Tuesday’s killing of peaceful #EndSARS protesters across the country generated strong condemnation by eminent Nigerians and international bodies on Wednesday.
Protests by youths demanding the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police, which began on October 8, assumed a violent dimension last week when hoodlums and security agents started attacking protesters.
On Tuesday, the violence escalated when soldiers and policemen, as well as hoodlums, killed no fewer than 43 protesters. Six policemen also lost their lives in the crisis.
Those, who commented on the killings, berated the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for deploying armed security agents against unarmed protesters.
Demand soldiers’ withdrawal, Soyinka advises govs, says army must apologise
Condemning the killings, an elder statesman, Prof. Wole Soyinka, called on governors in states where there were protests to immediately demand the withdrawal of soldiers deployed by the Federal Government.
The playwright made the call in a statement issued on Wednesday from his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The statement was titled, ‘DÉJÀ VU – In tragic vein.’
The Nobel laureate said, “To the affected governors all over the nation, there is one immediate step to take: demand the withdrawal of those soldiers. Convoke town hall meetings as a matter of urgency. 24-hour curfews are not the solution. Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage. Substitute community self-policing based on local councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism. We commiserate with the bereaved and urge state governments to compensate material losses, wherever.”
He also said the army must apologise, not merely to the nation but to the global community – “the facts are indisputable – you, the military, opened fire on unarmed civilians. There has to be structured restitution and assurance that such aberrations will not again be recorded.”
Act now before it’s too late, Obasanjo’s tells Buhari
On his part, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote an open letter to the President on the killings, urging him to act fast before it was too late.
Obasanjo accused Buhari and the military of not exhausting all options before they used force against the protesters.
He said, “Great harm has been done, but it can be stopped before it completely spirals out of control.”
The former president, in the letter, titled ‘statement on violence against protesters in Nigeria: An appeal for calm,’ he personally, signed, urged Buhari to withdraw soldiers from streets and engage protesters in dialogues.
While blaming the President for the murder of the protesters at Lekki and other parts of the country, Obasanjo said the shooting of unarmed protesters had never been effective in suppressing public anger.
He also said, “Most of the demands of the protesting youth, which Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State swiftly took to the President, are not unreasonable and can be met without anyone’s political interest or ambition being threatened.”
Obasanjo also advised the youth to eschew violence , advising them to give peace a chance and stop destruction of public property and targeting individuals.
NBA to institute local and international actions against FG
The Nigerian Bar Association condemned the killings and said it had begun local and international actions against the Federal Government.
The NBA President, Mr Olumide Akpata, asked the Nigerian Army to immediately identify the soldiers who carried out the attack and dismiss them from service.
He said suits would be initiated by the NBA on behalf of the families of the victims, “for abuse of power, disregard of rules of engagement and the infringement of the fundamental rights (including right to life) of the affected citizens”.
Akpata said these in a statement titled, ‘Nigerian Bar Association condemns the killing of peaceful #EndSARS protesters in Lagos by the Nigerian military.’
He also said the association would immediately commence legal actions against the Nigerian government and the Army at both international and local fora.
According to him, the protesters’ act of misdemeanour of a breach of the curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government did not warrant the use of live ammunition by the military to confront otherwise peaceful, unarmed and defenseless protesters.
“The military high command is hereby requested to immediately identify and name the officers involved in this gross professional misconduct for immediate prosecution and dismissal in line with extant laws,” he added.
The NBA has scheduled an emergency meeting of its national executive committee for Thursday.
The General Secretary of the NBA, Joyce Oduah, on Wednesday issued the ‘notice of Nigerian Bar Association national executive committee meeting’.
Listed as the agenda of the meeting which she stated would hold virtually are, “the state of the nation” and “any other business.”
The notice was addressed to ‘All statutory members’ of the association which she listed as including the national officers, past presidents, and past general secretaries, branch chairmen.
The rest are, branch secretaries, branch NEC Representatives, and chairmen and secretaries of sections of the associations.
“There will be an Emergency National Executive Committee Meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association on the date and at the time specified hereunder.
