The United States Government has condemned the excessive use of force by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government in quelling peaceful #EndSARS protests in parts of the country.
A statement by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in Washington, D.C., and made available to The Tide in Port Harcourt, yesterday, said that the action by government security agencies failed to meet global best practices of respect for peaceful assembly and the fundament rights of citizens to freely express their discontent over any anti-people policies of the government.
The statement read, “The United States strongly condemns the use of excessive force by military forces who fired at unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury.
“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces.
“Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law.
“The right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles.
“We call on the security services to show maximum restraint and respect fundamental rights and for demonstrators to remain peaceful.
“We extend our condolences to the victims of the violence and their families.”
It would be recalled that some security operatives, suspected to be soldiers, had last Tuesday, opened fire on peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, in Lagos, killing no fewer than 12 persons, in addition to fatalities recorded in Abuja, Abia, Oyo, among others.
Meanwhile, the civil society organ of the African Union, Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), has called on the Federal Government and the protesters to dialogue and peacefully resolve the current impasse in order to prevent further fragmentation of the national fabric.
The Chairperson, Political Affairs Cluster, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, who this, yesterday, added that Nigeria was an integral part of the African Union.
The AU organ has the mandate to promote the principles and ideals of good governance and human rights in the continent.
According to him, “Nigeria has a significant role to play in the fortification of the founding principles of a people-centered and people-driven African Union as elaborated in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and other regional and global human rights instruments.”
Abdulai said that ECOSOCC noted with grave concern events unfolding in Nigeria following reports of the use of deadly force by armed military officers against unarmed civilian protesters calling for action by the government of Nigeria to end police brutality under the hashtag #EndSARS.
He added that it is the inalienable responsibility of the government of Nigeria to pursue amicable solutions to disagreements with citizens in the interest of peace and stability in the nation.
The Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), therefore, called for “an urgent de-escalation of the current unrest in Nigeria with a view to protecting the lives of citizens.
“Urge the governing authorities to restore conditions allowing for citizens to peacefully protest and express themselves on issues affecting the safety and well-being of Nigerians; and to do so without fear of retribution, confrontation, or violence that could lead to the loss of life and destruction of property.
“Encourage all parties, including the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and protesting citizens, to come together around the table of dialogue and to act, in good faith, to swiftly and peacefully resolve the current impasse in order to prevent any further fragmentation of the national fabric.
“Urge the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to reinforce and expedite the work of the various committees of inquiry established to look into the issue of police brutality in order to restore the confidence of citizens in the institutions of state.
“Call for a thorough, fair, and independent investigation of reports and video footage appearing to show the shooting of unarmed protesters by uniformed personnel; and to ensure justice for victims and perpetrators alike.”
By: Nelson Chukwudi
Customs Suspends Rice Sale As Seven Die In Stampede
The Nigeria Customs Service has announced the suspension of the sale of foodstuffs following a stampede that reportedly killed seven persons at the NCS Old Zonal Headquarters in the Yaba area of Lagos State, last Friday.
A Chief Superintendent of Customs and National Public Relations Officer for Comptroller General of Customs, Abdullahi Maiwada, disclosed the suspension of the exercise in a statement on Monday.
Nigeria Customs had said it was selling seized food items at N10,000 per 25kg to alleviate the people’s suffering as a result of the current high cost of living and other economic hardships.
Last Friday, a pregnant woman and six others reportedly died in a stampede after some suspected hoodlums attempted to force their way into the Yaba Customs office compound.
Some Lagos residents who thronged the NCS office in Yaba expressed disappointment on Monday following the suspension of the initiative.
However, in a statement on Monday evening, the NCS said the suspension became necessary considering “the recent unfortunate event.”
“We regrettably announce the suspension of this exercise until we establish what transpired on Friday, February 23, 2024,” the NCS spokesman said.
He explained that: “The disposal of the food items got off to a smooth start at about 0800hrs. We enjoyed the cooperation of the large crowd that obliged us, giving preferences to the elderly, people living with disabilities, pregnant women, and other vulnerable Nigerians who showed up for the exercise.
