David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi, Okwe Obi, Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
A coalition of four civil society groups- Campaign for Democracy (CD), Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders’ Foundation (HURIDE), Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and Igbo Elders Forum (IEF) – yesterday, gave 15-day ultimatum to the Federal Government and the Army to fish out soldiers that shot peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, to avert another protest.
The groups berated Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for what they termed “double standard” of allegedly inviting soldiers, denying knowledge of who invited them and setting up panel to probe killings.
This is as the Amnesty International (AI) insisted that soldiers carried out the Lekki shootings.
On Tuesday, October 20, suspected soldiers opened fire at the Lekki tollgate where young protesters had been converging in Lagos.
While the army initially denied having a hand in the incident, it said on Tuesday that it got involved because the Lagos government invited it to restore order.
Speaking on behalf of the groups, Publicity Secretary of CD and Chairman CD, South East Zone, Dede Uzor A.Uzor, said if the ultimatum expired without meeting the demands it would be an invitation to “another mother of all protests that will shake the foundation of Nigeria.”
The groups berated Lagos government and the Army for pretending not to know the people behind the shooting when in actual sense they were united in sending troops to Lekki toll gate, a fact the soldiers themselves cannot deny.
“The protest was peaceful and very well organised until some suspected thugs sponsored by people with vested interest in government started attacking them and instigating before the soldiers of the Nigerian Army were drafted to open fire…
“This kind of shooting and killing of protesting civilians does not happen in a any democratic government, so we are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, to within fifteen days, fish out Army officers that were responsible for the shooting of the protesters at Lekki Toll gate, an open day murder of innocent Nigerians.
“If at the expiration of 15 days from now to November 1 the soldiers who carried out the despicable shooting are not shown to Nigerians, we will organise the mother of all protests that Nigerians have never seen in its history to show to the world that Nigeria is not a Banana republic and Nigerians are not happy that their citizens are being killed like rats.
“We want to condemn the despicable and day light murder of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Toll gate Lagos, by the soldiers of the Nigerian Army on the invitation by the Lagos State Government.
“We must tell the world that Nigerians have rights, they are not ants and rats that could be killed without anybody questioning the killers. You cannot continue to kill people who are clamouring for rule of law and constitutionality, equity and justice that will benefit everybody on the country and just go free.”
Similarly, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) urged President Buhari to fish out the security personnel who allegedly opened fire on the protesters.
National Chairman of the party, Yabaji Sani, in a statement, yesterday, explained that the shooting was uncalled for in a democracy.
“The most disturbing is the senseless murder of the peaceful protesters by suspected soldiers which provoked and ignited the recent wanton attacks on public and private properties, as well as the serial looting of food items meant for distribution as palliatives for the vulnerable in the society but hoarded in warehouses by states in some parts of the country, just to mention but a few.
“It is on this note that I am appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari, to as a matter of urgency, take a step further and go beyond the clandestine rhetoric of issuing mere presidential broadcast that leads nowhere in this circumstance. Elementary knowledge of democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. In this case, the people have spoken, although some of them did so through illegitimate means, but the genuine protesters have made their points clear through their five-point agenda…
“Our party is of the opinion that the issue of good governance needs to be quickly addressed. We urge persons or groups who are either disgruntled or dissatisfied with government’s actions or policy to comport themselves with decorum while they channel their concerns to relevant authorities in a peaceful and orderly manner.”
Meanwhile, AI, in the timeline published, yesterday, said its investigation confirmed that the army and police killed peaceful protesters in Lagos.
“This timeline collates video and photograph footage to confirm that army vehicles left the Bonny Camp – a military base approximately a seven-minute drive from the Lekki Toll Gate at 18:29 local time on 20 October.
“The vehicles are tracked to the Toll Gate. At around 18:45 the Nigerian military opened fire on the protesters.”
Osai Ojigho, AI country director in Nigeria, accused the government of attempting to cover up the shooting at the tollgate.
“What happened at Lekki Toll Gate has all the traits of the Nigerian authorities’ pattern of a cover-up whenever their defence and security forces commit unlawful killings.
“The initial denials of the involvement of soldiers in the shooting was followed by the shameful denial of the loss of lives as a result of the military’s attack against the protests. Many people are still missing since the day of the incident, and credible evidence shows that the military prevented ambulances from reaching the severely injured in the aftermath.”