Nigeria: Cases of Arrested Protesters Still in Custody

Scores of people who participated in the #EndSARS protest were arrested.

THISDAY findings revealed that over 300 persons arrested during and after the October 20, 2020, #EndSars protest, are still in custody at Kirikiri maximum prison even without trial.

Information gathered from various CSOs who have been engaging the government at various levels for the release of the protesters, revealed that among those still in custody are Kpanou Robert, Seyi Awobola, and Sunday Okoro.

According to the information, Robert was arrested on October 22, 2020, on his way back from work as a tiller with his equipment, phones and money.

“His case is still at Yaba Magistrate court, courtroom 4.”

Awobola on the other hand was arrested on October 21, 2020.

“He spent one month in Lion Building, Marina Police station before he was transferred to State Criminal Investigative Department (CID), Panti and detained for a month before being transferred to Ikeja Federal SARS.

“From SARS back to Panti, then finally to Kirikiri maximum prison on January 9, 2021.”

Also speaking in a Facebook post on October 13, 2021, Leader of the Revolution Now movement, Omoyele Sowore, revealed that another #EndSARS protester, Moyinoluwa Olowoyo, was still being held in custody by the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi and the state’s Attorney General, Olawale Fapohunda.

According to him, Moyinoluwa Olowoyo a.k.a Gigabyte was “detained last year for weeks at the FCIID in Abuja for participating in #EndSARS, after we succeeded in getting him released, they kept hounding him because he wouldn’t join their political gang.

“He was arraigned again on trumped-up charges before a judge handpicked by Fayemi and Fapohunda. The judge remanded him in police custody until Friday. There was no reason to send him to detention at all.

“Moyinoluwa is not a flight risk, he’s never jumped bail or missed any of his court dates but they are hell-bent on silencing him.

“It is a shame that Fayemi and @AGWalefapohunda are hellbent on silencing Moyinoluwa for participating in #EndSARS,” he said.

When contacted, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association section on Public Interest and Development Law, Monday Ubani, said he was not aware of anyone still being held behind bars for participating in the #ENDSARS protest.

According to him, everyone that was involved had regained freedom and gone home.

“I know that there were tribunals set up by the various state governments. Some of them have reached favourable judgement and some have been dismissed. The Lagos tribunal is a bit peculiar because of the alleged deaths that took place at the tollgate. I don’t know if they would extend the tenure of the tribunal. But it is not ongoing.”

Speaking on the reason for the delay in the conclusion of findings by the Lagos state Judiciary Panel on incidents of police brutality in the state, and what actually took place at Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020, he said the delay was caused by the large number of complaints received by the panel.

“There were several violations. In fact, I submitted one and up till now, we have not finished the matter and I think it is up to three months. We had just recently been called for judgment. There are so many cases and that is why they have not been able to conclude. Lagos has the highest number of complaints.”

Reactions From CSOs

In his reaction to the role of the Lagos state judicial panel in delivering justice to victims of police brutality in the last year, Legal Representative, Spaces for Change (a CSO handling cases in Lagos judicial panel), Eroga Godspower described the process so far as tasking.

According to him, “the journey was quite a very tasking one that requires proof of cogent and compelling evidence before my Lord’s, retired justices of the Supreme Court who presided over cases at the panel.

“But the victims were given the liberty to prove their cases in a most organised manner in the presence of the press and media men present. So far, we are handling eight cases and four judgments so far have been delivered.”

On the efforts of legal representatives who offered their services for free to victims of police brutality, he said, “Pro-bono lawyers have been tremendously helpful in structuring properly the evidence of the victims in a most presentable way due to the rules that regulate the proceedings.

“Hence it would have been extremely difficult for the victims to get justice.”

He however identified the lack of proper communication of sitting days by the panel as one of the major challenges faced by legal representatives of victims of police brutality, and likewise called for improvement.

Also reacting to protest and transpiring incident, the Executive Director, The Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Okechukwu Nwanguma, said: “There have been controversy and disputations over the actual number of persons killed by the military at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020.

“This has played out at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry where the army, police, Lagos State government representatives, representatives of the EndSARS movement and the chief pathologist at LUTH gave testimonies and evidence.

“Different figures have been presented by different groups. One of the witnesses who testified at the Lagos State Judicial panel of Inquiry said no less than 10 people were killed while several others were injured.

“But even if it was just one person killed, as Dele Giwa of blessed memory wrote, one life lost in cold blood is as gruesome as a million lives lost in a pogrom.

“RULAAC commends the Lagos State Judicial panel for awarding compensations to some of the victims of police brutality who brought complaints before it. No amount of money can compensate for the lives and dignity of human beings but it is a symbolic way of assuaging the pains and agony of victims and their families and also saying that the state does not tolerate human rights abuse.

“Nigerians are waiting to see the Government implement the recommendations of the various State Judicial panels of inquiry with regard to bringing perpetrators to account. That’s one way the state will send a clear message that it will not condone human rights violations. It is one way to stamp out impunity for police abuses.”

Speaking in commemoration of the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protest, National Coordinator, The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), Ikule Emmanuel, noted that respect for human rights is scarce in Nigeria since the Buhari administration started.

According to him, “Nigerians see Nigeria as a militarized, totalitarian country, not a democracy. Despite the gains of End SARS, human rights are still scarce as can be seen during the second protest where many persons were brutalised, packed in trucks like sardines, despite COVID-19, tortured and detained and some protesters are still in detention centres in Nigeria.

