By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpang – Abuja
Following the recent twist on the #EndSARS protest, 32 CSOs, Tuesday, accused the government of oppression, abuse of human rights, and intimidation of #EndSARS promoters and activists.
This was contained in a statement signed by leaders of 32 CSOs which include; Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Enough is Enough (EIE) Nigeria; Partners for Electoral Reform; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED); Centre for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD); Yiaga Africa; Global Rights; Project Alert; Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC); Paradigm Initiative (PIN); Rule of Law and Accountability Centre (RULAAC).
Other are HEDA Resource Centre; African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL); Community Life Project (CLP); Protest to Power; Social Action; Right to Know; Lawyers Alert; Private and Public Development Centre; South Saharan Social Development Organisation; Partners West Africa- Nigeria; Centre LSD; Connected Development (CODE); Stakeholders Development Network (SDN); BUDGiT; CWCW Africa;j. Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA); Invictus Africa; Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA); Resource Centre for Human Rights (CHRICED); and Reboot Design.
The government is on stepping up measures to clamp down on individuals, organizations, and corporate bodies alleged to be the masterminds of the protests.
The statement reads in part, “Increasingly, protest organizers 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 statement also pointed out that the government has shifted its focus from addressing demands of #EndSARS protesters by hunting down rights activists, pro-democracy campaigners, and other voices calling for systemic reforms.
“This 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 for an end to police brutality and other dimensions of human rights abuses.
“Unfortunately, instead of focusing squarely on the necessary administrative reforms to meet the short and long term demands of the protesters, the authorities have begun resorting to underhand tactics to coerce and clamp down rights activists, pro-democracy campaigners and other voices of dissent calling for systemic reforms, which will promote good governance”, it asserted.
According to the statement despite 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.
The CSOs in the statement claimed to have documented several patently illegal steps taken by the government, which clearly infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens, and that they strongly condemn the choice of acts of intimidation, profiling, and coercion of citizens who have done no wrong by the government.
“We have no doubt that the actions of the government constitute 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, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”, the statement reads.
They maintained that the government’s act of clamping down those who participated in or mobilized for the protests is a violation of the citizen’s fundamental rights.
“We make no mistake about the fact 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 statement added.
They accused the government of diversionary tactics by targeting bank accounts of individuals who are said to be financing the protests is unacceptable, which the coalition described as measures used by the government as unethical to the principle of fair hearing and proper judicial oversight.
“It is similarly unacceptable that the Nigerian authorities have also been resorting to diversionary tactics such as targeting the bank accounts of individuals who are said to be financing the protests.
“It is on record that most of these punitive measures by the government are being effected without any exhaustive recourse to the judicial process, The reliance on ex parte applications to freeze accounts of citizens is antithetical to the principle of fair hearing and proper judicial oversight.
The Coalition noted that most of the cases brought by the government against citizens indicate the government’s interest in them.
“It is unethical that the government is simultaneously taking up the roles of the accuser, prosecution, and judge in these cases these underhand tactics run contrary to the principles of natural justice, which aver that an entity cannot be the judge in its own case”, it pointed.
The Coalition has called on Nigerians to brace up for the struggles ahead as The people of this country cannot afford to stand by and watch in the face of unconstitutional measures to silence their voices and infringe on their rights as citizens.
Meanwhile, the group called on the international community to take necessary actions against the Nigerian authorities to act accordingly.
“This Coalition for the umpteenth time calls on the international community to take urgent measures to pressure the Nigerian authorities to henceforth act in accordance with the rule of law by halting the ongoing unconstitutional assault on citizens’ rights”, the statement concluded.