Buhari under attack over Lekki massacre
• Soyinka, Obasanjo, NBA tackle President
• SERAP drags Buhari, Army to ICC
• Group declares seven-day mourning
• FG sues for calm, commits to police reforms
The Presidency, yesterday, came under attack from former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka over Tuesday’s shooting of ENDSARS protesters by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said it had already dragged President Mohammad Buhari’s government and the military before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the matter.
Scores of protesters were killed as shooters believed to be officers of the Nigerian military opened fire on hundreds of youths keeping vigil at the Lekki tollgate to demand an end to police brutality. Many were also wounded. Still on rampage over the killing irate youths, yesterday, embarked on massive destruction of national and state-owned assets across the country.
The worst hit was Lagos, which lost a handful of assets, including some newly commissioned state-owned bus terminals, some media outfits and at least two more police stations. Governor Sanwo-Olu’s fa,ily house was also attacked.
Obasanjo, in a statement, blamed Buhari for the killing of #EndSARS protesters. He insisted that Buhari and his “lieutenants” did not exhaust all opportunities for dialogue with the protesters before resorting to use of force.
The former President said it was regrettable that Buhari used brute force to further anger the youths.
Obasanjo’s statement titled, “Violence Against Protesters in Nigeria: An Appeal for Calm,” was made available to journalists through his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, in Abeokuta yesterday.
He, however, enjoined protesting youths in the country to give peace a chance as they go about making their legitimate demands.
Obasanjo expressed sadness over the shooting of the protesters by the Nigerian Army and the ongoing destruction of properties by the angry youths.
The former President urged Buhari to address the youths and accede to their demands before things get out of control.
Reminiscent of the highhandedness of the late military dictator, General Sani Abacha between 1993 and 1998, Professor Soyinka, in his written position, said the country was back to the “Abacha years.”
“It is absolutely essential to let this government know that the Army has now replaced SARS in the demonic album of the protesters,” Soyinka insisted. “My enquiry, so far, indicates that the Lagos governor did not invite in the Army, did not complain of a ‘breakdown in law and order.’ Nevertheless, the Centre has chosen to act in an authoritarian manner and has inflicted a near incurable wound on the community psyche.”
Soyinka said it would be “pathetic and unimaginative to claim, as some have done,” that the continued protests hurt the nation’s economy, especially as COVID-19 has battered the Nigerian economy for more than eight months.
“Of course, it is not easy to bring down COVID under a hail of bullets – human lives are easier target, and there are even trophies to flaunt as evidence of victory – such as the blood-soaked Nigerian flag that one of the victims was waving at the time of his murder,” he said.
Denouncing the 24-hour curfews imposed by some state governors, Soyinka advised the affected governors to take immediate step by demanding withdrawal of those soldiers and to convoke Town Hall meetings as a matter of urgency.
“Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage,” he advised.
He 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. Then both governance and its security arms can commence a meaningful, lamentably overdue dialogue with society. Do not attempt to dictate – Dialogue,” Soyinka advised.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) condemned the “dastardly” shooting and killing of #Endsars protesters by some unidentified men of the Nigerian Military. President of the Association, Mr. Olumide Akpata, yesterday, said the lawyers’ body strongly condemned the reckless, lawless, calculated and premeditated attack. The NBA stated that, even if the protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza were in breach of the curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government, such a misdemeanor or breach did not warrant the use of live ammunition by the Nigerian military to confront otherwise peaceful, unarmed and defenseless protesters. Consequently, the NBA requested the military high command to immediately identify and name the officers involved in the killings for immediate prosecution and dismissal in line with extant laws.
Following the attacks, the Presidency, yesterday, sued for calm and understanding of citizens, as the implementation of the reforms gets Federal attention.
According to a statement signed by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the Presidency restated the commitment of Buhari’s administration to the implement Police reforms in the country.
It expressed delight that states had begun to set up various judicial panels of inquiry to investigate the sundry police misconducts.
“At the last count, no fewer than 13 states have gone ahead to establish the Judicial Panels of Inquiry as resolved by the National Economic Council to address the question of redress and justice for victims of police brutality across the country,” said Buhari.
States that have set up the panels so far are: Lagos, Kaduna, Delta, Ekiti, Ogun, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Plateau, Edo, Nasarawa, Ondo and Akwa Ibom.
The statement further explained that President Buhari “welcomes the promptness of these necessary subnational actions, and reaffirms his commitment to supporting the state governments to ensure that justice is achieved for all victims of police brutality in Nigeria.
“Under the Chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the National Economic Council (NEC) at its meeting on Thursday October 15, 2020 resolved to establish State-level Judicial Panels of Inquiry, to investigate allegations of Police brutality and ensure that all erring personnel are brought to justice.”
But SERAP, in a petition sent to Mrs Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor, yesterday, urged the court to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authorities, military, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”
SERAP also urged Mrs Bensouda to “push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”
The group, among other demands, urged the ICC to urgently commence an investigation proprio motu on the widespread and systematic problem of attacks on protesters, with a view to determining whether these amount to violence against the Nigerian people and crime against humanity within the Court’s jurisdiction. “In this respect, we also urge you to invite representatives of the Nigerian government (and) the military to provide written or oral testimony at the seat of the Court, so that the Prosecutor is able to conclude since available information whether there is a reasonable basis for an investigation, and to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorisation of an investigation.”
A coalition of civil society organisations expressed deep shock over the killing of peaceful protesters across Nigeria. The group, made of 30 separate organisations, collectively declared a seven-day national morning for the dead. They said that “the attempt to fight for justice over police brutality has again revealed the brutal nature of the Nigerian state. At the last count, not less than 40 Nigerians have lost their lives as a result of violent attempts to crack down or disrupt the ongoing protests against police brutality. There is also documentary evidence, which indicts a combined force of sponsored thugs and members of the Nigerian security forces for the deaths of innocent protesters. Particularly disturbing is the massacre of unarmed and very peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos,” the coalition said.
MEANWHILE, the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives, yesterday, condemned the killing of unarmed protesters by security operatives at Lekki Tollgate and other parts of the country.
The caucus in a statement by its leader, Mr Ndudi ELumelu argued that “such wicked act of extra-judicial killing of defenseless citizens, by suspected agents of the state, could not be justified or condoned.
“As lawmakers and representatives of the people, we cannot accept this gruesome execution of our young ones in their own country by security operatives. Life is sacred and no one has the right to terminate the life of another just because he has the apparatus of state power,” he said
IN the same vein, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) charged President Buhari to 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.
“President Buhari is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the buck stops on his table,” the party declared in a statement released yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.
The PDP said it was 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.”
According to the party, “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 losses we are witnessing today.”
It described, as heartrending, the fact that a “once united, viable, resilient and cohesive nation handed over to President Buhari in 2015 is fast collapsing in his hands.
“In countries where presidents are alive to the demands of their offices, the country would not be in turmoil with citizens being murdered in cold blood as witnessed in our country in the last 48 hours, yet the citizenry cannot find their president or Prime Minister coming out personally to offer consolation, provide direction and give hope.”
The opposition party further observed that the video showing police vans and vehicles belonging to other security agencies bringing in and coordinating armed thugs to attack peaceful protesters in Abuja pointed to serious complicity in high places.
According to the PDP, the unexplained dismantling of security cameras and lights at the Lekki Tollgate before military operatives opened fire on peaceful protesters, further pointed to high-level conspiracy against Nigerians.
It further noted that such unleashing of terror against peaceful demonstrators exposes a dangerous recourse to barefaced brutality, violence and killing to suppress and subjugate the Nigerian people.