Amnesty International (AI) has called on the authorities in Nigeria to protect citizens that embark on peaceful protests.
The human rights organisation made the call after the Nigerian government warned citizens against staging protests at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos State on 13 February.
Youth-led protests against police brutality, with hashtag #EndSARS, brought Lagos to a standstill last October after the killing of a young man by a police unit.
Activists called for new protests after a judicial panel authorised the reopening of the Lekki tollgate, where security operatives shot at peaceful protesters on 20 October, 2020.
The country’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said peaceful protests were a constitutional right but warned that they could be ‘hijacked by hoodlums’.
‘Any further resort to violence in the name of #EndSARS will not be tolerated this time. The security agents are ready for any eventuality’, the minister said in Abuja.
‘We therefore strongly warn those who are planning to reoccupy Lekki tollgate on Saturday [13 February] to desist’.
Mohammed said six soldiers, 37 policemen and 57 civilians died as a result of the unrest in October. The destruction of 269 private and public properties was also recorded.
But activists, using #OccupyLekkiTollGate hashtag on Twitter, said, ‘No Justice, No Re-Opening. You cannot open a tollgate where victims of state-sanctioned murder are yet to get justice’.
‘The Nigerian [government] must ensure that when protesters exercise their right to freedom of assembly, it must be without fear of harassment or attacks by hoodlums or others opposed to the protests’, AI tweeted.
‘Security operatives must refrain from excessive use of force on protesters.
‘Previous attempts by security agents to repress peaceful protests have led to human rights violations and abuses’.
Last year’s protests against police brutality were largely peaceful until the shooting of unarmed protesters in Lekki.
Hoodlums took advantage of the protests and shooting to loot valuables and destroy property.
But the military, whose officials failed to appear before the aforementioned judicial panel, denied using live rounds to break up protesters who had defied a curfew.
Source: Amnesty International
Photo source: Lekki Tollgate Lagos