The US Congressional Black Caucus has written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, urging him to release all protesters arrested for taking part in anti-police brutality demonstrations.
It also condemned what it termed as state-sanctioned violence against protesters and called for justice for the families of the victims.
The caucus urged Buhari to allow for an independent investigation on Tuesday’s reported shooting of demonstrators at Lekki Tollgate in the West African country’s commercial centre, Lagos.
Buhari has already disbanded the rogue police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) but protests against police brutality continued. On Tuesday, armed security operatives allegedly shot at the protesting youths.
There have been reports of several protesters killed but there have been no announcements of deaths from families or funerals arrangements.
Dear President Buhari,
We are writing to you to express our grave concerns regarding state-sanctioned violence in response to the non-violent #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, calling for police reform and the end of police brutality. We are particularly concerned with the documented force used by the Nigerian police and military, which resulted in the loss of lives and injured dozens of protestors like the recent events at the Lekki Tollgate on 20 October 2020.
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 centre of all responses especially the operations of security forces including the police.
Transparency and accountability to citizens are also incredibly important. As you know, we 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.
We, therefore, urge you to:
- Release all the protesters who were arrested for taking part in the #EndSARS protests
over the last few weeks;
- 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);
- 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 that led to the killings at the Lekki
- Provide justice for the families of the victims of recent protests against police
- Initiate comprehensive overall reform of the security sector, including incorporating
accountability structures and the recommendations from the 5for5 made by Nigerian
We look forward to hearing from you on these critical matters. We also look forward to engaging with the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States on this issue. Finally, we stand ready to support the reforms we hope that the Nigerian government will undertake, and that Nigeria needs.
Congressional Black Caucus
Cc. Michael Pompeo, Secretary of State
Tibor Nagy, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa
Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Sylvanus Adiewere Nsofor
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