The International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have been urged to open an international inquiry into the killing and maiming of #EndSARS protesters on October 20, 2020 in Lekki, Lagos.
This demand is the main thrust of a petition delivered to the two bodies by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), which has attracted signatures of 10,027 individuals and 154 organisations from 75 countries. Among the signatories are two former UN special rapporteurs, several members of the United States Congress, and Cornell and Harvard University professors. A dozen notable international figures also voiced their solidarity with the movement for justice in Nigeria. CAPPA started the petition on October 23 following what it anticipates would be “unlikely outcomes” of the judicial panels set up to look into the cases of rights abuses linked to SARS and government’s initiatives supposedly targeted at addressing the corruption in the system.
At a press briefing to intimate the media on developments related to the petition, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi explained that events after the October 20 shootings have been most disturbing with daily reports of police arresting identified protesters from their homes, denying them access to their families and lawyers, and prominent supporters of the protests denied their right to travel out of the country by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) based on supposed instructions “from above”.
Oluwafemi frowned at the censorship of media organisations alleged to have reported the protests in a manner deemed unfavourable by the government and the subsequent censorship of Arise Tv, Africa Independent Television and Channels TV by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The NBC had on October 26 slammed a fine of N3 million on the three broadcast stations after describing their reports as “unprofessional”.
He said it was also curious that the obnoxious Social Media Bill which was widely debated in the 8th National Assembly and criticized by Nigerians was resurrected in the Senate by lawmakers who have spoken openly against the #EndSARS protests.
He also frowned at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for further intimidation of the #EndSARS protesters after obtaining an order from a Federal High Court in Abuja to freeze 20 of accounts of #EndSARS protesters domiciled in Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank of Africa, and Zenith Bank.
“These happenings are most unacceptable. Suddenly Nigerians are waking up to the reality that the civic space is shrinking. While the Federal Government claims it is waving the olive branch with left hand, it is using the right hand to muzzle the right to free speech and peaceful protests which is a right of every Nigerian guaranteed by the Constitution”.
On why CAPPA sought the intervention of the ICC and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, he stressed that with justice seemingly distant, the group had no option than to seek help elsewhere, and felt the best way to look is the ICC and the Un Commissioner for Human Rights.
Speaking in the same vein, Aderonke Ige, CAPPA associate director said righteous anger motivated the organisation to take the path of the ICC petition in view of the seeming failure of the judiciary to take up the gauntlet of defending the murdered protesters and democracy in Nigeria.
Executive director of Center for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Debo Adeniran noted that the police service in Nigeria is getting worse and more brutal by the day, and has come to a point where the police see themselves as a force to be feared but not respected.
Adeniran insisted that the deaths and crisis that has engulfed the nation and particularly Lagos would have been avoidable if the Nigerian government had acceded to the genuine and well-thought out five-point demand of the #EndSARS protesters which included justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and compensation for their families, among others.
Comrade Soweto of the Youths Rights Campaign (YRC) explained that the violation of the rights of citizens have escalated since after the October 20 killings and evidence abound that the civic space is now shrinking.
Soweto reiterated the belief that in many ways the events that led to the 13-day resistance is still evident and that Nigerians are tired of panels set up by the government whose recommendations are swept under the carpet. Hence, he insisted that the petition to the ICC was the right path to take.
Some of the organisations that endorsed the petition are the Joint Action Front (JAF), Peace and Development Project (PEDEP), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-Hope),