An anonymous semimonthly series where real people share their interesting life stories and experiences.
The subject of today’s article isn’t anonymous. As the #EndSars protests continue around the country, 21 had a quick chat with Naomi Offor (@ixxuvi) who has been at the frontline, protesting against police brutality at the Lekki Ikoyi and Lekki VI tolls.
The End Sars protests have been going on across the country for almost a week now, what area have you been protesting?
“I have been protesting at the Lekki toll, and the Lekki Ikoyi link bridge.”
How early do you leave your house to protest? And how long are you usually there for?
“Sometimes, I leave my house around 7AM and leave the protest by 4PM, so i spend about 8 hours there.”
While protesting, have you or anyone you know been harassed by the police?
“No, we have not been harassed by the police thankfully.”
While protesting, have you or anyone you know been harassed by other protesters?
“I haven’t been, but I heard a girl got harassed by a protester and thankfully was identified and got beat up.”
What are some of your safety tips when going to protest?
“I always make sure I wear comfortable clothes that I can be flexible and comfortable in. I carry a hand sanitizer and extra masks because there’s still Covid. I make sure I carry my ID card, some cash and a bandana just incase of tear gas. I also make sure I share my location on WhatsApp with a friend.”
Can you walk us through what protesting at the Lekki tolls is like – how has your experience been?
“It’s been peaceful so far. We’ve had some officers watch over us a couple times.
It’s scary seeing them holding tear gas and loaded guns, especially knowing that they have trigger happy fingers, but thankfully it’s been peaceful. It’s also a lot more organized, we’ve got mobile toilets, ambulances, we’ve got a lot of water and food. We even have a DJ.”
Have you ever been harassed by Sars? If yes, please share your story with us.
“I have been harassed by SARS a couple times. It’s always a different experience with them. There’s always that fear that comes when you’re on the road at night and you know they’re somewhere lurking. One time my friends and I were on our way back from an event, we passed a road inside V.I and immediately we got stopped by a group of men in casual clothes. They told us to open our boot and they also searched our bags. They took my friend’s phone and said they wanted to go through it and check for a particular app because they thought he was a fraud boy.
We were so confused about the whole situation because we didn’t know what to expect, usually they’d just search my bag and let me go when they don’t find anything, but this was the first time they had told us all to get down from the car. I was scared because one of them didn’t want to listen to us, he just wanted us to go straight into their van for absolutely no reason. He was so angry when we challenged him and he actually cocked his gun at us when we started getting frustrated with the whole situation.
I really thought he was going to shoot but his colleague calmed him down. When they didn’t find anything, they tried to harass us to get some money out of us but at the end of the day they let us go.
I have too many stories to be honest.”
Nigerian women always show up when it comes to protesting for a good cause. Would you say the protests so far has been successful?
“Yes, for sure. We’ve seen a lot of feminists take control in the sense that women have been the voice of the End SARS movement in some protests. Women have also been the ones doing the organizing in terms of looking for lawyers, getting us ambulances and helping them release protesters that have been arrested.”
What do you hope to come out of these protests, what change do you hope to see?
“We don’t want a team of men on the road harassing, raping and killing us. We don’t need them on the streets, they can go fight against Boko Haram instead of harassing us. The system is already rigged and we’re only just trying to fix it little by little. As far as I’m concerned this is only the first step. We want justice for all the lives that have been taken by SARS. Let them face the judgement for taking a life without justification. They all need to be charged for their heinous crimes. We also need a proper system in the police force.
We need proper documentation in terms of processing people who have been arrested because so many people who are taken innocently are just lost in the system now. We need the people recruited into the police force to go through proper training and also a psych evaluation.”
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