she said.
They invaded station, robbed – Police
When contacted on why the trials of the arrested protesters were taking so long, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, said it was a judiciary matter.
However, on why the detainees were arrested and linked to robbery, Hundeyin said during the protests, some persons invaded police station and took police items away.
“Are you not aware that during the #ENDSARS, our rifles were stolen? That’s robbery,” he said.
“Some people invaded the police station, took police rifles away, took uniforms away, took handcuffs, took many things away, that’s robbery!”, he insisted.
When asked if he was aware of any compensation made available to victims of police brutality since the Lagos Judicial Panel on #ENDSARS submitted its reports, the PPRO said he was not aware of any.
“If there is going to be any compensation, it’s not from the police. Honestly, I’m not aware,” he told The PUNCH.
When contacted over the nine detainees in Oyo prison in connection to the ENDSARS protest, the state Police PRO, Adewale Osifeso, declined to comment on the matter, noting that the Force PRO, Muyiwa Adejobi, was the best person to speak on #ENDSARS-related matter.
“Anything that has to do with ENDSARS, you have to call the Force PRO,” he said.
Two years after #ENDSARS, police brutality continues
Police brutality has not left the Nigerian streets since the mass protests against the menace in 2020.
Numerous cases of assaults and extortions by the police had been recorded, with the police force dismissing those found wanting.
The PUNCH Explainer reported on Thursday, September 27, a viral video in which two policemen were seen assaulting the two brothers. One of the brothers, who filmed the assault, claimed that the policemen threatened to kill his brother over vehicle papers.
In the video, one of the brothers tackled the policeman, who physically assaulted him, while another officer warned the other one to stop recording the scene.
The man recording the video said the police were threatening to kill his brother because of vehicle particulars and driver’s licence, labeling them as thieves. The Bayelsa State Police Command has also commenced grilling of the two officers.