Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have expressed disappointment that several hours after alleged Nigerian Soldiers opened fire on unarmed peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate, Lagos, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, is yet to assuage citizens’ anxiety and anger, and has failed to assure of his administration’s control over the situation.
In a statement signed by the four CSOs—Connected Development (CODE), TechHerNG, The Interactive Initiative for Social Impact (Dataphyte,Accountability Lab Nigeria, and SPACES FOR CHANGE, they noted that the President’s silence is not only worrisome, but a mockery of democractic practices.
“Over the last two weeks, scores have died as thousands of protesters hit the streets all across Nigeria to demand an end to the assaults and unjust killings of the youths by the rogue Police Unit-Special Anti-Robbery Squad— but peaceful demonstrations against police brutality were cracked down on with aggressive response and shootings unleashed by the same security officials accused of heavy-handedness.
“As peaceful protests continued across Nigerian cities for more demands to be met, scores of people have been killed, injured, arrested and assaulted. More horrifying is the brazen killing of dozens of innocent unarmed youths by alleged staff of the Nigerian Army”, they said.
The CSO coalition strongly condemned the undemocratic, heinous and barbaric acts against humanity.
They further noted, “The #EndSARS social movement is demanding justice for the victims of police brutality, rape, torture and extrajudicial killings by SARS-people are fighting for the right to lives, yet peaceful protests were disrupted by police violence, mass arrests, targeted shooting and the criminalisation of the protests itself.
“This coalition calls on the International Criminal court (ICC) to promptly investigate and prosecute public officials (political, military and police leadership) found to have sponsored the violence against the peaceful #EndSARS Protesters which fall within the “Crimes Against Humanity” pursuant to the Rome Statute.
“Without further delay, President Buhari must call for an inquiry and order the attorney general to sack/ prosecute those officers who are responsible for the killings or set up/institute a committee to investigate. The National Assembly must also order the investigation of these atrocious killings perpetrated by state actors against her citizens in lieu of the #EndSARS Protest”, they added.
They further noted that Security is one of the prevalent challenges confronting the nation’s growth despite having more than 370,000 police officers in Nigeria and a police-to-citizen ratio of 1 to 400, which more than meets the United Nation’s recommended figure, the nation’s security challenges continue to worsen.
Although President Buhari assented to a new Police Bill in September 2020, replacing the Police Act of 1943, this indicates how the Nigerian citizenry have been poorly-served. Still, the Bill contained no details of the timeline for reforming units such as SARS.
“We are aggrieved by all that has happened recently in Nigeria and stand in solidarity with our fellow Nigerians. We commend the resilience of citizens who took to the streets to protest and decry alarming police brutality, assaults and wanton killing SARS.
“At this time, as the nation heals, we urge citizens to please be calm, observe the curfew imposed by the government and be safe. We will continue to demand justice and will not rest until perpetrators face the wrath of the law”, they ended.