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CSOs criticise attacks on human rights activists

By NAN
11 November 2020   |   3:16 pm
The Coalition of 32 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to promote democracy and human rights have expressed grave concerns about the rise in the level of attacks targeted at human rights activists in the country.

#EndSARS protest

The Coalition of 32 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to promote democracy and human rights have expressed grave concerns about the rise in the level of attacks targeted at human rights activists in the country.

The groups include: Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Enough is Enough (EIE) Nigeria; Partners for Electoral Reform; and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).

Others are: Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED); Centre for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD); Yiaga Africa; and Global Rights Project Alert among others.

The group in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja said that the attacks on activists and pro-democracy campaigners had increased since the start of the #EndSARS protests.
“Escalation of threats against human rights activists is putting Nigeria in the negative global spotlight.

“This is in spite of the local and global condemnations which have trailed the death of protesters as a result of extrajudicial killings by security forces and the activities of sponsored non-state elements.

“It is worrisome that there has been no remorse on the part of those perpetrating these atrocities.

“This Coalition is aware that the Nigerian authorities have stepped up measures to clamp down on individuals, organisations and corporate bodies alleged to be the masterminds of the protests.”

According to the group, for the avoidance of doubt, the Coalition is of the view that the #EndSARS protests, which gripped the country in the last few weeks, focused on the legitimate demands of the Nigerian youth.

Thus, it was for an end to police brutality and other dimensions of human rights abuses.

The group urged the government to focus attention squarely on the necessary administrative reforms to meet the short and long term demands of the protesters.

The coalition expressed concern about the government’s inaction in responding to the direct threats issued against human rights organisations by non-state elements with pro-government objectives.

“This coalition has documented several patently illegal steps taken by the government, which clearly infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens.

“Increasingly, protest organisers are being intimidated and coerced by various state institutions.

“There have also been situations in which travel bans, which have no basis in the rule of law, have been slammed on individuals for their alleged roles in the #EndSARS protests.”

The group condemned the resort to acts of intimidation, profiling and coercion of citizens who it alleged had committed no offence.

According to the group, the government’s action constitutes a serious attack on freedom of expression, which is a constitutionally guaranteed right of every Nigerian citizen.

“Specifically, Section 39(1) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended makes it clear that every person “shall be entitled to freedom of expression’’ among others.

“The group said that the peaceful protests staged in recent weeks provided an opportunity for the young people of Nigeria to air their views and express their opinions about the state of the country.’’

The CSOs said that the government’ acts of clamping down on those who participated in or mobilised for the protests amounted to a brazen violation of citizen’s fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

The group condemned acts of targeting the bank accounts of individuals who were alleged to be financing the protests without any exhaustive recourse to the judicial process.

The group said the reliance on ex parte applications to freeze accounts of citizens was antithetical to the principle of fair hearing and proper judicial oversight.

According to the coalition, these underhand tactics run contrary to the principles of natural justice which aver that an entity cannot be the judge in its own case.

“This Coalition for the umpteenth time calls on the international community to take urgent measures to pressure the Nigerian authorities to act in accordance with the rule of law by halting the ongoing unconstitutional assault on citizens’ rights.”

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