#EndSARS Anniversary: Protest March, Prayers, Cultural Activities Signpost Celebrations

#EndSARS Anniversary: Protest March, Prayers, Cultural Activities Signpost Celebrations

…We’ll Resist Any Form of Commemoration…Police …Police Lacks Powers to Ban Any Protests…Falana …Organizers Should Eschew Violence…Coalition Activities marking the one year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests, which climaxed in the infamous Lekki Toll Gate shooting, are slated to be celebrated with prayers, protest marches and cultural events. This is coming against stern warning by

…We’ll Resist Any Form of Commemoration…Police

…Police Lacks Powers to Ban Any Protests…Falana

…Organizers Should Eschew Violence…Coalition

Activities marking the one year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests, which climaxed in the infamous Lekki Toll Gate shooting, are slated to be celebrated with prayers, protest marches and cultural events. This is coming against stern warning by the Police to the organizers that any form of events to herald the #EndSARS anniversary will not be tolerated.

The events are expected to be kickstarted at the weekend with Jumat prayers at Jumaat Suadr Central Mosque, Ojota, Lagos.

Some flyers shared by the organizers on social media show that the events will be followed by traditional rites on Saturday, October 16 at the New Afrika Shrine in Agidingbi, Lagos. A church service is also to hold on Sunday, October 17 at Logos Christian Centre in Oregun, Lagos.

Memorial protest marches will also hold in major cities like Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Oshogbo, Benin City, Warri, and Abuja. The activists will also hold an event at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos on October 20. One of the banners indicate that it will be marked with cultural display in Ubiaja, located in Edo central.

The #EndSARS protests, which raged for three weeks in October 2020 against perceived brutality of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has now been disbanded, left scores of protesters including soldiers and policemen killed while several others were injured. The youth who led the mobilization for the protests, said they bore the brunt of the undue harassment resulting in maiming and in some cases, death of some of them.

The global human rights campaign group, Amnesty International claim that at least 56 persons were killed as a result of excessive use of force by the Army and Police.

“On 20 October, between 6:45 pm and 9:00 pm, the Nigerian army and police reportedly killed at least 12 peaceful protesters and left several injured in Lekki and Alausa in the cosmopolitan city of Lagos. The security forces, without warning, opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police violence as part of the #EndSARS movement. On that day alone, 38 people allegedly died across Nigeria,” the group claimed in its report.

The Nigerian Government was also fingered in the hiring of thugs who attacked and infiltrated the protesters causing mayhem and massive destruction of public and private property.

President Muhammadu Buhari who later asked the state governments to set up judicial panels into the allegations of brutality and high handedness by security agents, said 69 persons were killed in the protests. These include 51 civilians, 11 police officers and 7 soldiers. The judicial panels which awarded costs to several victims of police brutality have since winded up their sittings in many of the states

The government however disputes the claim that protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate were fired with live bulliets, insisting that only rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and water cannons were fired at the protesters.

However as part of the crackdown on the movement, which sent jitters down the spine of the government, the Central Bank freezed the accounts of some of the key leaders. The government also reached out to some its hirelings to institute court cases in which some key leaders were accused of destruction of public and private property occasioned during the protests.

The Lagos State Police command has warned residents of the State against staging any protests in commemoration of the EndSARS protest. A statement released by its spokesperson, CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, warned against such protest.

According to him, “Nigerians cannot afford to relive the distasteful experience of last year’s protest which caused pain loss of properties.”

He warned individuals or groups who may want to stage an anniversary protest to squash the idea or face the full weight of the law.

“The Command wishes to use this medium to warn the youths, groups, or associations planning such protest to jettison the idea forthwith.

“The Police in the state will not fold their arms and allow some misguided elements disrupt the peace and serenity currently being enjoyed in the state.

“Also, we will use all legitimate means within their constitutional powers to suppress the planned protest.

“Parents and guardians are advised to warn their children against participating in the planned protest.

“Lastly, Individuals or groups sponsoring such protest are also warned in their own interest to desist from such plans or face the law,” the statement said.

But Human Rghts Lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has called on President Buhari to abide by his oath of office by calling on the Police not to disrupt upcoming #EndSARS protests.

Falana, who’s also interim chairman, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, said this in a statement on Thursday titled, ‘Nigeria Police Force Lacks Power to Ban Public Protests in Nigeria’.

The popular lawyer said Buhari who also took part in protests while he was running for office, should call on the Police to respect the rights of citizens.

