Nigeria: Attacks On #EndSARS Protesters Dangerous, Unconstitutional, CSOs Warn

20 October 2020

A coalition of civil society organisations has condemned the attacks launched against protesters, demanding an end to police brutality and all related abuses nationwide.

In the last two weeks, thousands of Nigerian youth have taken to the streets to express their grievances.

The peaceful protest is fast yielding results with the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and setting up a judicial panel of enquiry by state governments.

"For the avoidance of doubt, these protests are legitimate, and young people who ignited the movement have a right to express their grievances using the weapon of protest," the groups stated.

This was contained in a statement signed by Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa), Enough is Enough (EIE), Partners for Electoral Reform, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Centre for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD), Yiaga Africa and ten others.

The coalition noted that the protest is an affirmation of citizen's readiness to resist bad governance in all its ramifications.

"The accumulated anger of citizens over decades of failure in the delivery of basic social services, endemic corruption, and impunity of political office holders has precipitated distrust of, and lack of confidence in the state and its institutions. These frustrations are visible in the pent-up anger, which has been boiling over in mass street protests in cities across the country.

"Collectively, we affirm the validity of the protests, and the grievances driving the organisation and mobilisation of popular anger. Police brutality in particular, and the brutality of security, armed forces, and law enforcement agents towards citizens, in general, is a fact and a reality that cannot be contradicted."

However, the groups condemned the subtle threat issued by the Nigerian Army, saying the move is being made to crush the peaceful protests.

"Such a threat is ill-conceived in the face of legitimate citizens' protest and a threat to constitutionally guaranteed rights. We call on the military to immediately withdraw its ill-advised attempt to undermine the constitutional freedom of citizens to voice their displeasure about the state of the country.

"We reject in its entirety the move to draft in the military to quell the protests, even where there has been no violent conduct on the part of protesters. The military should remain in their barracks and at their duty posts, defending the territorial integrity of the country, and not deployed in a dangerous anti-people and anti-democratic operation to crush a people who are exercising their right to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly.

"We must reiterate here that the practice of dehumanising citizens and stripping them of their dignity, which has become ingrained in the security and defence sectors, is a manifestation of the institutional decay and systemic crisis of governance, and is a measure of the failure of political leadership by Nigeria's ruling class.

"This is why what is expected of any responsible government, political leadership, and ruling class, is to step back and reflect and to undertake a radical overhaul and comprehensive, root and branch reform, of the police and policing, of the security and law enforcement agencies, as well as of the armed forces."

The coalition also demanded accountability for previous, current, and ongoing acts of the brutalisation of citizens from the government and its agencies; offending officers must be identified, investigated, prosecuted, and punished and that a mechanism is put in place to identify all previous and current victims of police brutality, to ensure that they get justice, including compensations.

Other demands include the unconditional release of those arrested during the ongoing protest and that the president constitutes and summons an emergency and inaugural meeting of the Nigeria Police Council [NPC] provided for in the 1999 CFRN [as amended].

Address Nigerians now, ActionAid tells Buhari

ActionAid Nigeria has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address the citizens as a matter of urgency.

The civil society organisation noted the hijacking by unknown elements with unending attacks on peaceful protesters.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported the attack on the governor of Osun State; the prison break, and destruction of government properties in Edo State and the multitude of cars burnt in Apo, Abuja.

All these calls for concern and swift action before the situation degenerates into full swing anarchy, AAN says in a statement signed by its country director in Nigeria, Ene Obi.

"ActionAid Nigeria therefore calls on President Muhammadu Buhari, to fully address the nation in a national broadcast as a ather, leader, and the President of Nigeria, with the mandate of the people to manage the affairs of the country and give clear-cut responses to the demands of the protesters before it is too late. Nigerians anticipate clear plans, timelines, and commitments, which will be in form of a pact with the citizens."

"The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, should see this as an opportunity to write his name in the sands of time by starting the process of transforming this country especially by responding to the demands of citizens."

The organisation also called on security agencies to keep securing the streets to get "unscrupulous elements with illegitimate interests off the peaceful protests, while respecting the rights of peaceful protesters."

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