- #EndSARS protesters in Nigeria have called for new demonstrations on Saturday.
- The #EndSARS protests turned deadly in 2020 after the shooting in Lagos and a wave of looting and unrest.
- Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed warned that violence will not be tolerated this time.
Nigeria’s government on Thursday warned against weekend protests in Lagos to demand justice for victims of a deadly shooting during demonstrations last year.
Youth-led protests against police brutality and bad governance brought Africa’s largest city to a standstill in October in a campaign that won support from many high-profile celebrities.
Activists have called on social media for new protests on Saturday after a judicial panel authorised the reopening of the city’s giant Lekki tollgate, where security forces shot at peaceful protesters in October.
The #EndSARS protests, named after the SARS police force accused of abuses, spread last year even after the unit was disbanded and the government promised reforms.
The demonstrations ended abruptly after the shooting in Lagos and a wave of looting and unrest followed.
Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said peaceful protests were a constitutional right but warned of the risk that the weekend rallies could descend into violence in the name of justice.
“Any further resort to violence in the name of EndSars will not be tolerated this time. The security agents are ready for any eventuality,” he said.
“We therefore strongly warn those who are planning to re-occupy Lekki Toll Gate on Saturday to desist.”
Lagos police authorities also said protests would not be allowed, local media reported.
After October’s deadly shooting, the United Nations, African Union, European Union and Britain urged the authorities to refrain from using excessive force.
An investigation into last year’s violence at Lekki has stalled with representatives of the armed forces failing to appear before the panel.
Security forces say they only used blank rounds to break up protesters who had defied a curfew, though Amnesty International said soldiers shot dead at least 10 people.
The company in charge of the tollgate had stopped working, but the judicial panel launched by the state of Lagos said it could resume its work.
Protesters, angry at the decision to restart activities at a symbolic site where unarmed civilians died, have called for fresh protests.
“No Justice, No Re-Opening. You can’t open a tollgate where victims of state-sanctioned murder are yet to get justice,” was a slogan widely shared on social media this week.
Some are worried that the protest could be used as an excuse to loot properties and have called for a counter-protest to take place on Saturday at Lekki, with the hashtag “DefendLagos” also trending on social platforms.