Widespread protests against Nigeria’s police brutality and bad governance have turned violent as demonstrators have been attacked by armed gangs in the streets of several cities, according to media reports.
According to Amnesty International, which accuses the police of using excessive force against the demonstrators, since the protests began more than a week ago, at least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured.
Provoked by these reported killings of protesters by armed thugs clearly sponsored by armed security forces and the central government, the Pro-Democracy and leading civil rights advocacy group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked the United States government to designate the current federal administration in Abuja as a State sponsor of terror and take steps to stop the state sponsored terror attacks against civilian protesters.
HURIWA, in a statement by the National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko in Abuja on Wednesday frowned that Nigerian government has responded to the overwhelmingly peaceful protests against Police brutality with more violence and abuse.
HURIWA grimaced that in response to the nationwide protests, which had begun on October 8, 2020, calling on the authorities to abolish an abusive police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS); the police have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, killing and wounding many just as the right group revealed that sponsored armed thugs have also disrupted protests and attacked protesters.
HURIWA expressed worries particularly over the incident which happened in Abuja on Tuesday wherein armed thugs some of whom were seen bearing sophisticated weapons attacking peaceful protesters were captured on video being ferried by security officials of government and police.
More so, that in many incidents of these attacks, policemen, who had been keeping vigil on the protesters, looked the other way when the hoodlums started attacking demonstrators. “Since last week, protesters in Lagos and Abuja have faced vicious attacks from hoodlums who were usually conveyed in buses. There were reports of severe injuries during these attacks.
“The attacks usually occur in the presence of the policemen and other security agencies that are detailed to monitor the protest, yet failed to intervene to stop the attacks. We demand that the authorities protect protesters from such attacks. Protest is a human right”, the rights group expressed. The Group also called for independent investigation into the Nigerian Army’s alleged attacks that targeted peaceful protesters in LEKKI Toll Gates in which scores of innocent youths were gunned down.
Furthermore, the Group averred that people exercising their right to protest and calling for an end to police brutality are themselves being brutalized and harassed by those who should protect them, while adding that it underscores the importance of the protesters’ demands and the culture of impunity across the policing system, which is in dire need of reform.
“It is hypocritical for the Federal government to use public fund to hire jobless street touts to attack peaceful protesters who are carrying out their legal civil rights of protests as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other plethora of international treaties that Nigeria is a signatory to. The aim is to create a State of unrest so as to provide an ill-defined platform to declare a nationwide state of emergency.” HURIWA said.
As well, HURIWA accused government of deploying these biased practices by paying persons believed to be from the North to instigate street fights against peaceful marchers who the government and its supporters are alleging to be against the North.
Broadly, HURIWA remarked that peaceful protests are legal and constitutional based on a plethora of human rights laws and provisions of Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution in Section 39 (1) which provided thus: Every person shall be entitled to freedom to expression, including freedom to hold opinions and receive and impart idea and information without interference, while Section 40 provides that every person shall be entitled to assembly freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests.
“Also, Section 41 (1) of Constitution provides that every Citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.”
Therefore, HURIWA condemned what it described as state sponsored terrorism against peaceful protesters and called on the USA, CANADA, UK and EU to impose travel ban on President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and all state officials who are heading all the segment of the security forces for colluding and funding terror attacks against civilian protesters.
According to the group, “unnecessary overheating of the polity by turning the peaceful processions to violence, lopsidedness against ethnicity or regional sentiments, religious bigotry will lead to regrettable circumstances that can trigger Mali scenarios.
Condeming the reported killings of dozens of peaceful protesters in LEKKI Toll Gates by the Nigerian Army, the frontline Civil Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) recalled that under the International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly, the actions of the Army was atrocious, illegal and amounts to crimes against humanity which must be adjudicated upon by the municipal legal forum or the International Criminal court in The Hague NETHERLANDS because Nigeria is a state party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Nigeria is not a state party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the state has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Nigeria is a state party to the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 11 provides as follows:
Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.
Nigeria is a state party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but has not allowed the right of petition to the Court by individuals and non-governmental organisations.