PRESS STATEMENT ON THE INCIDENT THAT HAPPENED BETWEEN THE POLICE AND SHIITES
We have seen some very disturbing images and video footages of the gory incident, or shall we say shameful conduct of the Nigerian Police Force; their inappropriate use of aggression on unarmed shiite protestors, and the failed attempt to forcefully suppress their constitutionally guaranteed rights which resulted in completely avoidable injuries and losses on both sides, in Abuja, yesterday, 22 July 2019.
We must express our complete disappointment in how the mismanaged incident has led to several injuries and deaths of some protestors, including a correspondent of Channels Television and a Deputy Commissioner of Police. We wish the injured speedy recovery and the dead a peaceful time in the afterlife.
Over the past months, we have seen a consistent rise in the peaceful demonstrations of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), who are relentlessly demanding the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been in jail since 2015 despite multiple court orders sanctioning his release.
It is, however, very troubling that the reactions of the Nigerian government and security agencies to the peaceful IMN demonstrations have been replete with unnecessary use of aggression, so much so that the indiscriminate arrest and arbitrary killing of these protestors have goaded them into retaliating aggressively.
We must again warn, as we have always done, that the aggressive reaction of the Nigerian government, through the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies, to the increasing demonstrations of IMN (which up till now have been largely peaceful), is gradually becoming a national crisis which must be handled with absolute caution and wisdom, before the country is plunged into another Boko Haram situation.
It is in view of the foregoing, therefore, that we wish to state:
(a) That the arbitrary use of force and live ammunition against peaceful protestors constitute a flagrant violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Nigerian citizens, and the basic freedoms guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights; and thus is a shame on the Nigerian government and indeed Nigeria before all democratic nations of the world.
(b) That the resort to aggression as a way of quelling the otherwise peaceful demonstrations will only strengthen the resolve of the dogged protestors, and at worst, lead to avoidable national and security crises.
(c) That the aggressive reaction of the Nigerian government, towards members of the IMN, is a subtle demonstration that the General Buhari-led regime has neither respect for the basic freedoms of Nigerians, nor value for the lives of its citizens, and thus we all worry whether or not we are still safe in this country.
(d) That the use of live ammunition as a way of dispersing protestors is completely unprofessional, inhuman and in sharp contrast to global best practices. Even in countries like Hong Kong and Venezuela where citizens have been more assertive in their demonstrations recently, security agencies have only used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.
(e) That the Nigerian Police Force must as a matter of democratic and human obligations, duly and sincerely investigate the unfortunate event which happened yesterday, and take the necessary steps required to prevent such from happening again in future.
(f) That the Nigerian government must demonstrate its will to honor and protect the supremacy of the Nigerian constitution by releasing the leader of the IMN from jail, as ordered by Nigerian courts.
In conclusion, we wish to state that we believe Nigeria’s democracy is incomplete without respect for basic human freedoms and value for human lives; and thus we urge the Nigerian government to abandon its aggressive approach towards addressing the genuine concerns of the IMN, and indeed other groups and citizens in Nigeria.
Comrade Deji Adeyanju
Convener, Concerned Nigerians