The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has condemned the attacks on, and arrests of protesters affiliated with the #RevolutionNow movement in three states of the country: Abuja, Lagos, and Osun by operatives of various Nigerian security agencies on Wednesday as violation of their fundamental human rights.
Photographs, videos, and reports from the field corroborate that on 5th August 2020, unarmed protesters in Osun, Abuja, and Lagos were accosted by security operatives, and subsequently subjected to inhumane treatment by these operatives. The security personnel were primarily from the Nigerian Military, the Nigerian Police Force, and the Department of State Security (DSS).
In the case of Osogbo, Osun state, the protesters were arrested at the chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists while addressing the members of the press – an action that can only be described as an abuse of power by these operatives. In Abuja, protesters at the Unity Fountain, Shehu Shagari Way, Maitama were either dispersed or arrested; and the surrounding streets were cordoned off by soldiers, thereby restricting citizens’ mobility. In Lagos, protesters who gathered at the Ikeja, under-bridge were also dispersed or arrested by security operatives.
The Centre hereby strongly warns against the constant breach of trust and the abuse of human rights by Nigeria’s security agencies.
The CDD notes that these street-protesters were exercising their fundamental human rights as enshrined in Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Further, the Centre emphasizes that by the actions of security operatives on 5th August 2020, at least three fundamental rights of the protesters were infringed upon: (i) the right of association, (ii) right to peaceful assembly, and (iii) the right to freedom of expression.
Additionally, security operatives have on this day, trampled upon citizens’ rights as provided in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Articles 10, 11, and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Nigeria is legally bound.
It is alarming that security operatives saddled with the responsibility to protect citizens have turned against the people and have contradicted the letter of the nation’s sacred law.
The Centre strongly warns that the use of lethal force and tear gas, and the abuse of the people’s rights – as seen at the #RevolutionNow Protest – can no longer be condoned, particularly from those called to serve.
The CDD also warns the Federal Government against using the Coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to shrink the civic space. This repression of citizens is an objectionable trend which has become more prevalent across the globe, as governments restrict civic freedoms under the shield of the pandemic.
A people-oriented government would focus on engaging its citizens, rather than abusing an opportunity to listen, learn, and most importantly, to engage with the issues of governance raised by peaceful protesters.
While we commend the release of protesters in Abuja and Lagos, the CDD calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the heads of the security agencies which have toed the path of this inhumanity to redress their steps and unconditionally release all others arrested during the course of the protest, with assurance and commitment that this sort of action will never be repeated.