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EndSARS: Provide Justice For Families Of Victims, US Reps Urge Buhari

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The United States House of Representatives has urged President Mohammadu of Nigeria to ensure that justice is served to the families of victims in the ongoing protests against police brutality in the country.

The House also expressed particular concern with the documented force used by the Nigerian police and military, which has resulted in the loss of lives and injury of dozens of protestors like the recent events at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020.

In addition, the House equally called on President Buhari to release all the protesters who were arrested for taking part in the #EndSARS protests over the last few weeks.

This was contained in a letter sent to the Nigerian president by the Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on the alleged state sanctioned violence against peaceful non-violent protesters in Nigeria and calling for dialogue with the CBC and the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Sylvanus Nsofor.

The letter also harped on the need for the President to uphold the rights to non-violent protest and ensure the safety of protestors in accordance with the International Bill of Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

It further suggested that the Buhari should publicly commit to allow an independent investigation into human rights abuses committed by the SARS unit and the police in general and include youth representatives voted on by the public on the Judicial Panels of Inquiry.

“Allow an independent investigation of the actions the led to the killings at the Lekki Toll gate and initiate comprehensive overall reform of the security sector, including incorporating accountability structures and the recommendations from the 5for5 made by Nigerian youth.

 “Mr. President, preventing the use of excessive force, while maintaining the rule of law, is a global issue and it is one with which we here in the United States are also grappling.

“We do not claim to have the answers, however as nations work to meet the demands of their citizens, respect for human rights must be at the center of all responses especially the operations of security forces including the police”, the letter added.

The letter observed that transparency and accountability to citizens are also incredibly important, adding that the US firmly believe that individual lives and dignity matter as countries cope with the current challenges they face.

“Certainly, the actions of the protestors matter but the burden will always be on governments to protect their citizens. This is a global issue and it is one that all governments must respond to.

“With this in mind, we welcome your decision to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). However, Nigerian citizens have made it clear that they are seeking real and sustainable change. They are requesting more than renaming SARS to SWAT. Further, simply redeploying the former members of SARS will increase mistrust of the new units they join”, it stressed.

In a related development, U.S. Departmet of State Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbühl met with the Vice President of Nigeria Proffessor Yemi Osinbajo today in Abuja for a meeting on ongoing violence, the importance of allowing citizens to peacefully demonstrate, and accountability and justice for victims.

The meeting was  as part of a previously scheduled delegation, which included Assistant Secretary Robert Destro and Assistant Secretary Denise Natali, to raise U.S. concerns about ongoing violence in Nigeria, human rights, religious freedom, and trafficking in persons, and to hear from senior Nigerian Government officials how they are addressing those issues. 

The Counselor expressed the U.S. condemnation of the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos.  He also expressed condolences to the victims shootings and urged the government of Nigeria to abide by its commitment to hold those responsible accountable under the law. 

The Vice President and the Counselor noted that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles.

Counselor Brechbühl and Vice President Osinbajo also emphasized the importance of U.S. and Nigerian collaboration on common goals of improving security cooperation and strengthening economic partnership to foster mutual prosperity.

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