#ENDSARS: NBA, CSOs, SANs flay FG’s move to try protesters

Written by on November 10, 2020

The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, human rights activists, Civil Soceity Organisations, CSOs, and Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, were up in arms against the Presidency yesterday over its declaration that promoters of #EndSARS protest must be made to face the law.

This came on a day Oluwarinu Oduala, a promoter of the #EndSARS campaign, cried out that the federal government was trying to silence her by freezing her bank account.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had said in a Channels Television programme, Politics Today, on Sunday night that those who promoted the protest and allowed it degenerate into chaos must be made to face the full wrath of the law.
Shehu, who noted that the country had been seriously harmed by the #EndSARS protests, had said: “This country has only one president and has only one constitution. President Muhammadu Buhari is responsible for his government. The buck stops at his table.

“We are a country governed by law. There is a constitution that states clearly, under section 33, that clearly defines the rights of citizens to freely protest in a peaceful way but where a peaceful protest turns into riot, violence and looting, there is a law and order duty to be performed.

“Everyone witnessed the massive looting of public and private properties, particularly in Lagos, Calabar, Plateau, Taraba and some other states, even the FCT.

“Now, the laws of the country must be allowed to decide, to rule on wrongdoing on the part of just anybody. I am not particular about any celebrity or promoter but this country has been harmed enormously and people should be prepared to account for what they did.

“I think that it will be of interest to the 200 million Nigerians if some of these leading politicians who promoted the #EndSARS to the point it was seized by looters to come out with the same force to also denounce the destructions.

“We are watching. Some of them have said nothing so far. This country has to be saved from looters. The interest of the country is above politics; PDP should come out and denounce these things.”



But reacting to the declaration, Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Ralph Nduka, said: ‘’We believe that the protesters and their sponsors have a right to protest. Unless the government is telling us that they have evidence to show that those targeted have committed offences known to the law which they must answer to.

We would also demand evidence of whatever proof the government has. As an association, the NBA will stand up to those we believe are being arrested and prosecuted unjustly.

The nation is guided by laws and those laws must be applied justly. We will certainly provide legal service to those who are being unjustly persecuted for carrying out a peaceful protest which is allowed by law.’’



Also reacting, human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN, said: “During the #EndSARS protest, the federal government conceded the fundamental right of Nigerian youths to protest peacefully.

“The protests were generally peacefully. Unfortunately, the police did not provide security for the protesters as required by the law. Hence, hoodlums took over the protests.

“By the way, the hoodlums are products of the decadent and neo-liberal economic policy of the federal government. There is no nexus between the #EndSARS protesters and the hoodlums.

“It is unfortunate that the government is being misled as usual. They should go ahead and charge the #EndSARS protesters in a criminal court if there is any scintilla of evidence indicting them. We have travelled through this dangerous route before to the detriment of national development.’’



Similarly, another human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said: “If the government at the centre is taking this kind of decision, what happens to the various panels and commissions set up by state governments?

“What will be the consequence of the findings of those commissions of inquiries? Will government not be unduly interfering with the activities of those panels by obviously working from the answer to the question?

“Will those panels not be readily duty bound to agree with the position of the federal government in a country where all governors defer to the President like in a monarchy? These are some of the questions that state governments have to ask before taking further steps.

“If it has nothing to hide, the federal government should make haste slowly and allow the various states to do their work because we are operating a federal system of government.

“At the end of the various panel sittings, when the governors meet at their state council meetings, they can then present the finding and discuss the issue at the national level.

“But if the government begins to take proactive step such as blocking the account of the protest sponsors, arresting the protesters and arraigning them, then government has already pronounced them guilty even before the panels make their findings.’’



Other Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, also tackled the Federal Government over its plan to prosecute some alleged promoters of the #EndSARS protest that recently rocked the nation.

The senior lawyers, in separate interviews with newsmen, urged government to shelve the plan, stressing that the right to protest was constitutional.

Besides, one of the SANs argued that going ahead to prosecute some persons for participating in the peaceful protest, after government had agreed to accede to the five-point demands of the protesters, would portray the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as “anti-people government.”

He implored government to rather focus its attention on identifying and prosecuting the hoodlums that highjacked the hitherto peaceful protest.

Also, the CSOs said they acted within the ambit of Section 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution, which guaranteed freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. They, however, accused the Federal Government of sponsoring the violence that trailed the peaceful demonstrations.



You’re messing with the wrong generation — #RevolutionNow

The Legal Counsel to #RevolutionNow movement, Inibehe Effiong, said: “The statement is reckless and provocative. Mallam Garba Shehu should circumcise his tongue. He is playing with the wrong generation. The conscientious youths of this country will not be intimidated by the repressive antics of the Buhari regime.

“Section 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, respectively. We will exercise these rights to the fullest within the ambits of the law.

“The violence that took place was introduced and induced by the government. They should carry their baggage with sobriety and stop scapegoating. “It is now obvious to all that there was no sincerity on the part of this regime ab initio. They were just buying time to enable them relaunch their anti-democratic missiles.

“But history shows that no government can defeat a determined person. We are determined to take back our country from the forceful grip of these political parasites.”


Be prepared to face ICC — Centre for Liberty

The Centre for Liberty, one of the groups which coordinated the #EndSARS protest in the nation’s capital, advised the those in authority to rather prepare to face the International Criminal Court, ICC, for shooting unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate.

Convener of the group, Adebayo Raphael, said: “As always, Garba Shehu is missing the point. It is not we who must face the law; it is the Nigerian Government who must face the law. “We have committed no crime, but the government has committed several.

The government ordered soldiers to shoot innocent protesters; threatened the lives of protesters till some left the country. The authorities also seized passports; froze bank accounts; arrested minors and several others in their homes and sent them to jail without the option of bail.
“These are criminal acts and the government must be prepared to face the law, both in Nigeria and at the ICC. “We shall remain focused until they are all held to account and all our demands are met.”


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