Access to Justice (A2J) has urged the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to sanction Nigeria due to what it described as deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
A2J also urged ACHPR to call on the Nigerian government to make good its promise to reform the police, since it had acknowledged the need for wide-ranging reform of the force while acceding to the #EndSARS demands.
In its statement, the advocacy group appealed to the ACHPR, which is currently having a session, to take specific actions on Nigeria. The statement signed by it programme officer, Obierefu Judith Chinwendu and it Communication officer, Paul Adeyeye, lamented the response of government to the #EndSARS protests, a movement that broke out against police brutality and systematic acts of violence and corruption perpetrated by officers of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force.
The group listed a chronological account of various human rights violations that were perpetrated by the Nigerian government during and after the #ENDSARS protests, citing and decrying the overbearing military involvement in the protests as well as the extrajudicial killings following from that involvement.
Specifically, the group referenced the Lekki Toll-Gate incidence, where soldiers were deliberately deployed to shoot at the peaceful and orderly protesters – resulting in the death of unarmed civilians.
The group said: “The use of significant military force in the shooting appears to be targeted at sending a strong and chilling message to those taking part in protests across Nigeria, insinuating to them that the government would not tolerate the expression of political speech that may threaten its grip on power.”
A2J also informed ACHPR of the continuing intimidation, arrests, and prosecution of citizens by the Nigerian government, saying faces in the #EndSARS protests are being harassed, arrested, and prosecuted. A2J stated that some other persons who participated in the protests have had their bank accounts frozen and some have had their travel Passport seized.
“Additionally, Nigeria’s independent media have also been a victim of government’s intimidation with some media houses penalized with heavy fines for disseminating information of the protests,” they added.
The group further informed ACHPR of the attempt of the Nigerian government to tighten the space for the free exercise of speech, making reference to Statements by Police Chiefs who say that protests are now illegal and noting also that the Nigerian government has renewed its interest in the passage of the Social Media Regulation Bill with the intent on clamping down on social media activism.
A2J noted that the threats and actions undertaken by the Nigerian government have had a chilling effect on citizens, fostering a sense of palpable fear as well as escalating already high social tension within the civil society.
The group further requested ACHPR to demand from the Nigerian government the release of all those who have been arrested and detained as well as end the harassment of #EndSARS protesters.
It also urged the Commission to call on the Nigerian government to end the use of military forces to police protests and ensure that Nigeria carries on with its commitment to ACHPR on rights-based policing and also to stop misusing counter-terrorism measures to target peaceful protesters.