Since early October young Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest against police brutality. This quickly grew into a large-scale, nation-wide movement asking that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), accused of unlawful arrests, torture, and extra-judicial killings, be disbanded.
Although SARS has been abolished, we are highly concerned that the peaceful protests and legitimate demands by citizens have been met by further violence, with the government not taking adequate measures to protect its citizens. In Lagos on 20 October 2020(this link will open in a new window) for example, protestors were reportedly shot at by security forces in an engagement that lasted for hours and left an unconfirmed number of people killed and injured. We are also concerned that unknown individuals hijacked the protests by perpetrating episodes of violence, which led to many sustaining injuries and destruction of property(this link will open in a new window). We are concerned that the Government of Nigeria has not meaningfully addressed the requests of its citizens to reform the security sector and has not taken adequate measures to de-escalate the situation and protect its citizens.
We, the undersigned international NGOs, collectively condole with all who have lost loved ones and condemn any attacks against unarmed and peaceful protesters. We ask for cessation of violence and for all parties to engage in peaceful dialogue. We welcome the President’s intervention of 22 October 2020 and commend the commitment to improve good governance and the democratic process of Nigeria, and to ensure that fundamental rights of all citizens are protected.
In light of this commitment, we call on the Government of Nigeria to:
- Immediately take all measures to de-escalate all forms of violence against protesters and refrain from excessive use of force, to ensure that the lives and properties of its citizens are protected;
- Respect the protestors’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly and protest, and guarantee citizens that protests which turn violent will be managed with proportionate measures only;
- Seek peaceful means to meet demands of its citizens addressing root causes through wide-reaching and lasting reforms;
- Ensure there is safe space for meaningful engagement between protesters and government to address demands and grievances, which will contribute to building sustainable social cohesion in Nigeria;
- Urgently implement mechanisms to improve trust and collaboration between the citizens, the police and other security agencies;
- Ensure adequate measures are in place for the continuity of life-saving/essential services and for health workers to be able to carry out their duties during the duration in which the curfew is in effect;
- Guarantee the release of peaceful protesters who were arrested and treatment of all protesters injured during the ongoing agitation;
- Conduct investigations and call to justice those who perpetrated acts of violence.
- We also call on all Citizens to:
- Remain law-abiding and peaceful.
We reiterate our support for their aspirations for positive change. We remain committed to meaningful development that can be achieved if the views of citizens are taken into due consideration through inclusive, accountable and transparent processes.