As Nigerians mark the first anniversary of the killing of protesters at Lekki tollgate in Lagos on October 20, 2020, during the #EndSARS protest, a group, the Alliance of Business and Professional Women, ABPW, has launched a transformational initiative “aimed at supporting the youths to create the Nigeria we all desire.”
According to the Chairman of APBW Governance Board, Mrs Toyin F Sanni, “this movement— The Youth Connect Initiative— is birthed on the first anniversary of an epochal event in the history of our dear nation.
“On this day, a year ago, after weeks of peaceful protest by our youths, patriotic Nigerians watched in horror as defenseless youths of Nigeria under the banner of the EndSARS movement were allegedly attacked by military men during a peaceful protest against police brutality, harassment and extortion in the country. The fallout of this event was calls for transparent and good governance.
“To commemorate one year since the peaceful EndSARS protests, ABPW is launching its Youth Connect Initiative by which it will be equipping youths from underprivileged communities with skills to provide gainful employment.”
Meanwhile, a number of Nigerians have used the occasion of the anniversary to demand justice for the victims of the protest.
In a statement on Wednesday, former Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said he is yet to come with the sobering events October 20, 2020, the day soldiers reportedly opened fire on protesters waving Nigerian flag at the Lekki Tollgate, killing scores of them; an incident the Nigerian government denies even in the face evidence.
According to Saraki, “On the first anniversary of October 20th, 2020, like many Nigerians, I have struggled with coming to terms with the sobering events of that day.
“My thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives, loved ones, sustained injuries, or sustained other losses at the Lekki Toll Gate and at various locations in Lagos and around the country when security agencies were deployed to clamp down on the protests and non-state actors took advantage to cause chaos and mayhem.
“It is worrying that despite the acceptance of the “5 for 5 Demands,” nothing has really been done to resolve the issues that caused the protests in the first place. None of the policemen accused of torturing and extrajudicially murdering Nigerian citizens have been brought to justice, there has been no marked improvement in the funding or quality of equipment available to the Nigerian Police Force and these incidents of torture continue in many security facilities nationwide.
“Furthermore, none of the perpetrators of the attacks on Nigerians exercising their rights to peaceful assembly have been arrested or prosecuted, despite many of them being identified. Similarly, none of the perpetrators of mindless acts of destruction and looting of property worth billions of Naira have been arrested or brought to justice.
“Instead, several young people are still held in detention facilities across the country without trial.
“It appears that the lessons that ought to be learned from the events last year have been lost. This is why rather than mobilise to safeguard and protect citizens, the Nigerian Police have resorted to threats and mobilisation to prevent further expressions of dissatisfaction with the status quo. It is my sincere hope that common sense will prevail and the young people who seek to hold events to mark the first anniversary of the events at the Lekki Toll Gate will be allowed to peacefully gather and be protected from any forms of violence.
“The carnage that followed the attacks on protesters by security agencies and non-state actors must stand as a lesson to governments at all levels that they must learn to engage with the Nigerian populace in a manner that preserves and respects their constitutional rights and freedoms or face the risk of creating an atmosphere that enables a breakdown of law and order.
“Today represents an opportunity for the government to begin the police and justice sector reforms our country so badly needs. It is an opportunity I appeal to the government to take.
“This is the only way we can honour the memory of those who gave their lives for this cause.”
Similarly, Senator Shehu Sani, activist who represented Kaduna central senatorial zone in the 8th assembly, noted that the #EndSARS protest awakened the consciousness of the nation, while demanding that heroes of the event.
“EndSARS protest awakened the consciousness of this nation and recharged the reluctant and the slumbering segment of our society,” @ShehuSani. “It was a momentous revolutionary event that exposed the limitations of the establishment power.A salute to DJ switch & others.”
To mark the anniversary, youths have vowed to return to the streets on Wednesday, amid threats from police authorities, while many are taking to social media to demand justice for the victims.