The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai or any of his men risk facing the International Criminal Court, (ICC) at The Hague if any of the #ENDSARs protesters is killed, a leading coalition of labour and civil society groups, ASCAB said on Sunday.
The group urged the Federal Government to withdraw plans to use soldiers to quell the protests that have rocked major cities across Nigeria. The protest which began five days ago peaked at the weekend when some Northern cities joined the movement.
In a statement signed by its Chairman, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), the Alliance for Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond, (ASCAB) asked President Mohammadu Buhari not to invite soldiers to resolve a purely democratic issue that calls for dialogue and constructive engagement.
ASCAB said protests have common features across the world as seen in Hong Kong, United States, (US), France, South Africa, Belarus and even in Sudan adding that in no instance has soldiers being deployed to suppress the protesters. “Nigeria wants to set another ugly precedence in world history” the group said.
It reminded the Federal Government that Operation Crocodile Smile has been declared illegal by a Nigeria Court of competent jurisdiction following legal actions filed by Mr Femi Falana. It added that efforts by the Chief of Army Staff to challenge the order by approaching the Court of Appeal met a brickwall.
ASCAB recalled that the Federal High Court in July this year granted a perpetual injunction restraining the Army from such an exercise in Femi Falana SAN v Chief of Army Staff (FHV/L/CS/1939/19).
The coalition said every bullet that goes out from the barrel of the gun, is owned by the people of Nigeria adding that it is a crime under international law to release these bullets with the hope of taking human life. ASCAB said it is unfortunate that the Nigerian government is sending a signal to the military that it has a role to play in a purely civil matter.
The group said it is already monitoring and compiling lists of all rights extra-judicial killings associated with the protests and that any the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and the soldiers involved in any killings will be held personally responsible at the international court.
ASCAB said peaceful protests are the only way Nigerians are entitled under the Nigerian constitution to register their grievances against a system that suffocates them.
“The plan to deploy soldiers is dangerous. It will push Nigeria into the red light district of global reckoning. Sending soldiers after school children and leaders of tomorrow shows what future we anticipate for the teeming population of young men and women who have taken to the streets to protest against a system that buries their dreams and shatter their potentials and aspirations” ASCAB said.
Nigerian authorities said on Saturday that soldiers will be deployed this week to bring an end to the weeklong demonstration over police brutality.
“We urge President Mohammadu Buhari not to use soldiers to quell a peaceful, civil protest. The protesters have been lawful. The few cases of violence were associated with armed thugs disrupting the protests coupled with the shooting of protesters by security operatives.”
ASCAB said the protests were against symptoms of a system defect, institutional corruption and political exclusion adding that the earlier the tiers of government address the problems the better.
“The political class is isolating Nigerians from governance. State resources are squandered by a few, corrupt people who over the years have failed to address institutional rot that continues to fuel anger and desperation of the toiling people.”
The group said at the bottom of the crisis of nation building and insecurity in Nigeria is corruption, mismanagement of public funds and incompetence at all levels of governance.
The group said “Over N250b is voted as security vote for the 36 state governors annually. This money is enough to retrain and reenergize the police towards effective performance. Unfortunately, the funds are taken by the State Governors as largesse which they never account for.”
ASCAB urged the police authorities to bring to justice all officers and ratings associated with human rights violations in the command. The group said policing in Nigeria needs transformation and not mere reforms which should go beyond a cosmetic and window dressing approach.
ASCAB said it has confirmed that the reports of allegations of extrajudicial killings, extortion of members of the public and other atrocities perpetrated by the police and other security agencies in Nigeria have been ignored by the authorities.
Two Panels of Enquiry instituted by the President in 2018 to probe rights abuses have not been published till now. Petitions submitted to the Police Authorities were ignored. National Human Rights Commission, (NHRC) probe of SARS excesses were ignored. Amnesty International Abuja office was invaded by sponsored thugs for raising issues of rights abuses. United Nations directed the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Agnes Callamard to probe rights abuses.
On September 2, 2019 the UN official said “However, the absence today of accountability functionality is on such a scale that pretending this is anything short of a crisis is a major mistake. It is a tragedy for the people of Nigeria. Unchecked, its ripple effects will spread throughout the sub-region if not the continent, given the country’s central economic, political and cultural leadership role.”
The Special Rapporteur suggestions were pushed aside by the authorities prompting diminished public trust. “We are disturbed to note that gangs of sponsored thugs have been unleashed on the protesters while the Nigerian Army has threatened to attack the protesters. We call on the authorities to speed up the implementation of the much touted reforms and prosecute police and military personnel indicted in rights abuses” ASCAB said
ASCAB said it would provide free legal services urging the protesters to come forward for legal relief.