“We Are Asking for Justice”: #EndSARS Anti-Police Brutality Protests Grow as Nigerian Forces Kill 12

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A warning to our listeners and viewers: We turn now to a story that includes graphic video and accounts of state violence. We begin today’s show in Nigeria, where there’s growing evidence to confirm security forces fired without warning on peaceful protesters Tuesday night, killing at least 12 people, as authorities imposed a curfew to clamp down on growing demonstrations against police brutality. Video shared widely on social media shows security forces in Lagos firing directly into a crowd of demonstrators who were singing Nigeria national anthem.

PROTESTERS: [singing] Arise, O compatriots,
Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our Fatherland
With love and strength and faith.
The labor of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain,
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.

AMY GOODMAN: Amnesty International issued a report Wednesday that it was Nigeria’s security forces that fired on the protesters. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement that, quote, “There is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” she said. Amnesty International also said it received reports that shortly before the shootings, electricity was cut off for security cameras in the area where protesters had camped.

At least 56 people have died during two weeks of widespread demonstrations in Nigeria, including 38 on Tuesday. The killings come two weeks after protests began against a branch of the Nigerian police known as SARS, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which has long been accused of committing torture, murder and extortion.

The killings have sparked outrage from Nigerians across the globe. The soccer star Odion Ighalo, who plays for Manchester United, posted this video online.

ODION IGHALO: I’m sad, and I’m broken. I don’t know where to start from. I’m not the kind of guy that talks about politics, but I can’t keep quiet anymore for what is going on back home in Nigeria. I will say, Nigerian government, you guys are a shame to the world for killing your own citizens, sending military to the streets to kill unharmful protesters because they are protesting for their rights. It’s uncalled for. Today, 20th of October, 2020, you people will be remembered in the history as the first government that sent military to the city to start killing their own citizens.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Nigeria, where we’re joined by two guests. In Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, we’re joined by Sowore Omoyele. He is a Nigerian journalist, a human rights activist, and founder and publisher of Sahara Reporters. He also ran for president in Nigeria and has been imprisoned there. In Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria, which is the most populous country in the African continent, we’re joined by Aderonke Ige, a human rights activist and lawyer who works with the organization Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa. Ige has been participating in the #EndSARS protests.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! We’re going to start in Lagos, where those fatal killings happened, the fatal shootings happened, on Tuesday night. Aderonke Ige, you’ve been out on the streets. Describe what’s happened, and talk about the level of peaceful protest that has been going on against this police unit and police brutality in general.

ADERONKE IGE: Thank you.

I cannot even begin to try to describe in words the kind of barbaric action of the Nigerian government that we saw play out on Tuesday here in Lagos.

Now, these protests have been sustained, have been peaceful, have been the most — you know, a lot of people would tend to say, “Oh, we don’t even know the leaders.” It’s not, you know, all of that, but it has been one of the most coordinated protests or demonstrations I have ever seen, without any face or any type of leadership. That’s how we have been conducting ourselves for the past two weeks.

And you could see that there was raw passion, there was energy, to just salvage the soul of our collective group, our country, Nigeria. And a lot of young people have been at the forefront, just everybody demanding, in unity and in oneness: What are we asking for? We’re asking for justice. We are asking for our lives to be preserved, not to be killed arbitrarily by these officers of state called SARS — that’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad — but then, even beyond SARS, by the Nigerian police, by the Nigerian military. It looks like everything about Nigeria is just forceful. And especially with this government, it’s been totally arbitrary, has been full of impunity, and just is set up against the people. So, that’s all we’ve been asking for. And it’s been totally organized. And that’s why we have demonstrated, in fact, to the applause of everyone who has seen it.

But then, rather than the Nigerian government taking action heeding to these demands and just being responsible, what we saw was, you know, what a lot of us have been seeing over the years, which, good enough, is now coming to the full glare of the globe. Now we have seen where government, rather than heed to the voices of its citizens, would rather turn against them, oppress them and even further intimidate them for asking not to be intimidated.

So, what happened on Tuesday was the anticlimax of everything. So, in the last two weeks, we’ve been on the street, just chanting, just making our voices heard, demanding what we have been asking for as usual. But then, the government, like a thief in the night that it has always been, went out. Now, in the early evening, around 4 or 3 p.m., there had been messages. In fact, one of us captured some officers, wearing certain uniform, tampering with the closed-circuit camera TV, you know, and saying there’s something suspicious going on here. It was later we realized that they had actually gone to cut off the cameras. Eventually, as well, they cut off the lights. And who could have had access to the government’s source of light, if not government? So, lights were cut off.

And then, what came after was the most horrendous thing ever, most horrific. And then it was just the Nigerian military. We saw men in soldier’s uniform spraying bullets, just firing live rounds at peaceful protesters who held national flags, singing the national anthem.

And how did we know this eventually? We are grateful for technology. Some of us had their cameras on. Some went on — in fact, there was one of us — DJ Switch is her name, in Nigeria here — she went live on Instagram. And that was how most of us were able to also follow, because we have been protesting at different points, different grounds, running shifts and just showing solidarity for one another and with one another. But she went on live, and we were able to follow, to monitor, though it was dark because the government had cut off the lights, but we were still able to make out sounds. We saw the injured. We saw people dying right before our eyes.

But then it was a situation where citizens were helpless in the face of government officials who had been sent to fire live rounds on peaceful protesters who were just there singing the national anthem. So, what that told us is that — because, you know, there was also this message we passed across in recent — like four days ago, we started spreading it around, because in the course of this protest — this is all the same protest — we have also seen the aggression, brutality. Everything that we have been asking, demanding, campaigning against was also unleashed on us. We’ve seen the aggression of police we’ve seen just coming at us and so on. So, what we told our people was, try, when you go out, to go with the national flag. Ordinarily, when any military official sees the national flag or you’re singing the national anthem, they are supposed to just respect us. It’s a social contract. And that’s everything that symbolizes us, that gives us dignity as citizens.

But guess what. Everything that dignifies us was desecrated that night, from what we saw live. People were dying. They were helpless. They were shouting. They were screaming. And this went on and on. So, that’s what happened on Tuesday. But then, that was the anticlimax, that happened in Lagos.

So, the specific location where that happened in Lagos, the protest point, is at Lekki. We call it Lekki toll gate. So, there have been other points, like I personally have been protesting Alausa through Orile, you know, all of those places. And we have been doing this peacefully and sensibly and in the most applaudable manner. But then the government came, as usual, and applied force and massacred people and injured, maimed its own citizens, who were there for nothing else than to ask for their lives to be saved and not be brutalized as it has always been.

AMY GOODMAN: Aderonke Ige, we’re going to break and then come back. We will hear more from you. Aderonke Ige is a human rights activist and a lawyer. We also will go to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, where Sowore Omoyele, the Nigerian journalist and human rights activist, who’s been imprisoned by the Nigerian state, has also been leading protests. Stay with us.


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