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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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01:04

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Encounters with Nigerian police: Lanre’s story

Illustration by Ngadi Smart

To honor the #EndSARS movement, Sahelien.com has solicited stories of encounters with Nigerian police, and commissioned artist Ngadi Smart to illustrate them. These stories show the everyday horror Nigerians face at the hands of the police, and the courage citizens show in resisting their brutality. We will publish a new account every Sunday.

Lanre’s story:

“It was a Saturday morning in April, 2017. I was sitting and chatting with my wife in the living room of our home when a hefty man with an AK-47 burst in wearing a black shirt polo with a police inscription written on it, and a pair of crazy jeans.

They had just arrested two undergraduate students coming out of a Domino’s pizza shop, and followed them back to their house which happens to be where I also stay. On getting to our building, they discovered it was a newly completed apartment complex. They searched all the apartments and only few of us were at home. The chose my house because my co-tenant was one those arrested exiting the Domino’s.

Once inside, he immediately spotted my laptop on the center table. He quickly called me an internet fraudster. When I argued with him that I wasn’t a fraudster but a graphic designer, he gave me a hot slap. When I told him I was also learning how to build and design a website, he started punching me, and my wife began screaming loud, yelling “Help! Help!”

Her screaming alerted two of his colleagues outside. Though he stopped beating me, the three of them stuffed me in a rickety vehicle along with two of my neighbors, who were undergraduates then.

We were taken to Zone 2 command in Okeilewo Abeokuta, Ogun State, where the police insisted I was an internet fraudster and ordered me to say so, despite the fact that they went through my phone and laptop and found no evidence of the said offence. They then took me to a torture room where I was tortured to admit that I was an internet fraudster. I succumbed to their torture, accepted the charge, and paid a total of N40,000 to be free of the crime I didn’t commit. It was an ugly experience.”

* * *

On October 20, 2020, the Nigerian military opened fire on peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, Nigeria, killing at least 15 people, according to eyewitness DJ Switch. The massacre put a brutal halt to street protests that had galvanized the nation for two weeks following the brutal killing of a man in Ughelli, Delta State, on October 7th by officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The protests demanding an end to police brutality and a disbanding of SARS had grown organically and spread across the nation and in diaspora communities around the world, creating a powerful rallying point for dynamic, generational change. In the words of Saratu Abiola, “#EndSARS broke the cycle of mistrust and showed that there might still be hope for salvaging Nigerians’ faith in each other.”

December 20 marks the two-month anniversary of the Lekki Massacre. To this date, no police officer, soldier, or public official has even lost their job, much less been held accountable for their part in the massacre.