“The meeting shall be held virtually and members would be sent the link for the meeting.”
Stop attack on protesters, Biden tells Buhari, Army
In the United States, the Democratic Presidential candidate in the upcoming United States election, Joe Biden, called on Buhari and the military to stop the violent crackdown on protesters.
The former American Vice-President said this in a statement titled, ‘Violence in Nigeria – Statement by Vice President Joe Biden’ on Wednesday.
Biden said the United States must stand with Nigerians who were peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption.
The statement read, “I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence.
“The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy. I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”
In the United Kingdom, lawmakers discussed the killings on the floor of the parliament.
A member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth, Stephen Doughty, who is also the Shadow Foreign Affairs and International Development Minister, tweeted a short video on Twitter saying, “I raised the shocking killings of #EndSARS protesters of Lagos Nigeria Lekki tollgate this morning in the House of Commons with the Minister, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Nigel Adams.
“I am horrified by the reports I am receiving. The UK Government must urgently raise it at the highest levels with Nigeria.”
In the video which is about 39 seconds, Doughty said Amnesty International and former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had condemned the killings and the UK must not remain silent despite the robust relationship it has with Nigeria.
No fewer than 150,000 individuals have signed a petition asking the UK to sanction members of the Nigerian government and police force for human rights abuses over the #EndSARS movement.
The petition, which was created by one Silas Ojo, sought to generate 100,000 signatures.
According to information obtained from the website, any petition signed by over 100,000 individuals will be discussed.
Also condemning the killings, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for an end to police brutality and attack on #EndSARS protesters.
The UN secretary, who said he was following the developments in the country, criticized the killing of activists, demanding police reforms in Lagos and other parts of the nation on Tuesday.
Guterres in a statement on Wednesday also expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
He called on the authorities to investigate the incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable.
The statement read, “The Secretary-General is following recent developments in Nigeria and calls for an end to reported police brutality and abuses.
“He condemns the violent escalation on October 20 in Lagos which resulted in multiple deaths and caused many injuries.
“The Secretary-General urges the security forces to act at all times with maximum restraint while calling on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence.”
Perpetrators must be brought to book – EU
The European Union said it was shocked by the killings in the wake of the #EndSARS protests.
The EU said this in a statement titled, ‘Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell’ on Wednesday.
It said it was looking forward to seeing the sort of reforms that would be put in place to ensure police reforms.
The statement read, “It is crucial that those responsible for abuses be brought to justice and held accountable.”
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party accused Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress of complicity in the killing of unarmed #EndSARS protesters.
The PDP levelled the allegation in a statement titled “Take responsibility for killings, PDP charges Buhari presidency…exposes APC’s complicity in attacks on protesters,” signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, on Wednesday.
According to the party, the Buhari Presidency and the APC regime it heads should take responsibility for the shooting and reported killing of peaceful and unarmed young protesters by military operatives at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on Tuesday night.
It said as President, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the buck stopped on Buhari’s table.
Ologbondiyan said “Our party is however shocked at President Buhari’s stance, particularly his inability to demonstrate the capacity for concerned, attentive and proactive governance and command structure, while the nation he presides over dangerously slides into anarchy.
“A well-structured governance response from Mr. President, as the father of the nation, would have calmed frayed nerves and averted the crisis, violence, deaths, destruction of property and the avoidable loses we are witnessing today. It is indeed heartrending that our once united, viable, resilient and cohesive nation handed over to President Buhari in 2015 is fast collapsing in his hands.”
PDP leaders using #EndSARS for political gains, says APC
The APC, in its response, accused the PDP of sponsoring the #EndSARS nationwide protests and using them for political gains.
This was contained in a statement titled “APC: PDP leaders playing politics with #EndSARS protest,” signed by the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Nabena said, “The party will place on record how the PDP and its leaders are directly and indirectly sponsoring the protest and playing politics with the development.”
He said since protests started, the PDP elements had taken over the social media making various unguarded assertions thereby fueling the protest.
He further said “Kufre Carter, one of the organisers of the protest reportedly said he got a call from the governor’s aide on youth matters whom he said told him that the governor gave N4 million to be shared to the protesters.
