EndSARS: Sanwo-Olu has failed Lekki protesters, coalition of CSOs declare

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A coalaition of Civil Society Organidations (CSOs) under the umbrella name of Action Group on Free Civic Space, said the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has failed the protesters in Lekki following the reported shooting of the protesters, leading to deaths of scores of them.

#EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate on Tuesday night were reportedly shot at by soldiers who first removed the CCTV camera and turned off the light before opening fire.

In a statement signed by Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri  on behalf of SPACES FOR CHANGE, Ngozi Iwere for Community Life Project, Fyneface Dumnamene for Youth and Environmental Advocacy Centre, Samuel Akpologun on behalf of  ACE & VANGUARD legal practitioners, and 22 other CSOs,  the failure of the Lagos governor to protect the protesters was a betrayal.

“We make bold to state that the Lagos State government has FAILED in its obligation to protect the lives and properties of citizens. We regard the taking away of the CCTV cameras at the Lekki toll gate before the shootings as evidence of a premeditated attempt to use extreme force to quell the protests and inflict grievous bodily harm on protesters. This is a sad proof of a closed civic space in Nigeria,” the statement reads.

The statement recalled how the #EndSARS ptotest started as a peaceful protest across many states, and violence and thuggery became a feature.

“#ENDSARS focus was added to the Database in the wake of the peaceful nationwide protests that started on October 8 following the shooting of a young man in Delta state by a SARS officer. The video of the killing went viral on the internet, sparking outrage and anger by many young Nigerians who have for several years, endured wanton arrests, harassment, extortion, detention, torture including killings by SARS operatives.”

The Action Group said images culled from various social media sites on the database signpost the use to extreme force and cruelty to quell the peaceful protests across the country.

“In Jos, Plateau State, North Central Nigeria, security forces were seen firing live ammunitions at protesters, while scores of expended bullets were picked from the protest ground. In Ojoo, Ibadan, Oyo State, South West Nigeria, a protester was gunned down as he was fleeing from the sporadic gunshots.

“In Lagos, shots were fired at protesters camped at the Lekki toll gate on Tuesday night hours after a 24-hour curfew was imposed in the city. Some persons were reportedly killed while private hospitals opened their doors wide to treat wounded protesters.

The Action Group recalled that  Vandefan Tersugh, a former commander of the dissolved  (SARS), justifying the harassment of young Nigerians in a national television said that it raises suspicion for a young Nigerian to have a car worth N7 million.

The Action Group said the comment  moved the  anger from digital assemblies trending the #ENDSARS hashtags to offline demonstrations on the streets across state capitals.

The Action Group said the sttreet action persisted after the government failed to honor protesters’ demands for SARS to be scrapped. Bowing to the pressure, the Nigerian government indeed dissolved SARS, but immediately replaced it with a new outfit known as Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT).

” No official investigations were launched into the reported atrocities perpetrated by SARS officers and nobody was tried and punished for those crimes.  Officials of the defunct SARS were simply ordered to report at the Force Headquarters, Abuja for debriefing, psychological and medical examination. As a result, the protests intensified across the country, with the youth demanding far-reaching reforms. ”

.The statement said the attacks on protesters reached its peak when security operatives comprising a combined team of policemen and soldiers opened fire on #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate around 7p.m. All of these point to a rapidly-closing state of civic space in Nigeria.

The coalition it  demands an explanation from the Lagos State government regarding what happened on Tuesday at the Lekki toll gate, and to take immediate steps to remove the army from all strrets.

It added that government should honor the various list of demands presented by protesters, all of which center on the improvement of social and economic conditions and respect for civil liberties;

“Compensate families of all slain protesters across Nigeria; investigate their killings and bring their killers to justice;

“Promote an enabling environment for citizens to exercise of their civil liberties by specifically emulating Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde who launched Operation Burst to continue to protect genuine protesters and at the same time, arrest thugs planning to hijack the protests for other nefarious ends.

“Provide all those who have lost properties and homes as a result of the protests with immediate humanitarian assistance, including adequate temporary shelter while long-term solutions are in process,” the Action Group said.

The statement explained that SARS, established in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other violent crimes, later became a rogue unit with it’s victims predominantly young people who are often profiled as criminals for looking too handsome, wearing expensive dresses, tattoos and dreadlocks, and for owning I-phones, laptops and driving expensive cars.

– Oct. 21, 2020 @ 8:35 GMT |

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