#ENDSARS trauma and cases of police brutality
Written by Taiwo Adediran on December 19, 2020
“Growing up, I had never lost anyone that made me feel like a part of me had left me, but when I lost Kolade, I knew that something left me. I remember during his burial, when some media houses wanted me to grant interviews, I couldn’t talk. Every time I would open my mouth, Id just cry”
Endurance Okosun; tall and lean, a young man in his mid thirties, spoke extensively for the first time about the nationally publicized death of his friend; Kolade Johnson over a year ago in March, 2019.
Kolade; a 35 year old man was killed at a viewing center in Lagos on Sunday, March 31, 2019 by an officer of a police unit, who were attempting to arrest another man because of his dreadlocks in the Mangoro area of Lagos state. His death elicited a national outrage and the return of the #EndSARS campaign to public consciousness at the time. His killer was immediately dismissed and arraigned in court. Speaking about this for him appears therapeutically now, but it took a while for him to get here.
His story bears similarities to tales narrated by a growing number Nigeria’s youth dealing with post event trauma by a young man affected indirectly by Police brutality in its aftermath, and In this documentary titled “Finding Closure”, Babatunde Okunlola investigates victim trauma in the face of allegations of police brutality in Nigeria and efforts being put in place to prevent occurrences.
The documentary also explores the issue of mental health of Nigerians, in the week following the two weeks of the #Endsars protests in October, 2020 which saw tens of thousands of people protesting on the streets of Nigeria, with signs and voices raised in solidarity around the world; a movement which resulted in the disbandment of the Special Anti-robbery squad (SARS); a unit accused of abuses and misconducts, against Nigerians. A climax of the protest occurred on the 20th October, 2020 with the #Lekkitollgateshootings which involved videos and photos being widely shared, depicting gory scenes of protesters being shot at. The Nigerian army has since vehemently denied involvement in the shootings and investigations continue. However, the unintended end result was both direct and indirect trauma.
Dr Jubril Abdulmalik ; a consultant psychiatrist and founder of the Asido foundation; a non-profit mental health advocacy organization, and one of a few such organizations working on promoting better understanding of mental issues to Nigerians when asked about the mental health industry in the country’s experiences in dealing with clients during the #Endsars protests period said:
“Many people did not sleep that night. They were not there in Lekki, but even people in the US and other parts of the world were calling. They were very upset. The quantum number that was traumatized was in millions.”
Speaking further on the data of calls received by the Asido foundation’s between the time of the protest and a month afterwards he says:
“On an average in a month, we get about 20 to 30 calls thereabout. That’s an average of about one to two calls per day, but the week after the Lekki shootings we had 87, and don’t forget that we aren’t the only ones with help lines. Other organization has help lines too. As at 21st of November; about a month since the incident, we’ve had 214 calls. 80% of those calls were traumatized individuals calling as a result of the protests aftermath. The conversations revolve around not being able to sleep, being afraid to go out, and feeling panic at the sight of a policeman or a gun and so on”
During the #Endsars protests, deaths involving stray bullets which were alleged to have been shot by the police while trying to disperse crowds were reported across the country. In a now nationally publicized case, on the 10th Oct 2020, Jimoh Isiaka; a bystander was shot in Ogbomosho in Oyo State, southwest Nigeria, during the face-off between policemen trying to disperse #EndSARS protesters. He later died from the resulting injuries. Eyewitnesses allege that, police officers used live bullets to disperse the crowd and in the process, Jimoh was hit. The police deny firing shots.
Kazeem Jimoh; the first born of the Jimoh family, and elder brother to late Isiaka who spoke on behalf of his aged parents, 40 day since the tragic incident occurred speaks on the trauma that the family has since had to deal with. He says:
“We need some psychiatric help for my mother. Everyone knows how mothers feel about their children. Since this thing happened she hasn’t been well. This Isiaka was our last born. It’s very painful to her. When she thinks about the promises Isiaka made, she feels somehow. Anyone who wants to help us is welcome”
The documentary “Finding Closure”, Babatunde Okunlola further brings the tales of how individuals affected directly or indirectly are seeking closure on the issue of mental health and trauma brought on as a result of police brutality in Nigeria, which the President of Nigeria, on 11th October, 2020, while announcing the disbandment of the SARS and giving an assurance on investigating Jimoh Isiaka’s death, had promised to address the “genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force and in some cases extra-judicial killings and wrongful conduct by some men of the Nigerian police force”
The documentary wraps up with a look at the establishment of panels of judicial enquiries set up to try police officers who have been involved in cases of human rights abuses and to give justice to victims and their families, one of which is Okoliagu Abudike, a father of five, who sought justice for what he said was a 47-day detention in 2012 at the hands of SARS officers that came after his boss accused him of theft, and the desired and expected outcomes of it all from survivors who continue to find closure as well as conversations with legal experts, the police itself, victims and families, dealing with post event trauma, and hoping to find closure form it all.
The documentary “Finding Closure” was presented and produced by me Babatunde Okunlola and supported by the Civic hive; an initiative of the Budgit foundation, Nigeria.
Listen below or click on link to listen