A coalition of civil right groups has called on the Nigerian government to respect the citizens’ right to peaceful protests ahead of the Democracy Day protest slated for Saturday, June 12, 2021.
In a statement signed by 43 civic groups and private individuals on Friday, June 11, 2021, the coalition said Nigerians must be allowed to protest peacefully without being harassed by security agents on protest day.
“The government and its security services must play by the rules and conduct themselves in ways that guarantee the safety and wellbeing of peaceful protesters,” Mbasekei Martin Obono, the coordinator of the secretariat, Civil Society Consortium on Civic Space, said in the statement.
“We wish to remind the Federal Government and its security services to abide by this judgment, the constitution they swore to protect and other international instruments and desist from carrying out arbitrary arrests and use of disproportionate or unjustified force on peaceful protesters.”
The Nigerian government had earlier warned citizens to drop plans for the protest, saying it might jeopardise the country’s peace and unity.
The coalition has, however, warned the government against the use of force and arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters as it did during the #EndSARS movement.
In Oct. 2020, Nigerians trooped out to protest police brutality and were met with government resistance.
On Oct. 20, 2020, the Nigerian Army shot protesters at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, leaving an unspecified number of people dead with their bodies allegedly taken by the soldiers.
Amidst local and global condemnation, the government denied the army’s action.
The civic group said it would challenge the Nigerian government at the international court if it treats the protesters inhumanely.
“We wish to remind the government of President Muhammadu Buhari that the murder of innocent citizens during the #ENDSARS protest in Lekki and other parts of Nigeria is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians and the international community,” the group said.
“We also wish to remind the government of the provisions of section 17(2)(c) of the Nigerian constitution which require that governmental actions shall be humane,” the group added.
A 2020 Global Index on civil society by CIVICUS said democratic freedoms and civil engagement in Nigeria are shrinking.
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