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FG hiding under COVID-19 to shrink civil space, says CDD

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Groups say we’re back to military era, urge #RevolutionNow campaigners to be lawful
• S4C slams Adesina for deriding protesters

Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) has condemned the arrest of #RevolutionNow protesters in parts of the country, saying it is a clear indication that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is hiding under the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to shrink the civil space.

Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, warned against the constant breach of trust and abuse of human rights by security agencies.

The centre noted repression of citizens as an objectionable trend, which had become more prevalent across the globe as governments restrict civic freedoms under the shield of the pandemic.

“While we commend the release of protesters in Abuja and Lagos, the CDD calls on the Federal Government to retrace their steps and unconditionally release other protesters and assure that it will never be repeated,” she added.
PRO-DEMOCRACY group, Concerned Nigerians, has condemned the arrest, harassment and dehumanisation of #RevolutionNow protesters in Abuja and other parts of the country.

In a statement through its spokesperson, Agada Theophilus, yesterday, the group described the arrest as unprofessional handling of protesters by security forces.

“Nigeria is sliding back into the dark days of military regime where citizens are being hounded and afraid to ask salient questions as to how they should be governed,” it stated.

BUT the Tiv Youth Council Worldwide has enjoined the #RevolutionNow group to explore democratic means to achieve the desired change in the country.

President-General of the council, Mike Msuaan, alleged that the promoters of the movement were sponsored by some foreign enemies and disgruntled elements in the political circle to discredit the Buhari administration.

Similarly, the Conference of Civil Society for Peace, Security and National Development called on the citizenry to stand in solidarity with the government.

SPACES For Change (S4C) has also condemned the militarisation of peaceful protests in Nigeria and called on the authorities to release the remaining protesters still in detention over Wednesday’s march.

It censured the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, for describing the march as an irritating child’s play.

In a statement made available to The Guardian yesterday by its Programme Officer, Zikora Ibe, the civil society group, said the comment insulted the sensibilities of the young Nigerians brutalised on Wednesday for daring to express their genuine concerns on the present state of affairs in the country.

It stated: “We are horrified at the cruel harassment, arrest and detention of scores of #RevolutionNow protesters who gathered across different areas in the country to express their constitutionally guaranteed rights to peaceful assembly and expression.

“On Wednesday, August 5, 2020, both federal and state security enforcers brutally attacked citizens on a peaceful march for the revival of the country’s dwindling economy, security infrastructure, and state of governance.

“In Abuja and according to media reports, a protester was flogged with an iron rod and chain, while in Lagos, blood was seen gushing out of the head of an unfortunate citizen whom security operatives had viciously shaved off his hair with a knife and broken bottle.”

According to the group, it is unfortunate to note that security officials who are bound by duty and law to ensure the safety of citizens have departed from their core mandate.

“We particularly reject the use of COVID-19 public health and safety measures as a pretext to repress citizens’ right to protest as revealed in the pretentious statement of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, who acknowledged that protesters were indeed arrested, but on the grounds that they violated COVID-19 protocols banning the convergence of gatherings that violate social distancing rules,” it added.

However, the group noted that few weeks ago, in the heat of the pandemic, a crowd of supporters and well-wishers had gathered without the opposition of security agents, at the burial of a high ranking government official.


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