…International Criminal Court opens inquiry into ‘crimes’ committed during #EndSARS protests
…Ministers from South-West submit report to FEC, ask FG to probe military involvement in Lekki shootings
…Seek compensation for affected SMEs, support for Lagos State Govt
#EndSARS protest on poor investment in youth devt
…Ozekhome, other activists, lawyers react to govt’s clampdown on #EndSARS promoters
…ICC’s inquest welcome — CSOs
The International Criminal Court, ICC, has opened a preliminary inquiry into the demonstrations against harassment and brutality by the police in Nigeria, tagged #EndSARS.
This came on a day ministers from the South-West in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government called for a thorough investigation into the involvement of the military in the shooting at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
This is even as former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday blamed government’s inability to invest in youth development as a remote cause of the #EndSARS protests across the country.
Similarly, activists and lawyers yesterday flayed government’s clampdown on #EndSARS promoters, describing it as a huge joke.
According to BBC reports, office of the ICC prosecutor said it had received information on alleged crimes.
The inquiry, ICC said, will “assess whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute are met.”
The development is coming after a number of civil society organisations, CSOs, threatened to report some heads of security agencies to the ICC over the conduct of their personnel during the demonstrations, popularly called #EndSARS protests, especially the shootings at protesters at Lekki Toll gate.
However, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, dismissed the threats to report him and some heads of security agencies to the ICC and other international authorities.
“They have continually threatened to report the NA to the International Criminal Court, ICC, and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.
“Criminal elements are threatening us with travel ban but we are not worried because we must remain in this country to make it better,” Buratai had said.
For two weeks thousands of peaceful protesters had gathered in streets in major cities in Nigeria to protest against harassment, extortion and extra-judicial killings by police.
The peaceful protests in Lagos later became bloody after soldiers fired live ammunition on #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, on October 20, according to eyewitnesses.
But the Army denied that its personnel shot on the day, even as the protest was later hijacked by hoodlums who looted and damaged public and private properties.
President Muhammadu Buhari had also said 51 civilians, 11 police officers and seven soldiers were killed in the violence that trailed the Lekki shootings.
Amnesty International said it has proofs that the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters were done by state security forces and accused the military of plotting to cover up the killings.
Ministers from S-West ask for thorough investigation
Similarly, as the one week deadline given to ministers to interface with their governors, stakeholders and protesting youths expired yesterday, ministers from the South-West have called for a thorough investigation of the involvement of the military in the shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate.
The ministers, who submitted their report to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, also recommended that the Federal Government supports Lagos State Government in efforts to replace damaged facilities in the state.
They also urged government to consider short and medium term support to small and medium businesses affected by the looting and arson that took place in Lagos and other parts of the country through the Central Bank Intervention Mechanism under the COVID-19 funding.
It will be recalled that President Buhari had at the council meeting on October 21, directed his ministers to visit their various states and interface with their governors and stakeholders in the wake of the protest by youths against police brutality, especially, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, a unit of the Nigerian Police Force.
The nationwide protests which started peacefully, later became violent as hoodlums hijacked the exercise, looted and destroyed both public and private properties.
What we asked FG to do — Fashola
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the FEC meeting, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said ministers of South-West extraction recommended that the Federal Government should seek and support the process of justice for all by ensuring that any of those apprehended and identified to be involved in the perpetration of the Lekki carnage be speedily brought to justice and fairly tried.
He said: “The highlight of the brief was to make recommendations to the Federal Government to support Lagos State to restore damaged facilities, especially those related to the maintenance of law and order and the administration of justice such as police, court buildings and forensic laboratory.
“We recommended to government to also consider supporting the Lagos High Court judges either with the provision of some office accommodation as a temporary relocation.
“We also urged the Federal Government to consider short to medium term support to small and medium businesses who were affected by the looting and arson that took place in Lagos and other parts of the country, to see if something can be done through the Central Bank Intervention Mechanism under the COVID-19 funding or any other related funding mechanism.
