Human Rights Watch has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Government’s reluctance to pursue security personnel responsible for the brutality and deaths of #EndSARS demonstrators in October 2020.

The victims are still waiting for justice, according to the international human rights organization, a year after security forces ruthlessly quashed rallies calling for an end to police brutality in Nigeria.

During widespread rallies calling for an end to police brutality and police reforms, a large number of young Nigerians were arrested and died.

The violence on the demonstrators reached a climax on October 20, 2020, when troops opened fire on the youngsters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, killing a number of them and injured many more.

As a result, many states established investigation panels, but their recommendations have yet to be executed, and the Lagos panel has yet to deliver its report.

‘Nigeria: A year on, no justice for the #EndSARS crackdown,’ HRW said in a statement on Tuesday, noting that the chances for accountability remained uncertain and gloomy.

The statement reads, “Nigerian authorities should take concrete and decisive steps to ensure that those implicated in abuses against protesters are held accountable.

“In October 2020, young people across Nigeria took to the streets calling for disbanding an abusive police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and for ending brutality in a movement tagged #EndSARS. Security forces responded with excessive force, including gunfire, which resulted in death and serious injuries.”

Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang admonished the government to ensure justice for those abused during the nationwide protests.

“Failure to pursue justice will strengthen the culture of impunity and reinforce the perceptions that brought protesters to the streets in the first place,” she noted.

HRW said it interviewed 54 people about how the crackdowns unfolded and how the victims were affected between October 2020 and August 2021, including victims and their families, protesters, protest supporters, representatives of civil society groups, medical service providers, political analysts, and journalists.

The rights group also sent letters to the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Army, requesting information and asking questions about officers’ behavior during the protests, but has yet to receive a response.

The statement read, “Despite the slow progress, justice could still be achieved, but the full cooperation and support of the federal government, the Lagos State government, and the Nigerian military and police force will be critical.

“Officers who have been summoned by the panel should testify and answer necessary questions, and the Lagos State government should also commit to releasing the full report of the panel’s findings and recommendations

 The federal government should then ensure that those implicated in abuses against protesters, including as a matter of command responsibility, are brought to justice.

“Beyond accountability for abuses during the #EndSARS protests, the authorities should tackle the systemic problems that foster a culture of impunity in the security sector and push forward comprehensive and meaningful reforms to end the abuses and injustices Nigerians have long experienced.”

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