Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammed Adamu over “intimidation, harassment and attacks on peaceful protesters campaigning against police brutality and corruption across the country”.
The suit followed widespread protests demanding reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Joined as Respondents in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Commissioner of Police Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu.
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1451/2020 filed on Thursday morning at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is seeking: “an order to protect and secure the fundamental rights of peaceful protesters across the country participating in the #EndSARS/#SARSMustEnd protests or any other peaceful protests, to wit: their rights to life, dignity, personal liberty, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order of injunction restricting the Federal Government and the police whether by themselves, their officers or agents, from stopping the protests and from harassing, arresting, detaining, or violating in any other ways the fundamental rights of Nigerians participating in peaceful protests across the country.”
A statement signed by the organisation’s, deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare read in part:
“The right to protest constitutes the very foundation of a system of participatory governance based on democracy, human rights, the rule of law and pluralism. Failure to respect and ensure the right to peaceful protest is typically a marker of repression.
“In a democracy, people must be given the freedom to come together to express their opinions on issues they care deeply about. The role of government is to facilitate that democratic participation, and not to restrict or criminalize it.”
The organisation is asking the court for “an order directing the Federal Government and Nigeria police to identify all perpetrators of brutality and human rights violations against peaceful protesters across the country, and bring them to justice without further delay.”
It is equally asking the court for “an order compelling and directing the Federal Government and Nigeria police to disclose the total number of protesters in the #EndSARS/#SARSMustEnd protests arrested across the country, their places of detention and details of allegations against them.”
Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, filed the suit on behalf of SERAP.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
“The fundamental human right to protest enables individuals to express themselves collectively and to participate in shaping their societies. The right of peaceful assembly is important in its own right, as it protects the ability of people to exercise individual autonomy in solidarity with others.
“A protest is a form of expression of views on current issues affecting government and the governed in a sovereign state. It is a trend recognised and deeply entrenched in the system of governance in civilized countries. It will not only be primitive but also retrogressive if Nigeria continues to stifle or cripple this right.
“Peaceful assemblies can play a critical role in allowing participants to advance ideas and aspirational goals in the public domain and to establish the extent of support for or opposition to those ideas and goals,” the suit partly read.
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