“We recommended to government to also ensure that whatever is approved should involve the National Economic Council, the platform on which state governors meet, so that other states across the country who were also affected, businesses were damaged can benefit, in addition to Lagos residents who may so be supported.
“We also urged the Federal Government to undertake a thorough investigation into what happened in the Lekki Toll Plaza, particularly the role of the military and ensure that the outcome is made public, with a view to achieving closure on the matter.
“We recommended that the Federal Government re-mobilize critical organs and agencies such as National Orientation Agency and formal educational institutions to focus on ethical re-orientation, and inculcation of family values into the school curriculum.
“We recommended focus on etiquette, local reasoning, critical thinking, solution seeking, empathy, self respect, civic duty and human rights.
“We also recommended the Federal Government to actively seek and support the process of justice for all by ensuring that any of those apprehended and identified to be involved in the perpetration of this carnage be speedily be brought to justice and fairly tried.
“We also urged the Federal Government to implement the maintenance of facility management policy approved by FEC in 2019 for Federal Ministries, Department and Agencies and to encourage states to do the same.
“We do this because we see this as a usual vehicle to help absorb and create immediate employment of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour, in order to address huge unemployment and poverty related part of the problem.
“This is important because people have skills but we need to provide the economic environment in which those skills can become income earning and self-rewarding.
“We urged government to also restore confidence in the police and their morale among the officers of men and women and to improve their welfare, whiles tracking the ongoing reforms being undertaken in the police force.
“We also urged the Federal Government to consider through the Federal Ministry of Health issues of substance abuse among the populace and propose solutions because, this potentially affects mental health.
“We made this recommendation, mindful of the global opium and substance abuse crisis and the impact on our country as well. We think this is a matter that requires some attention and focus.”
S-West govs’ position
According to him, the ministers met with governors from the zone and the governors’ position was that Lagos, being the epicentre, commercial and strategic city state in the South-West and the country should be their point of call.
Fashola said he briefed council about the reports that were presented to them by the Lagos state government on their visit to the state.
He added: “The summary is that about 15 police stations were lost, commercial undertakings, especially the ones in Lekki and many other parts in Surulere were damaged, some schools were also damaged, private properties were damaged and public buildings like the City Hall, the Lagos High Court, Lagos Forensic Laboratory and DNA Centre, the Nigeria Ports Authority were also damaged, the palace of the Oba of Lagos and many others.
“So we presented the documentary evidence presented to us by the government of Lagos State which was shown to Council.
“Then we visited a few places — the Lagos High Court led by the governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, we visited NPA, forensic lab and the Lekki Toll Plaza as well and as you all know, we found some items which we handed over to the state government at the site.
“These were the highlights of the report that we presented. The minister of Youth and Sports also visited the Lagos Island Hospital to empathize with seven persons who were reported to have sustained various degree of injuries in the ward and emergency unit. He also visited media houses to commiserate with them on the destruction of property.”
The South West Ministers on the visit were Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Trade and Investment representing Ekiti; Rauf Aregbesola (Interior) representing Osun; Sunday Dare (Youths and Sports Development) representing Oyo, Olamilekan Adegbite (Mines and Steel) representing Ogun, Olorunnimbe Mamora (State for Health) Lagos, and Tayo Alasoadura (State for Niger Delta Affairs) representing Ondo.
Non-investment in youths, remote cause of protests — Obasanjo
Giving his perspective on the issue yesterday, former President Obasanjo blamed government’s inability to invest in youth development as a remote cause of the ongoing #ENDSARS protest across Nigeria.
Obasanjo, who spoke at the launch of the book, “Nigeria and her Diaspora Human Capital and National Development,” written by a Nigerian in Diaspora, Dr John George, said: “If our DNA as Nigerians does not change, it means that the factors hindering achievements in Nigerians are basically here in Nigeria.
