By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Joint Nigeria Crisis Action Committee, JN-CAC, and Nigeria Mourns, Thursday, condemned attacks and killings of unarmed and peaceful protesters on Tuesday night at Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos.
This was contained in a statement signed by the conveners, Alu Azege, Abiodun Baiyewu, Benson Olugbuo, Chidi Odinkalu, Gloria Ballason, and Leslie Agams, where they expressed sadness and pain over the loss of lives so far in the protests against police brutality and brute force used on protesters by police and the military.
According to the statement, peaceful protests that raised worldwide awareness of the brutality of the Nigeria Police Force were, unfortunately, met with more violence by the Nigerian government and security forces against unarmed peaceful protesters.
The statement accused security forces of standing aloof while thugs harassed and assaulted protesters or caused willful damage to people to whom they owed legal duties of protection.
The statement reads in part, “Nigeria Mourns strongly condemns the ambush, shooting and physical attacks and killings of unarmed peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza on the night of Tuesday, 20 October 2020 and in other parts of Nigeria.
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“The #EndSars #EndPoliceBrutality campaigns began in response to well-documented traditions of predatory, unlawful, and lethal methods consistently deployed by the Nigeria Police Force against citizens.
“The call for an end to police brutality gained momentum across the country as evidence of patterns of gross and massive human rights violations by the police on citizens grew on many platforms, including social media.
“The protests were for the most part peaceful. Protesters resisted the repeated efforts by attackers to goad them into non-peaceful methods. Attacks on protesters occurred around the premises of major institutions of the Nigerian government, including the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters; the Three Arms Zone in Abuja, and the Lagos State Government Secretariat, Alausa, amongst others.
“In addition, video clips of these attacks captured security forces standing aloof while thugs harassed and assaulted protesters or caused wilful damage to people to whom they owed legal duties of protection.
“By later afternoon on Tuesday, 20 October 2020, Nigeria Mourns had verified at least 18 civilians killed in these attacks across Lagos, Oyo, Kano, Ondo, Edo, Osun, Ekiti states, and the FCT.
“This was before the escalation that occurred on the evening of 20 October, when heavily armed and uniformed assets of the Nigerian Army opened fire on peaceful protesters singing the National Anthem around the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos.
“The Nigerian Army and Lagos State Government have both denied complicity in the Lekki Massacre. In an appearance on Channels Television on 21 October, the Governor of Lagos State, BabajideSanwo-Olu, initially claimed that there were no fatalities from the events in Lekki Toll plaza.
“Nigeria Mourns is working with various sources among first responders, witnesses, and digital sources to verify the numbers and patterns of casualties from the massacre in Lekki, Lagos. Initial reports suggest that up to 50 people may have been killed.
“Many others were also injured. Reports as that the time of the release of this statement also alleges that the attack on these unarmed civilians persists in various areas of Lagos state, including the Lekki Toll Plaza.”
The statement also demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari, cease his silence and address the nation urgently.
“In these circumstances, it is pertinent that President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, ceases his silence and rise to his responsibility to secure the lives and property of Nigerians; to promote and protect the dignity and human rights of every Nigerian; to ensure accountability for these crimes against humanity by the Nigerian security forces, and to ensure justice for every victim”, it said.
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The statement also made some other demands which include the immediate constitution of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission and launch an independent investigation into the extrajudicial killings of Nigerians by officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Army; immediate suspension and prosecution of all officers identified or indicted in the investigations; ensure justice and compensation for victims of police brutality; and commit to a partnership with civil society and Nigeria’s international partners for reform of Nigeria’s security sector, especially, the Nigeria Police Force.
“While we make these demands, we also stand in solidarity to re-echo the demands of the Nigerian citizenry through the #EndSARS protests.
“Finally, we reiterate that “Real patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when it is wrong.” The struggles of Nigeria’s progress is a story of patriotism. The labour of our heroes past, and the oneness collectively displayed by Nigerians in the past few weeks to demand a better Nigeria must not be in vain!”