A group of United Nations experts on human rights have written to the Nigerian government, urging it to investigate the shooting of peaceful demonstrators in Lekki and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The experts include Agnès Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression; as well as members of the organisation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
In a statement on Tuesday, they said the government must establish a “credible, independent inquiry into the recent illegal killings of at least 12 peaceful protestors by soldiers” at the Lekki tollgate on October 20.
The experts said they have monitored cases involving Nigerian police officers killing with impunity since 2005 but saw that nothing has changed.
“Governments come and go, but police brutality is as intractable as ever. Nigerians need justice,” they said, summarising their findings.
They described the shootings at the toll plaza as especially disturbing “because demonstrators were precisely calling for accountability for previous police brutality”.
“What is particularly disturbing is that the authorities said they had disbanded the SARS and agreed to the protestors other demands, including investigations. But they immediately announced the formation of another similar unit and have not ended the excessive use of force,” they said.
The shooting in Lekki must have been premeditated, they deduced, because the lights and possibly security cameras were switched off shortly before the soldiers started firing.
They said, asides investigating the incident, the government must explain why soldiers were deployed to start with as well as reveal who instructed them.
“Any investigation must aim to identify lines of responsibility, deliver accountability and justice, provide remedies and reparations, and recommend structural and systemic changes,” the experts said.
They further urged the government to make the findings of previous investigations into rights violations by security forces available. These, for example, including the 2019 report by the National Human Rights Commission report on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the 2018 report by the Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement.
“The authorities have promised for years to address human rights violations by the security forces,” the UN officials noted.
“Hundreds of victims and relatives of those who died have testified and sent petitions, but they never received any remedy, not even the acknowledgement that their rights were violated. It is crucial that the government releases all these reports to the public before they start new investigations.”
“It is high time that concrete action is taken to properly look into all incidents and that structural changes be made to prevent any re-occurrence,” they concluded.
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