ARTICLE 19: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 October 2021:
ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the security forces’ crackdown on the assembly of the Islamic Movement (IMN) in Nigeria also known as the Shiites that reportedly led to the death of at least eight people and police arresting at least 57 others on 28 September in Abuja.
On Tuesday 28 September, members of the banned IMN group were peacefully gathering to commemorate Arbenz, 40 years since the murder of Imam Hussein’, a religious event largely celebrated in Muslim countries. Media and human rights organisation reported that at least 8 people were killed and at least 57 people were arrested by the Police in Abuja.
The spokesperson of the group claimed that security forces shot dead eight Shiites. Nigeria Police denied those allegations of killings, claiming to have arrested 57 of them and recovered petrol bombs and bags of stones. The IMN group was banned in 2019 by a court qualifying their activities as “acts of terrorism and illegality.”
Findings from our interviews with local witnesses confirm no violence from the demonstrators. ARTICLE 19 wants to remind that an unauthorised protest is not necessarily illegal and that the evidence so far available clearly shows that the police did not need to use such extreme force against this gathering.
“The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and belief are enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution. The Nigerian authorities must end the pattern of repression of peaceful assemblies through the excessive use of force against demonstrators. They must ensure their security forces refrain from using unnecessary and excessive firearms to repress civilian assemblies. The authorities must further ensure prompt, thorough and independent investigations into the cases of excessive use of force and that perpetrators are brought to justice,” said Bulakali Alfred Nkuru, Deputy Regional Director of ARTICE 19 West Africa.
Ensuring that the fundamental rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly are respected and protected for all Nigerians without distinction of any kind and in accordance with its Constitution is among recommendations Nigeria accepted during its last UPR review. Nigeria should, therefore, make it a priority for all State security agencies.
Nigerian authorities must respect the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and belief enshrined in Sections 38 and 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria as well as Articles 21 and 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Nigeria is a party.
The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states: In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
The principle of non-discrimination of The United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law clearly stipulates that : In performing their duties law enforcement officials shall not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, disability, property or birth, or other similar criteria.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the Nigerian authorities to conduct independent investigations to bring all perpetrators to justice. In addition, the police should ensure that everyone can exercise their right to peaceful assembly and protect those assembling from attack. Furthermore, all persons arrested simply for their beliefs should be released by the authorities.
If Nigeria was a small country, with a smaller population, one has to wonder which category it will fit in the global order of religious intorrence, terrorism, and frankly a state that is not at ease with itself. Even the British colonial authorities couldn’t cobbled together this country of more than 200 million people, and the largest concentration of black people anywhere in the Global community , ruled by black people, for black people. Throughout its history, Nigeria have never managed to bring it divergent ethnic and religious differences under one umbrella, with single purpose, to be seen as one country and one nation, working together for the common good. The 1966 coup by General Ironsi, in which most of the Northern leaders, mainly from the Housa Fulani ethnic group, like the first primer of Nigeria, Abubakar Tafawa Belewa was murdered, sow the seeds of the security challenges facing present day Nigeria.
The 1970s Biafran war, the religious conflicts we see today, the Boko Haram insurgency, the kidnapping of school children for ransom, the Niger delta crisis all has its roots to 1966 coups and counter coups that followed that period. Nigeria can be compared to a gaint octopus, made up with all sorts of fingers and limbs. And they all exist with a single purpose to keep the octopuses alive. And that is the main body we call the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Despite all the challenges facing this great African nation, Nigerians are proud, independent minded and above all else industrious people, that have contributed to the African story for which we can all be proud off.