“It is our collective duty to work tirelessly to eliminate those factors that constitute impediments to the empowerment of our growing population in Nigeria.
“The protest we have seen today on our streets are as a result of our poor investment in the empowerment of our youth who should posses the real capacity to be the power house of our economy.
“Indeed, our human capital must become our priority if we must accelerate to our development in all sectors of our economy. I want to challenge our brothers and sisters in Diaspora one more time, to take a deeper look into investment that would engage our youth.”
ICC’s inquest welcome — CSOs
Some civil society organizations, CSOs, have described the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s preliminary inquiry into the demonstrations against police brutality and extra-judicial killings as a welcome development.
In separate interviews with Vanguard on Wednesday in Abuja, they said the move was a pointer to the fact that there was hope for the common man in the country.
The BBC had quoted the ICC as saying it received information on alleged crimes during the #EndSARS protests, and would begin inquiry whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute were met or not.
Reacting to the report, the CSOs commended the ICC for standing on the part of human rights and justice.
The Convener, Centre for Liberty, Raphael Adebayo, said: “How can security forces kill unarmed civilians and trample on their rights with impunity, and you expect the ICC to close its eyes to this crime?
“We consider ICC’s inquiry as a step in the right direction which will eventually culminate in holding those responsible for the killing of innocent protesters to account.”
In the same vein, the Country Director, Global Peace Foundation, Joseph Hayab, said the ICC’s preliminary inquiry would complement the efforts by local civil groups to ensure justice for those who were killed and injured during the protests.
Hayab also said that ICC’s interest in the matter was indicative of the level of concern human rights abuses in Nigeria had generated in the international community.
He further stated that lack of diligent prosecution of human right abusers was the reason for the persistence of violent crimes against humanity in the country.
He said: “There is nothing wrong with the ICC stepping into the matter at this point. Human right is a global principle and must be protected anywhere in the world by all and sundry.
“We believe the inquiry will complement the efforts of our local CSOs who many have described as ‘toothless bulldogs’ because they cannot sanction those who commit crimes against humanity in our society.
“Even when they try to go to court, their efforts are frustrated by the authorities. So, we are glad the ICC has shown interest in this matter. We hope at the end of the day, those who are found guilty would be made to pay for their sins as a deterrent to others.”
Also speaking on the development, the Legal Counsel to #RevolutionNow Movement, Inibehe Effiong Esq., expressed the optimism that the preliminary inquiry by the ICC would provide new opportunities for indicting those who ordered the shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at Lekki tollgate and other parts of the country.
Effiong said: “The move by the ICC has opened a vista of opportunities to bring those who killed unarmed protesters in Lagos and other parts of the country to account.
“However, it’s shameful that the ICC will first have to intervene before the ordinary Nigerian find hope of justice for crimes committed against his humanity.
“Take for instance, since the Lekki shootings, it’s been from one show of shame to another. What the Attorney-General of the Federal said about the incident is different from what the Army hierarchy has said, which is also different from explanations by the Lagos State Government.
“So, the move reassures us that the international community is watching the developments in the country.
“The hope we have is that ICC’s inquiry would materialize into indictments and adequate sanctions for perpetrators of violence crimes against #EndSARS protesters.”
On clampdown on #EndSARS promoters
On government’s clampdown of #EndSARS promoters, leading female activist, Aisha Yesufu, said: “I am aware of the complaint by some EndSARS protesters that their accounts have been put on restrictions but I think those who were affected are in a better position to speak about it.
“The Nigerian government has been high-handed on this issue and it is really pathetic that this is the path they want to take. Protesting injustice is allowed in our constitution and that is exactly what the EndSARS protesters did.
“They were very peaceful in the way they went about the protest, it is the government that brought in thugs to attack them but at the end of the day, the thugs turned against those that sent them. Blocking EndSARS protesters’ accounts, depriving them from travelling and generally denying them of their human rights is not acceptable.
“Government should rather get its acts together and ensure that the EndSARS demands are met instead of harassing them.”
