PRESS STATEMENT BY NIGERIAN WOMEN
Issued: Thursday, October 22, 2020
STOP KILLING OUR YOUTH
This statement is a summary of the zoom meeting organised by the Feminist Womanifesto under the #Nigerianwomenarise. Over 1400 women registered for the webinar with the aim of discussing the recent development in the country, particularly the killings of innocent unarmed youths’ protesters by law enforcement agents across the country. The webinar was attended by women from across the geopolitical zones, of diverse background from private, government, public service, grassroot organisations, religious, traditional and non- for profits.
Nigerian Women demand for accountability and justice for those who were killed and injured at the Lekki Toll Gate and in other places of protest. Those who ordered the deployment of soldiers to shoot at unarmed citizens, and those who switched off the lights and surveillance cameras at the Lekki Toll Gate shortly before the attack must be brought to book. To this end:
1) We demand for the immediate constitution of an independent Judicial Panel of Inquiry that will include credible civil society organisations, professional bodies such as Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), labour unions, youth organizations, security agencies, women organisations.
2) We call on the President Muhammadu Buhari to address Nigerians and in a gesture of confidence- building present a list of the actions the government has taken on the immediate and short term demands the protesters have publicly tabled.
To deescalate the crises, we propose the following:
3) We demand that Government immediately investigates and identifies the thugs that were hired to disrupt the protests nationwide and differentiate them from the #ENDSARS protesters. It is the responsibility of the Police to remove perpetrators of violence from the streets and ensure diligent prosecution thereafter.
4) We demand for withdrawal of the Army from the streets and employ peaceful modes of engagement in policing to provide security for the #ENDSARS protesters.
We enjoin the Government to note that freedom to engage in Peaceful Protest Is A Democratic Right, Not A Privilege. The fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are well-entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. In exercise of these rights, Nigerian youths, embarked on a peaceful protest from Thursday 8thOctober 2020 calling on the Federal Government to put an end to police brutality and unlawful killings, ensure prosecution of culprits and implement needed police reforms.
These youths were still in strategic locations on Tuesday, 20thOctober 2020 to press for more ascertainable action from the government in response to their demands due to the high level of trust deficit in citizen-government relationship in Nigeria arising from long-standing failure of governments to deliver good governance.
Nigerian Women consider it despicable and unacceptable the deployment of “unknown soldiers” (since both the Lagos State Government and the Military have denied knowledge of military deployment) to quell the protest with brute force and disperse the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Lagos.
Although the protesters had remained impressively peaceful and well-organized for almost two weeks, the circumstances surrounding the assault on them, which include the removal of security cameras and turning off the lights at the Toll Gate, clearly indicate that it was planned and intended to inflict grave physical harm and even death to the protesters, and indeed, scores of protesters were maimed and killed even while they wrapped themselves in the Nigerian National flag and sang the Nigerian National Anthem.
We believe that this reprehensible action is what has stirred up the retaliative acts of violence by some youths, which have escalated into unmanageable street violence, arson, destruction of government and private properties, as well as looting that is now being witnessed across the country.
Furthermore, Nigerian Women believe the violence we have seen could have been prevented if government, at all levels, had intervened timely to constructively engage protesters whose demands for an end to SARS, police brutality and good governance, were in the public domain.
In addition, the Federal Government, which is the tier of government, with authority for the Nigeria Police Force could have been more flexible and adapted itself to the innovative and inclusive approach to citizen engagement demanded the protesters. The situation was compounded by the obvious insensitivity to the experiences of police brutality that the youths were drawing attention to when the Police authorities hurriedly embarked on a renaming ceremony of SARS to SWAT without any effort at rebuilding the confidence of the aggrieved youths in its institution and the firm silence of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi throughout the protests.
This grave error on the part of government and the Police reflect a misreading of the mood, determination and popular support the protest had garnered across the sections of the population.
We affirm that in a democracy, citizens elect their leaders during elections to protect all their human rights including their rights to life, peaceful assembly, expression and protest. The Constitution of Nigeria not only guarantees these rights to Nigerian citizens, it states that the protection of the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. The killing of protesters in Lagos and other states of the federation is a gross violation of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and breaches the covenant between the government and the governed.
The #NigerianWomenArise assures our young citizens of our absolute support and solidarity with their ENDSARS agitation and will do all that is necessary to help safeguard their right to peaceful protests. Nigerian Women will continue to closely monitor the events as they develop and will take appropriate measures to protect our young ones while defending our democracy for peace and justice to reign.
May the souls of those who lost their lives due to law enforcement brutality before and during this protest rest in peace.
We the undersigned represent the over 400 women that attended the meeting:
Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi Amb. Nkoyo Toyo