He added, “It is public knowledge that General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) and other leaders of the ruling All Progressive Congress took part in public rallies against fuel hike in January 2012 and protests against insecurity in November 2014.

“To that extent, the Buhari administration ought to restrain the Police from banning peaceful rallies against police brutality on October 20, 2021 in any manner whatsoever and however.”

Falana noted that the law guarantees Nigerians the right to hold public meetings, rallies and processions in the country.

“The threats against peaceful rallies oozing out of the police headquarters and state commands are illegal as they constitute a gross infringement of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly guaranteed by Sections 38 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution as well as Articles 9 and 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act,” the activist added.

He recalled that in the case of the All Nigeria People’s Party v Inspector-General of Police 2006, Justice Anwuli Chikere declared that Police permit as a precondition for holding rallies in Nigeria was illegal and unconstitutional.

The judge consequently granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Inspector-General of Police and other Police officers from preventing Nigerian citizens from convening and participating in rallies.

“The appeal of the Police against the judgment was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in December 2007. In the unanimous decision of the court, their lordships described Police permit as ‘a relic of colonialism’ which is anomalous in a democratic society,” Falana said.

He added that based on the landmark judgment of the Court of Appeal, the National Assembly amended the Electoral Act 2010 in March 2015 to impose a duty on the police to provide security for participants in public meetings and rallies.

A coalition of Concerned Civil Society Organisations has also advised the organizers of the #EndSARS anniversary events to eschew any form of violence.

Speaking during a press conference in Lagos, the spokesperson, Mr. Nelson Ekujumi, said though they recognise the rights of citizens to air their grievances, such actions must be exercised within the ambits of the law and with recognition of the fact that other persons rights must not be infringed upon in the process.

The collation appealed to the organizers to rethink their action in view of the likelihood of the forces of evil hijacking their protests again to unleash mayhem and called on the Police to recognise the fundamental rights of citizens and urge it to exhibit professionalism in its efforts to protect the economic and human rights of Lagosians to move without hindrance.

“As we look backwards with pain and anguish over the unwarranted destruction of lives and properties as a result of the 2020 Endsars protest in Lagos, it is important to situate the issues in proper perspective to prevent a reoccurrence of the mayhem that rose from it.

“The Endsars protest of October 2020 which blew across the country though legitimate because it was an agitation against impunity and lack of accountability in public office, encapsulated in the activities of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), nevertheless at the end of the day, it left a sour taste in our mouth and sorrow in our hears because of the needless killings of civilians, security agents, looting, destruction of public and private assets that trailed it, most particularly in Lagos which was the hardest hit.

“Following the continuous blockade of roads and highway by the Endsars protesters and its attendant economic and social dislocations which was an invitation to public disorder, concerned citizens and public interest groups made frantic efforts in calling on the government to accede to the demands of the protesters in order to avert a breakdown of law and order. The effect of the calls from various quarters to allow peace reign because of the looming threat to national security must have motivated top government functionaries at various states to join in the protests and assure protesters that their voices have been heard and their demands would be attended to.

“Unfortunately, on October 20 2020, Lagosians were shocked by the unprovoked attack on a detachment of RRS policemen in trucks and patrol vans by the Endsars protesters at the Adekunle axis of the Third Mainland Bridge in Ebute Meta. Realising that the police were incapable of maintaining law and order by the seeming lawlessness which had overtaken the state, the Lagos State government under the leadership of Babajide Sanwo-Olu imposed a 24-hour curfew on the state to arrest the drift to breakdown of law and order which was to commence at 4pm on October 20 but due to public outcry that law abiding citizens may be caught outside their homes in traffic and other places due to the hurriedly and necessary imposed curfew, the commencement time was shifted to 21 hours.

“We recognize the inalienable rights of citizens to ventilate their grievances but must admonish that it must be exercised within the ambits of the law and with recognition of the fact that other persons rights must not be infringed upon in the process.

“We appeal to those planning to stage another anniversary protest to rethink in view of the likelihood of the forces of evil hijacking their protest again to unleash mayhem. We call on the Nigerian Police Force to recognise the fundamental rights of citizens and urge it to exhibit professionalism in its efforts to protect the economic and human rights of Lagosians to move without hindrance. As law abiding citizens, we want it placed on record that our commitment to ensure that peace reigns in Lagos for the good of all is irrevocable,” the coalition said.

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