By Fortune Eromosele
A year after #EndSARS protesters were allegedly maltreated from police brutality, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs have stressed that every Nigerian has the legitimate right to protest, saying that the occurrences during the protests, were uncalled for.
The CSOs disclosed this in a statement signed by ‘Yemi Adamolekun Executive Director, EiE Nigeria, Idayat Hassan Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Cynthia Mbamalu Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Osai Ojigho Country Director, Amnesty International, Kemi Okenyodo Executive Director, Partners West Africa- Nigeria Nelson Olanipekun, Team Lead, Gavel, Joshua Olufemi Executive Director, The Interactive, Mahmud Yusuf Programs Manager, NULAI Nigeria.
The statement said #EndSARS was and remains a call from Nigerians and well-meaning people globally who were tired of being abused and traumatized by the people empowered to protect them.
The statement added that it ignited an awakening in young Nigerians to their civic duty of demanding accountability from the government.
The statement read: “The protest was a peaceful convergence of young Nigerians for two weeks across cities in the country until criminals took advantage of the national outcry and decided to rob, rape, attack people and police officers, and destroy property.
“It is important that the efforts of patriotic Nigerian youths exercising their civic rights and duties in demanding an end to police brutality are not defined or undermined by activities of criminals. The right to peaceful assembly remains a fundamental human right and Nigerian youths still seek justice for lives lost, citizens maimed and properties destroyed.
“Last year’s #EndSARS protests were triggered by the alleged killing of a youth in Delta State; a gory incident that was caught on camera. The video which was circulated on social media platforms brought back the conversation on the brutality of SARS operatives with young people sharing their experiences on social media.
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“The online protest swiftly turned into major protests across cities in Nigeria with Nigerians, particularly young people, consistently taking to the streets for a period of two weeks.
“One year after the start of a series of events that would significantly change police-citizen relationships in Nigeria, it is evident that #EndSARS became a platform for young people to express their frustration with a security architecture that had failed in its primary purpose—protecting the lives and property of Nigerian citizens.”
The CSOs urged the federal government to take a step of reconciliation towards citizens by providing an update on what has been done to ensure victims get justice, as different activities are being organized to mark one year since the protests, including the solemn commemoration of #LekkiKilling.
The statement continued: “The federal government should provide an update on what they have done over the past year to improve the welfare of police officers and ensure that our police force is equipped psychologically to enable civil interaction with citizens.
“Secondly provide an update on how the government is equipping the Nigeria Police Force with the appropriate tools to carry out their delicate task of securing lives and property alongside a concrete plan for consequence management when such a need arises.
“This anniversary is an opportunity, to foster dialogue on justice and peace, so we invite the state governments and the federal government to engage with citizens and protect them from violence in the fulfillment of their mandate as stated in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in Section 14 (2b) which states that the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government. The demand remains for a Nigeria that is equitable and just.”
Vanguard News Nigeria
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