Nigeria: Police use tear gas on anniversary of fatal protest

Associated Press (AP) — Nigerian police officers on Thursday fired tear gas at protesters in Lagos who were marking the second anniversary of demonstrations against police brutality that turned deadly.

Participants said they gathered at the city’s Lekki tollgate to draw attention to police brutality they allege remains rife despite promises of reform made in 2020.

Benjamin Hundeyin, a Lagos police spokesman, told The Associated Press the tear gas was fired at “lawless people.”

“Tear gas was used on them to disperse them as that was the least harmful thing we could have done,” Hundeyin said.

Oke Ridwan, a human rights lawyer and activist, insisted the protesters were demonstrating peacefully.

“(The police) prefer to go out there preventing people from protesting instead of actually solving the problems so that people won’t have any need to protest in the first place,” Ridwan said.

“People are still getting brutalized and extorted (by the police), and the political will to correct this is not there,” he added.

Protests against police erupted across Nigeria in October 2020 because of a since-disbanded law enforcement unit known as SARS. The demonstrations, dubbed the #EndSARS movement, came amid widespread accusations of police brutality, unwarranted arrests and bribery.

Security forces fired live ammunition at crowds gathered at the Lekki tollgate on Oct. 20 of that year. Eleven people died, four others reported missing were presumed dead, according to a judicial panel report released last year that called the gunfire by authorities a “massacre.”

Nigeria’s human rights watchdog says more than 40 protesters who were arrested that day “are still languishing in prisons.” The watchdog said panels set up to investigate allegations of police brutality “have failed to deliver justice to hundreds of victims.”

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