LEKKI TOLLGATE: YRC CONDEMN REPORTS OF BEATING AND BRUTALISATION OF ARRESTED PROTESTERS
WE DEMAND ARREST AND DILIGENT PROSECUTION OF ALL OFFICERS INVOLVED AND IMMEDIATE SACK OF THE LAGOS STATE CP, HAKEEM ODUMOSU, WHOSE CRIMINALISATION OF PEACEFUL PROTESTERS LAID THE FOUNDATION FOR THE BRUTAL CONDUCTS OF THE POLICE PERSONNEL
WE CHALLENGE THE LABOUR MOVEMENT TO BREAK OUT OF ITS SILENCE IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE COUNTRY FROM SLIDING INTO DICTATORSHIP AND ANARCHY
It is no more news that the 40 protesters arrested on Saturday 13 February 2021 were subjected to torture and brutalization while in custody. Reports by one of the arrested protesters and a leading member of the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC), Comrade Moshood Oshunfurewa, speaks of “beating and brutalization”, written statements forcibly collected with the aid of “blows and canes” and “smashing of protesters’ phones with gun butts” by the police personnel.
Also they were arraigned before a mobile court on totally false three-count charges before they were released on bail. The processing of their bail lasted into the late night as officers tried to extort bribes and financial inducements. This garish account of Comrade Moshood has been corroborated by other sources including a viral video of beating and dehumanization which has surfaced online as well as statements from other arrested protesters like the popular comedian, Mr. Macaroni.
We strongly condemn this development and demand the immediate arrest of all officers involved as well as their speedy and diligent prosecution. We also demand that all charges against the arrested protesters be dropped.
The conduct of the police on February 13 is not just worrisome but a threat to liberty everywhere. A video has surfaced online showing how some women travelling in a commercial bus miles away from Lekki were harassed, assaulted and nearly arrested by a policeman but for the intervention of passersby. Their only crime was discussing the arrest and brutalization of peaceful protesters at Lekki tollgate. The policeman who was traveling in the same bus accused them of insulting the police and proceeded to drag them to a police station nearby!
We call on the labour movement especially the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), youth groups, NGOs, professional organizations like the NBA, ASUU and NUJ to publicly condemn this slide into brutal dictatorship.
We reject attempts by the Lagos State government and Police authorities to cynically feign concern about the brutalization of protesters. Statement credited to the Lagos police CP, Hakeem Odumosu, promising investigation drips with insincerity. As far as the YRC is concerned, the government and police authorities literarily called out the dogs on the peaceful protesters and therefore are equally guilty as much as the officers who laid their hands on the protesters.
Recall that prior to February 13, official statements from the police authorities falsely compared protesters to hoodlums out to destroy and burn down Lagos and warned of brutal consequences if the protest went ahead, in effect criminalizing peaceful protesters. An attempt was also made to organize a counter-protest which could have led to violent clashes if it had not been called off at the last minute. So from all of these indicators, the government and police authorities cannot claim ignorance of the eventual outcome of their agenda to criminalize peaceful protest and outlaw the right to freedom of assembly.
It is in this light that we demand the immediate sack of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu.
In conclusion, the event of February 13 shows that the objective of the #EndSARS protest which was to end police brutality is far from being achieved. Instead what we have seen is a further worsening of attacks on democratic rights. Things will get worse unless we act collectively.
To this extent, the YRC strongly believes that there is an urgent need for a summit bringing together radical youth, socialists, workers, trade unions, NGOs and civil society activists to collectively discuss and work out a plan of action to begin to organize to resist these new developments in the polity especially the attempts to outlaw protest and the widening suppression of the rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.