“One year after, #EndSARS protesters are still in police custody, there are still attacks on police institutions/stations and officers, attacks on peaceful protesters in Lagos state, clamping down on protesters in Abuja in October 2021. Also, we have the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho, Oyigbo Massacre, in Port Harcourt by Army, destruction of communities in Konshisha, Benue State by Army, attacks and displacement on Tiv Tribe in Taraba State in the presence of Army and their refusal to intervene or allow the Tivs to defend themselves. We also have had attacks on South-East (Army, IPOB and Unknown Gunmen) citizens. Youths are being killed daily in the name of them being IPOB members, mass abduction in the North (East & West), and others too numerous to mention.”

On if he would regard the October 20, 2020 #ENDSARS protests as successful, he said, “the protest was a successful one because it brought to fore issues that have been plaguing the country, the culture of human right abuse, gained national recognition and enabled the government to be more responsive despite its unlawful Nature.

“The following as a result of #EndSARS protests. More persons can now stand for their right as a departure of what was before #EndSARS, the passage of Police Act 2020, formation of the board of Nigerian Police Trust Fund (NPTF 2019), the public hearing on Police Service Commission Act 2020, establishment Act of the Police Training Institute, a compilation of all police reform reports in Nigeria.

“Also is, formation of the Board of Trustees of the NHRC, formation of Judicial Panel of Inquiry in 30 States in Nigeria including Abuja, the release of protesters without bail money as has been the case before, decongestion of correctional centres (Some petty offenders were released in some state), and passage of VAPP Act, Anti-Torture Act and ACJA in States to curb impunity etc.”

He continued: “Community-Police relationship has not been cordial before #EndSARS and it worsened with EndSARs.

After EndSARs police institutions were attacked as a response to attacks, citizens have been getting from security personnel, ranging from brutality, unlawful arrest and detention, raids and extortion, confiscations of equipment/cars/houses, torture and extrajudicial killings.

“During these attacks, the security personnel were also carrying similar attacks which led to the loss of lives and property of both security agents and citizens. The situation now, the relation is worse as can be seen in the South East, Benue State, Lagos. So, the men in uniform have not stopped being brutal coupled with the militarized regime and the lack of accountability in security agencies have not helped as these erring officers are usually not punished.”

On the way forward he said there is a need to entrench justice, fairness and equity in our systems in Nigeria. In the absence of these, it would be the same old stories without a solution.

“There is need for reorientation of all security agents on their roles, duties, Nigerian laws and need for clear emphasis on respect for rule of law for and on everyone especially the poor. There is a need to decriminalise poverty in Nigeria. Mostly the poor suffer at all aspects in Nigeria as it relates to access to resources and they are the ones in detention, police custody etc.

There is a need for all erring officers to be punished as well as erring citizens who actually also violated the law in the destruction of public property. There is a need to release all peaceful protesters still in security custody and compensate for the families of affected citizens & Security Officers. There is a need for the presentation of the recommendation of the panels of Inquiry in States, acceptance by the people and implementation of the recommendation by the States.

“There is need to bring to book all terrorist organizations like Boko Haram, Miyetti Allah, Fulani Herdsmen, check the activities of Hisbah, as well as the conduct of sitting and former executives who are sponsoring the activities of hoodlum and terrorist organizations in maiming the lives of citizens.

“There is a need to also check the activities of overzealous religious, traditional and opinion leaders who have been consistent in misleading the people, causing crises and building hatred for certain sections of the country. There should be more emphasis on developing the Country than promoting religion and tribalism, sectionalism, ethnicism, etc.

There is a need for technology. There is a need for the inclusion of youths in decision making, in the involvement of technology. There are series of solutions that tech can provide especially as to tracking, data on crime, forensics as this would reduce and address the culture of torture inherent in our security system. The welfare of Security Agents both those in service and retired should be looked into to address the need for the unnecessary wrong ways to support oneself and live better lives. There is a need to implement the ACJA/ACJL, VAPP Act, Anti-Torture Act.

“There is a need for a town hall meeting of all stakeholders including the victims of Lekki Massacre with the Governor, security agents that were involved and the judicial panel of Inquiry, to resolve issues resulting from Lekki attacks.

“There is also a need for effective implementation of the Nigeria Police Trust fund. The resources should be channelled towards training and refurbishment of police institutions (Especially Training institutions and Stations affected by attacks by hoodlums) not just buying vehicles as has always been the case before now. There is a need for public accountability of funds accessed and spent.

“Secondly, the Army should go back to their mandate and allow the police to carry out their policing duties. They should refrain from following the dictates of the executives when its directives are not in line with their duties, for the good of the citizens, state or selfish in Nature. The military should be moved to North East & West to tackle Boko Haram once and for all, members arrested should be made to face the wrath of the law. EFCC & DSS should also keep to their mandate and use the required guidelines in working instead of carrying out raids in the night like criminals. All security agents who have erred should be punished to serve as a deterrent to others.”

Also, Yiaga Africa urged states urged states that have completed their panels to make their reports available.

“As we mark one year of the #EndSARS protest this October, Yiaga Africa calls on state governments where panels have been suspended to resume sitting and conclude the hearings. We also call on both the Federal and State Government to ensure the full implementation of the 5 for 5 demands which includes key proposals demanding immediate police reform critical to ensuring that police brutality is eliminated,” read a statement by the group.

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