Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN on Tuesday condemned the statement credited to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu that his command will suppress the rally being planned by Nigerian youths to commemorate the 2020 #Endsars protests against police brutality that led to the massacre of several youths.
Odumosu in a statement warned the youths to jettison their planned protest as “the police will use all legitimate means within their constitutional powers to suppress the planned protest”.
On October 8, 2020, youths across Nigeria embarked on nationwide protest, calling for the ban of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police due to the squad’s brutal treatment of youths. The protest was largely peaceful until October 20, 2020 when soldiers and policemen waded in and killed several of the protesting youths, particularly at the Lekki Toll Plaza.
The suppression received worldwide condemnation of the Nigerian government and had remained a watershed in the annals of protest in Nigeria.
However, reacting to the police threat, Adegboruwa advise the police to learn from last year’s event. “I am concerned that the Police and the government generally seem not to have learnt any lesson from the EndSARS protests of 2020, for the purpose of engaging citizens in lawful ways”, he said.
Adegboruwa, who served as a member of the Judicial panel set up by Lagos State to investigate the #endsars protest and cases of police brutality in the state, said that “it is illegal for the police to threaten protesters”.
His statement reads: “My attention has been drawn to a statement made by the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, wherein he threatened to suppress the protests planned for the commemoration of EndSARS. The Commissioner stated that the police will do everything within its powers to stop the protests;
This is not proper in a democracy, which is nurtured by the observance of the rule of law and due respect for human rights. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, grants to every citizen the freedom of expression without interference. The responsibility of the Police under the Police Act, 2020, is to offer protection to citizens who embark upon peaceful, civil and lawful protests and not to threaten them;
The deliberate act of the Police to suppress lawful protests has no place in our Constitution and it should not be condoned at all. I am concerned that the Police and the government generally seem not to have learnt any lesson from the EndSARS protests of 2020, for the purpose of engaging citizens in lawful ways;
Considering that the ruling All Progressive Congress is itself a child of protests, it is unimaginable that the same government is seeking to gag citizens from enjoying the same rights that its leaders deployed to full advantage when they were in the opposition;
I therefore urge the Police to exercise restrain and work with the protesters to achieve a peaceful and orderly outing and to offer them protection;
I urge the protesters to shun all acts of violence and disruptions of business or hinderance of movement of persons, in the course of the protests”.