CIVIL SOCIETY COALITION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (CSCSD)
FIGHT INSURGENCY AND STOP INTIMIDATING #ENDSARS FRONTLINERS AND SUPPORTERS – CSCSD
Short-lived was the respite Nigeria got after the civil society actors took to the streets protesting against police brutality (a.k.a. #EndSARS protest) as being perpetrated by Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS). Scores of citizens were killed as a result of this protest which started in September, 2020. Thereafter, some state governments set up judicial commissions/panels of enquiry to look into the causes of the crisis and proffer solution accordingly. As this was on going, the Central Bank of Nigeria acting the script of the powers that be approached a Federal High Court in Abuja through a motion ex parte procuring the order freezing the accounts of 20 #EndSARS frontliners and supporters. Earlier, the passport of one of the #EndSARS supporters was impounded thus preventing the person from travelling out of the country.
According to Punch account, in the case with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020 filed before Justice A. R. Mohammed, the CBN made no mention of the fact that the 20 accounts were owned by persons involved in the #EndSARS protests, but instead told the court that the funds might have emanated from terrorist activities. It defies logic to read that the Head of the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Governor’s Department of CBN Mr Joseph Omayuku had conducted an investigation suggesting that the owners of the accounts may have been involved in terrorist activities. Why has this pontificating and spurious allegation led to freezing of these citizens’ bank accounts? CBN presented them as terrorists which they are not but peaceful protesters who have the right to do so under the law.
We at CSCSD believe that the manner in which the ex-parte request was granted was suspicious and too hasty more so that the affected citizens were not allowed fair hearing before freezing their accounts. Even the ex-parte motion came after the freezing perhaps to support the CBN’s perfunctory action! Freezing of the accounts of the peaceful #EndSARS protesters and their supporters is another exhibition of the shrinking civic space being perpetrated by the government over time against civil society. This clamp down action of the Federal Government through one of its organs, CBN, is hasty, preposterous, and violation of the rule of law, and threatening freedom of association as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
CSCSD feels that even the arrest, attack and outright killings of the peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate and in other parts of the country are tantamount to intimidation, oppression and muzzling of free speech reminiscent of Decree 2 of 1984, the conduct which is suffocating our nascent democracy. It is cruel and barbaric therefore unacceptable.
Around the 9th of November, an Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) convicted six Nigerians over funding of Boko Haram. The UAE’s National Security Bureau said investigation of the Nigerians “confirmed their involvement and membership of the Boko Haram and had been involved in the cash transfer totalling $782,000 to Boko Haram” according to Daily Trust. It is appalling that Nigerian authorities that are supposed to leverage on this conviction are ostensibly taking sides with the convicts. More appalling is the behaviour of the authorities in their hasty tracing and freezing of the bank accounts of the supporters of the #EndSARS peaceful protesters and outright neglect and turning blind eyes to tracing the bank accounts of sponsors of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Worse still CBN’s tagging the unharmed peaceful protesters carrying microphones terrorists is sheer wickedness and unpatriotic while the real Boko Haram terrorists carrying guns are being treated with kid gloves by the federal government.
We therefore ask the CBN to immediately unfreeze the bank accounts of the 20 #EndSARS frontliners and supporters, and withdraw the spurious charges against them while at the same time tender an unreserved apologies for the embarrassment they have caused the nation and those lawful Nigerian citizens who were only exercising their constitutional rights. We implore the government to stop being vindictive and release the seized international passports of the #EndSARS supporters and lift ban on their travels.
The federal government should conduct thorough investigations into the activities of the families of and those six Nigerians who were convicted by the UAE authorities over funding of Boko Haram and in particular investigate Alhaji Sa’idu and Alhaji Ashiru the two undercover Boko Haram agents based in Nigeria mentioned by UAE authorities, and should make the outcome public.
As a matter of urgency, the federal government should apply the same #endSARS expedited measures in also investigating the sponsors of Boko Haram both in and outside of Nigeria including their source of funds, energy, weapon, food and other logistical supplies, and make the findings public while the culprits no matter their social status should be brought to book. Federal government should use its federal might to fight insurgency, banditry, robbery and kidnapping, and stop intimidating #EndSARS frontliners, supporters and those who may have to protest against bad policies now and in the future.
Government should refrain from sending soldiers to quell riots or curtail protests as they are not trained for this. Killing defenceless protesters is anathema as soldiers are mandated to be protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria and, therefore, should be directing their guns at boko haram threatening the very existence of Nigeria. Those soldiers found culpable of killing innocent civilians should be brought to book accordingly while those that killed policemen too should also be made to face the music.
In order to demonstrate seriousness on the war against insurgency, the federal government should openly declare and gazette Boko haram insurgents as terrorists and halt wasting public funds on rehabilitating the “repentant” insurgents that continue to maim and kill our soldiers because boko haram is an ideology whose re-orientation and subsequent rehabilitation normally takes a long time to change.
Governments at all levels should pay critical attention to the issue of security by promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels without which the realisation of the 2030 Agenda would be a mirage in Nigeria.
*D. Tola Winjobi (PhD)
Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development (CSCSD)*