A coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria have, in a joint statement, condemned plans by the military to subdue the ongoing peaceful #EndSARS protests “at all cost”.
The statement is in response to a previous statement by the Nigerian Army where it reaffirmed its loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari, as young Nigerians continue to protest across the country against police brutality.
In a statement on Thursday, Col. Sagir Musa, the acting Director Army Public Relations said, “The Nigerian Army (NA) wishes to reassure law-abiding citizens that it is highly committed to the sustenance of peace, security and defence of democracy in Nigeria.
Sagir added: “The NA hereby warns all subversive elements and trouble makers to desist from such acts as it remains highly committed to defending the country and her democracy at all cost.
“The NA is ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively.
“All officers and men are directed never to be distracted by anti-democratic forces and agents of disunity,” he added.
The chain of nationwide protests, led by Nigerian youths, is calling for an end to police brutality as well as justice for the past victims of police torture and assaults.
In the statement, the CSOs said, “In the last two weeks, the streets of Nigeria have been convulsing with protests and agitations.
“The clarion call as reflected in the multitude of young Nigerian voices is for an end to police brutality and all related abuses, which unaccountable policing has left in its wake.
“For the avoidance of doubt, these protests are legitimate, and young people who ignited the movement have a right to express their grievances using the weapon of protest.
“While #EndSARS is focused on the immediate concern of a brutish policing system, the protesters are also inherently voicing their anger against a governance system, which has failed to reckon with them.
“#EndSARS is, therefore, an affirmation of citizen’s readiness to resist bad governance in all its ramifications beginning with inadequate government response over the prolonged trend of police brutality.
“The accumulated anger of citizens over decades of failure in the delivery of basic social services, endemic corruption, and impunity of political office holders has precipitated distrust of, and lack of confidence in the state and its institutions.
“These frustrations are visible in the pent-up anger, which has been boiling over in mass street protests in cities across the country,” they noted.
In the statement, the CSOs said that such threat by the military to the civil society absolutely constitute dangerous assault on citizens’ Constitutional Rights.
They said, “In this respect, we strongly condemn the thinly veiled threat issued by the Military High Command, wherein the unacceptable move is being made to crush the peaceful protests.
“Such a threat is ill-conceived in the face of legitimate citizens’ protest and a threat to constitutionally guaranteed rights.
“We call on the military to immediately withdraw its ill-advised attempt to undermine the constitutional freedom of citizens to voice their displeasure about the state of the country.
“We reject in its entirety the move to draft in the military to quell the protests, even where there has been no violent conduct on the part of protesters.
“The Military should remain in their barracks and at their duty posts, defending the territorial integrity of the country, and not deployed in a dangerous anti-people and anti-democratic operation to crush a people who are exercising their right to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly.
“It is important to let the Nigerian authorities know that the entire world is watching its response to the legitimate demands of the youth,” they added.
The CSOs called for accountability for previous, current, and ongoing acts of the brutalization of citizens from the government and its agencies.
The statement, signed by Center for Democracy and Development (CDD – West Africa) and 12 other CSOs, stated that offending officers must be identified, investigated, prosecuted, and punished.
They itemised their demands to the government which included the following, “That all those arrested during the ongoing protest be released unconditionally.
“That the President constitutes and summons an emergency and inaugural meeting of the Nigeria Police Council [NPC] provided for in the 1999 CFRN [as amended], in section 216, and whose composition and functions were clearly stated in Part III [Supplemental and interpretation], sections 27 & 28 of the same constitution.
“That the government moves beyond cosmetic approaches in responding to the yearnings of protesting citizens,” the groups demanded.
The CSOs also commended Nigerian youths who have defied the odds to make their voices heard.