By Angela Atabo
Coalition Of Human Rights Groups on Sunday condemned what it called “the use of violence” on EndSars protesters, saying that violent reprisal attacks on peaceful protesters constitute dangerous assaults on citizens’ constitutional rights.
The coalition made this known at a news conference on the state of the nation on the violent repression of peaceful #EndSARS protesters across the country.
Ms Idayat Hassan, one of the conveners, alleged that so far, the group has confirmed that at least 13 persons had been extra judicially killed in the course of the peaceful protest.
She alleged that Oyo state recorded four deaths, Edo, two; Ondo, one; Osun, two; and Lagos four, in addition to attacks on peaceful assemblies in Oyo, Lagos, Edo, Plateau, Anambra, FCT, Kano and Osun states.
NAN recalls that the Nigerian Army on Saturday announced the commencement of a nationwide “cyberwarfare” operation, as protests against police brutality continue across the country.
The army said the operation will be under the banner of “Exercise Crocodile Smile”, an annual exercise which traditionally holds in the last quarter of the year.
In reaction to the announcement by the military, the NGOs said: “We strongly condemn the ‘thinly-veiled’ threat issued by the Military High Command,” alleging that “this unacceptable move” is being made to crush the peaceful protests.”
Hassan said that in the last two weeks, cities across Nigeria had been rocked by protests and agitations.
She said that the clarion call as reflected in the voices of young Nigerians is for an end to police brutality and all related abuses.
She said 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.
Hassan said “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 organization and mobilization of popular anger.
“Police brutality in particular, and the brutality of security, armed forces, and law enforcement agents towards citizens, in general, is a reality that cannot be contradicted.
Hassan said because the movement is exercising universally-recognised and constitutionally-guaranteed rights, the movement should be protected and not repressed.
Ms Abiodun Baiyewu, another convener, said that the group joined Nigerian youths to demand accountability for previous, current, and continuing acts of the brutalisation of citizens.
Baiyewu said that offending officers should be identified, investigated, prosecuted, and punished. “We demand that a mechanism be put in place to identify all previous and current victims of police brutality, to ensure that they get justice, including compensations.”
She added that the group also wants all those arrested during the protest to be released unconditionally, and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute and summon an emergency and inaugural meeting of the Nigeria Police Council (NPC) as provided for in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“We demand that the government should move beyond cosmetic approaches in its response to the yearnings of protesting citizens. You should speedily implement key first steps, including the expeditious public trial of police officers, accused with evidence and found to have perpetrated crimes, including extra-judicial killings.”
She added that an independent and multi-stakeholders’ committee, including the acknowledged representatives of the protesting youths, among others, be constituted, to oversee the implementation, monitoring and assessment of the implementation of the Police Act 2020 as the basis for undertaking the institutional and systemic reforms that are urgently needed.
“Finally, as we reject the repression of the protests, we commend millions of Nigerian youths who have defied the odds to make their voices heard,” she said.
“This is just the beginning as we stand with Nigerian youths who have taken leadership to demand accountability and a better Nigeria.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 30 coalitions included Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa), Enough is Enough (EIE) and Partners for Electoral Reform.
Others are Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Centre for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD), Yiaga Africa, Global Rights, Project Alert, among others. (NAN)