“The APC caretaker committee chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state has righly noted the hidden agenda in the #EndSARS protests.
“Like our chairman said all leaders (including PDP leaders) should know that it is only when the country exists in peace that one can achieve their goals, you cannot be a leader through chaos, it will not be well.”
Ex-US president, Clinton, asks FG to dialogue with protesters
Former US President, Bill Clinton, expressed concerns over the reports of shooting of protesters.
He therefore called on the Federal Government to hold dialogue with the #EndSARS protesters.
Clinton made his position known in a message he posted on his Twitter handle, @BillClinton, on Wednesday.
“I am deeply concerned over reports of violence in Lagos and urge the Nigerian government to engage in peaceful dialogue with the #EndSARS protestors for police reform and an end to corruption,” he wrote.
UK asks Nigerian govt to probe attack on protesters
The British Foreign Secretary Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, called on the Nigerian government to immediately probe the killing of protesters by soldiers.
Raab said this in a tweet on Wednesday moments after the Lekki tollgate incident was discussed at the parliament.
He tweeted, “I am deeply concerned by the violence in Nigeria, including widespread reports of civilian deaths. We call for an end to all violence. The Nigerian government must urgently investigate reports of brutality by its security forces and hold those responsible to account.”
Also, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, also called on the government to restore calm.
Laing in a statement published on the UK high commission’s Twitter handle on Wednesday, said she and her team were updating the UK government on the happenings in the country.
Meanwhile, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has warned Britons against all but essential international travel to Nigeria.
The office in its updated travel advice published on its website on Wednesday, said, “Additionally, if you’re already in Nigeria you should be aware of our pre-existing advice within the country, unrelated to COVID-19.”
US alerts citizens, extends closure of consulate in Lagos
The United States Mission to Nigeria has extended the closure of its consulate in Lagos following the violence in Lagos on Tuesday.
The mission further advised US citizens staying in Lagos to obey the curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government and to remain vigilant and avoid demonstration areas.
As a result of the ongoing 24-hour curfew, the mission explained that the Consulate General in Lagos, including the consular section, remained closed to the public.
In its second travel warning issued within 24 hours, the embassy noted that the protests in parts of the country had become violent, and there have been incidents of property destruction.
Also, the UK has shut down its visa application centres in Nigeria
The UK made this known in a statement on its website.
The statement was titled, ‘Important: closure of our visa application centre’.
The statement read, “Due to the ongoing protest in Nigeria and for the safety of both staff and applicants, our Nigeria centres will be closed for 48 hours at a minimum.
“For applicants with booked appointments within this period, please you will need to reschedule your appointment for next week, from 26th October 2020.
Withdraw troops, NLC, HRW advises military
The Human Rights Watch and the Nigeria Labour Congress criticised the killing of #EndSARS protesters.
The two organisations in separate statements on Wednesday called for an investigation into the incident and asked the military authorities to immediately withdraw the troops from the streets.
The statement by Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Aniete Ewang, demanded an investigation into the shooting and prosecution of personnel involved in the dastardly act.
In its statement titled, ‘The Nigeria Labour Congress condemns the Lekki toll gate killings,’ the congress insisted that the protesters had the right to peaceful assembly as guaranteed by section 40 of Nigeria’s Constitution, the United Nations Universal Declarations on Human Rights, the African Union Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other relevant international conventions.
It described the use of live bullets to suppress, harm and kill peaceful protesters as a crime against the people which it said must be roundly condemned by all patriots and lovers of democracy.
The statement signed by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba and Secretary General, Musa Lawal, commended the maturity and focus displayed by the protesters.
UN rights chief flays killings
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet called for what she called root and branch reform of the security forces in the country.
She condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by security forces in Lagos State on Tuesday.
Bachelet stated this in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria: Bachelet condemns army killings, calls for “root and branch” reform of the security forces,’ noted.
By Olalekan Adetayo, Gbenga Adeniji, John Alechenu, Eniola Akinkuotu, Adelani Adepegba, Ade Adesomoju and Daud Olatunji