“This was the case up until about 1700hrs, as attested to by the over 5,000 beneficiaries and members of the press. However, unforeseen challenges arose when we ran out of stock and announced the continuation of the exercise the following day, leading to a regrettable outcome.
“The crowd became desperate and charged through our barricades in search of rice bags inside emptied containers. In the stampede that ensued, some fatalities and injuries were regrettably recorded.”
The Customs extended its “heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the unfortunate incident.”
The service said it was working with health authorities to establish contact and engage directly with the victims’ families on their next steps.
Court Dismisses Police Objection Against Fubara’s CoS …Restrains Police From Arresting Ehie
A Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt, yesterday, dismissed the preliminary objection by counsel to the Nigerian Police, Celestine Dickson, challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the fundamental rights suit by the Chief of Staff to Governor Siminalayi Fubara, Hon. Edison Ehie against the police for lack of merit.
The trial Judge, Justice Sika Aprioku, in a ruling, yesterday, assumed jurisdiction and held that the non-joinder of the Nigeria Police Force in a matter that the Commissioner of Police is a party to does not render the suit incompetent.
Justice Aprioku said the application by the Police lacks merit and thereby dismissed it with a cost of N100,000 in favour of Hon Edison Ehie.
Aprioku also granted the prayers of the counsel to Edison, Damian Okoro to restrain the Police from arresting, detaining, harassing, or inviting Ehie based on the trumped-up charges in the suit by Rt Hon. Martin Amaewhule in connection to the destruction of the Hallow chamber of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Speaking to newsmen outside the courtroom, counsel to the Police, Celestine Dickson, said he would study the judgment and advise his clients accordingly.
Dickson stated, “That is the wisdom of the court and we cannot criticise the wisdom of the court. The outcome of court decisions must bind parties.
“If you are not satisfied I think you study the judgement and take the next step. The court made it clear that in a couple of minutes, we were going to have copies of the judgement. That will give us the opportunity to look at the judgement and advise our clients accordingly.
On his part, one of the counsel to the Chief of Staff, Ibioku Mac-Barango said the judgment reflects the position of the law.
Fubara Expresses Confidence In Tinubu To Address Labour Concerns
In the midst of the ongoing nationwide protest organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has expressed confidence in President Bola Tinubu’s ability to address the concerns raised by the organised labour and alleviate their fears.
Fubara gave the assurance during the NLC’s protest to the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday .
The State NLC, led by its chairman, Alex Agwanwor, had joined its counterparts in other parts of the country to protest against high cost of living in the country occasioned by the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government in May last year.
Recall that there have been a series of protests across the country over the cost of living, inflation, insecurity and hardship among Nigerians.
The NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had on February 8 issued a 14-day nationwide strike notice to the Federal Government over the failure to implement the agreements reached on October 2, 2023 following the removal of the fuel subsidy.
Responding to a letter of demands presented to the governor by the State NLC, Fubara noted that the grievances outlined by the protesters primarily fell within the purview of the Federal Government.
The governor, who was represented by the Head of the Rivers State Civil Service, Dr. George Nwaeke, said, “To all who listened to every presentation of the labour leader as it is being read out, we can find out none is local, not originating from local source here. They are all national issues and we have hope in the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Federal Government. We have hope. And I know Governor Fubara will also deliver this message as presented by you to the President.”
Fubara further assured the protesters that his administration remained committed to alleviating the economic hardships faced by the people of Rivers State.
He highlighted initiatives such as the provision of palliative buses in response to the fuel subsidy removal and the ongoing development of 20,000 housing units for low-income earners.
The governor also emphasized his administration’s dedication to improving the welfare of civil servants, citing measures such as the employment of 10,000 youths into the state civil service, promotions, and the provision of bonuses.
He affirmed the significance of the issues raised and reiterated his commitment to prioritizing the welfare of workers in the State.
He, however, assured that the NLC’s demands would be conveyed to the President as presented.
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