Nigeria: Global Voices At #endsars Protest

30 October 2020

Chiemelie Ezeobi, Mary Nnah, Rebecca Ejifoma and Chiamaka Ozulumba write that the #EndSARS movement drew global and local support while the subsequent violence and deaths garnered condemnation

From Switzerland to Auckland, United Kingdom, Australia, France, England, United States, South Africa, Canada, Berlin, Toronto, New York, Geneva, London, Houston, Paris, Dublin, Germany, Finland, Czech, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, India, and several others, the global support for the #EndSARS movement was momentous.

Aside from political figures, nations and unions, the aftermath of the protest which was occasioned by disproportionate use of force on protesters, also drew global condemnation from renowned figures including Pop stars Beyonce, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, Treyz Song, Kanye West, Gabrielle Union, Lewis Hamilton, and Noami Campbell.

Also, other well-known global entertainment figures like Diddy, Chance the Rapper, Lil Baby, Damson Idris, City Girls, and even Nigeria's own international figure, John Boyega, lent their voices to the cause with most of them using the #EndSARS.

Nigeria's Manchester United player, Jude Ighodalo also lent his voice which afterwards led to his colleagues, Manchester United striker, Marcus Rashford and Arsenal forward Mesut Ozil joining the campaign.

In their reaction to the incident, the African Union (AU) called on Nigerians to choose dialogue over violence in the ongoing #EndSARS impasse in the country. The AU commission chairperson, Moussa Mahamat, also condemned the violence that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries in Lekki.

Also, while suing for peace, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appealed to FG, youths and the civil society to urgently pursue dialogue for an early and amicable resolution of this social unrest, thus "maintain the Nigerian image as a bastion of law and order".

The European Union (EU) in a statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell' said it was looking forward to seeing the sort of reforms that would be put in place to ensure police reforms, while noting that it was alarmed to learn that several people have been killed and injured, adding that it is crucial that those responsible for abuses be brought to justice and held accountable.

The United States government in a statement issued by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, condemned the use of excessive force by military forces.

Calling for an immediate investigation, he said those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law, adding that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles.

Also, the Swedish Government through its embassy said the use of disproportionate force by security forces at the #LekkiTollgate seemingly resulting in deaths of some #EndSARS protesters was of concern.

Emphasising on the respect for HumanRights and peaceful demonstrations, they urged security forces to exercise restraint, just as they tasked the government to urgently investigate the incident.

Also, US Presidential Candidate and former Vice President, Joe Biden, urged the US to stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy, just as he charged President Buhari and the military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths.

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres condemned the escalation of violence in Lagos, Nigeria, adding that demonstrations must be peaceful, just as there was need for an end to reported police brutality and abuses. He added that authorities must investigate these incidents and hold perpetrators accountable.

Former US Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton also joined the world to condemn the attack on unarmed protesters and charged the president and army to stop killing young protesters.

Deputy Secretary-general of the UN Amina Mohammed stressed the importance of respect for peaceful protests and freedom of assembly and call on the security forces to exercise maximum restraint.

Lending its voice, the Canadian Government stated that those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable, adding that it was concerned about the excessive use of force on protesters.

Also the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing encouraged the authorities to restore calm and act to ensure accountability for acts of violence, particularly any involving security forces.

The African Bar Association said it would file criminal complaints against the federal government before international bodies over the shooting of peaceful protesters in Lagos. The association said this in a statement by its President, Hannibal Uwaifo.

According to the statement: "This devilish action which has resulted in the killings and maiming of unarmed peaceful protesters in Lagos is not only a violation of international law but constitutes criminal acts for which those responsible will be held accountable in due course.

"The African Bar Association is totally disappointed in the government of Nigeria who instead of wholly addressing the germane issues raised by the protesting youths chose to adopt Gestapo tactics infiltrating the ranks of peaceful protesters with hired mercenaries and thugs who attacked the protesters in order to create a scene of chaos.

"The African Bar Association will immediately file formal Criminal complaints before appropriate international bodies to open an international inquiry into the irresponsible behaviour of the Nigerian government masquerading as a democracy."

Also, the International Criminal Court said it has received reports of crimes during the #EndSARS protests and are monitoring developments from the events in Nigeria.

This was disclosed by ICC Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, in a statement shared via its Twitter handle which read: "Any loss of life and injury is concerning. We have received information alleging crimes and are keeping a close eye on developments, in case violence escalates and any indications arise that Rome Statute crimes may have been committed."

The court was acting on a petition sent by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). They urged Bensouda to push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.

Lending its voice to the clamour, Amnesty International lamented that police torture is a stain on Nigerian society that must be addressed with clear orders to law enforcement officers not to inflict torture or other ill-treatment on detainees under any circumstances.

In series of tweets they said: "There is much compelling public evidence of human rights violations committed by SARS, some of it directly documented by Amnesty International, and this should be used to aid an effective investigation into the unit's crimes.

"All the Nigerian authorities' promises of 'reforming' SARS have, so far, proven to be empty and ineffective. Restructuring SARS is not enough unless the government takes concrete steps to protect Nigerians.

"Because of the corruption in Nigerian police @PoliceNG all Nigerian government's previous attempts at stamping out torture have proven completely ineffective and clearly impossible."

They were also vocal about the killings during and after the protests, with repeated calls for justice and punishment for defaulting security operatives.

On the Lekki shooting, they recently released a new timeline investigating the atrocity. "The timeline collates photographs and video footage to confirm that Nigerian Army vehicles left Bonny Camp, a military base approximately a seven-minute drive from the toll gate, at 6:29pm local time on 20 October.

"Footage then tracks the vehicles to the toll gate. At approximately 6:45pm, the Nigerian military opened fire on the #EndSars protesters who were peacefully calling for an end to police brutality.

"What happened at Lekki Toll Gate has all the traits of the Nigerian authorities' pattern of a cover-up whenever their defence and security forces commit unlawful killings", said Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International.

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