It’s illegal to block #EndSARS promoters’ accounts — Ozekhome
Reacting, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said: “The CBN cannot place a no debit instruction on the #EndSARS protesters’ account without a valid court order. The CBN has no legal, constitutional right or even moral right to do what they are reported to have done.
“If any of the #EndSARS protesters’ account is blocked or frozen by an order of court ex-parte, the law requires that they must quickly serve a motion on notice to the account holder to come and defend himself.
“You cannot just block someone’s account and go away. You can only do that temporarily if you are intending to charge the person to court. That also means you must serve the person a notice to defend himself.
“Anyone whose account has been blocked with a no-debit instruction by the government through the CBN without a valid court order should head to the court immediately to uphold his fundamental right.”
‘It’s a sick joke’
Human rights lawyer, Destiny Tankon, said: “It is a sick joke. It is a police action worse in ramification than the Police brutality which triggered the protest. It is dictatorial, illegal and unconstitutional. The right to peaceful protest derives from the constitution and no Nigerian shall be punished for any act which did not at the time it was alleged to have happened, constituted an offence defined at law to be one and with a prescribed penalty.
“It is wrong to place restriction on the account of any Nigerian. A bank account and its content is the personal property of any Nigerian which cannot be restricted in operation, except where the holder of the account commits an offence with it.
“Unless those behind this fascist agenda can show what offence any protester has committed, their proposed agenda died at conception for illegality. In any case, who is a protester? Every Nigerian of goodwill supported the protest, so we are all protesters!
‘It’s unjust, ludicrous’
Another lawyer, Kabir Akingbolu, said: “This is a most ludicrous step any reasonable government anywhere can take. In fact, it is a joke taken too far. This is because by doing this, the President is telling the world that he doesn’t take criticism, however little.
‘’How can you freeze accounts of protesters or place embargo on them from traveling? I think it is very unjust and illegal because they have committed no offense in showing their grievances against the government and its ineptitude.
“The President should know that we are not in a totalitarian state where all that matters is the interest of the ruler, even though the government of the day appears to have undermined or altogether destroyed all the tenets of modern democracy.
“One thing is certain, we are in civil rule and freedom of movement, freedom of association and freedom of speech are still part of our laws and same must be respected.”
‘We’re back to the dark era’
In his reaction, Elvis Asia, a lawyer, said: “I want to believe this is not true. If it is, then we are back to the dark era. The right to protest is constitutionally guaranteed and should not be tampered with in a democratic society governed by the rule of law. Coming on the heels of the Lekki tollgate incident in which peaceful protesters were shot at, I am worried that Nigeria has descended into a dictatorship.”
Reacting in a similar manner, Maduka Onwukeme, said: “The actions of the government are clearly illegal and an infringement of the rights of the affected citizens. There are many court judgments to the effect that only a court can order the freezing of an account or forfeiture of property. The constitution guarantees freedom of movement and only a court can restrict the right of movement in appropriate cases.
“The government is itself a creation of the law and constitution and cannot be undermining the same constitution that gives it legitimacy to rule the country. It’s very unfortunate that we have learned nothing from the last protest that swept through the country.
“The government is not sincere about its promises to meet the demands of protesters, hence the clampdown. I will encourage Nigerians not to give up but sustain the current agitation. We cannot allow this creeping dictatorship destroy our hard earned democracy.”
‘It’s violation of rights’
Another lawyer, Adenrele Adegborioye, said: ‘’The systematic clampdown on #EndSARS protesters is not only unlawful but unconstitutional. This is because Chapter 4 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended) makes provisions for fundamental rights of the citizens.
‘’Such rights include freedom of movement, right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression. Therefore to impose travel restrictions and freeze accounts of citizens on the ground of staging peaceful protests which is allowed under the constitution, is clearly a violation of the fundamental rights of the protesters. It is unconstitutional and not expected in a democratic government.