By Dirisu Yakubu, Abuja
Rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, Tuesday, blamed increasing violence in some parts of the country on what he called the use of primitive and unlawful means by the federal and some state governments to address protesters against the brutality of operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, a unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
Barrister Effiong in a statement made available to Vanguard said rather than addressing issues of poor governance raised by the agitators, the federal government, he said, has chosen to deploy “extrajudicial means to “discredit and scuttle the genuine agitations of aggrieved protesters.”
According to him, “Recent attacks on police stations in Edo and Lagos states have been cited by governors of these states as a basis for imposing questionable curfews. One can reasonably infer that these attacks are ostensibly sponsored by persons who are sympathetic to the government, as part of an orchestrated plot to unleash the military on protesters to truncate the nationwide movement for police reform and good governance.”
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The statement further read: “From the start of the nation-wide protests, about two dozen peaceful protesters have been murdered by security officers and murderous thugs actively aided and abetted by law enforcement agencies and state actors in different parts of the country.
“The social media is dominated by videos and photos showing armed thugs and riotous mobs unleashing mayhem, burning and destroying properties belonging to protesters and other Nigerians. These criminal actions are not happening in isolation. Generally, protesters have remained peaceful and law-abiding despite the provocations. Protesters have been working to restore law and sanity as part of their civic responsibility.
“We have seen protesters offering food and water to police officers. We have seen protesters clearing the streets of dirt. These same protesters have volunteered to control the flow of traffic in Lagos and other parts of the country.
“It is unacceptable that the police have not arrested the thugs and their sponsors who are committing murder, arson and other criminal activities. Rather, we have seen pictorial evidence of thugs being conveyed in police vehicles. This can only mean that the government and the thugs are in sync.
“It is therefore offensive, hypocritical and deceitful for a government that has been complicit in the attacks on peaceful protesters, to rely on acts of violence perpetrated by thugs and other criminal elements who are working to disrupt the protests for the benefit of the same government, as a justification for more state-sanctioned violence.”
Effiong reminded governments across all levels not to forget that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are respectively guaranteed in Sections 39 and 40 of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
He called on armed soldiers to immediately withdraw from the streets, saying “The military should stay away from protesters. The limited role of the Armed Forces under Section 218 of the 1999 constitution has been desecrated by the Buhari regime, in a shameful attempt to crush dissent and quell the patriotic voices of young people who are disenchanted by long years of police brutality, corruption and impunity,” he stressed, even as he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Inspector General of Police, Muhammadu Adamu.
“President Buhari should immediately address the nation, fire the Inspector General of Police, and along with the governors, urgently attend to all the demands of the protesters,” he demanded.