The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), through its Country Rapporteur for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa, Commissioner Maria Teresa Manuela, and the Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty, Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa, Commissioner Ndiamé Gaye, is following with deep concern and growing alarm the reports of excessive use of lethal force against protesters in Nigeria and the resultant loss of lives and injuries.
The Commission expresses its shock about the widely reported human rights violations perpetrated in the context of the use by Nigerian military of live ammunition against protesters in the Lekki Toll Gate area of Lagos on 20 October 2020 resulting in the regrettable and unnecessary killing of an unknown number of people and bodily injury to others. The Commission reiterates its strong condemnation of these killings and the acts of excessive use of force, endangering various rights guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) including the rights to life, bodily integrity, freedom of assembly and the right to peaceful protests. The Commission also condemns in the strongest terms the prevention by the military of access by emergency medical personnel who sought to provide medical assistance and rescue those who sustained injuries during the operation by the military unit.
The Commission underscores that the resort to undue use of force against protesters, in the current context of expression of outrage by protesters against the perpetration of brutalities and abuse by law enforcement and security institutions, only exacerbates an already tense situation and cannot be the answer to the legitimate demands of protestors for an end to police brutalities, for accountability, and for reform of security institutions and governance in Nigeria.
The Commission is also concerned that criminal actors and other opportunist elements may exploit the situation, thereby endangering the peace and stability of Nigeria if the situation is not resolved urgently through amicable process within the framework of applicable human rights standards and principles. The Commission notes with serious concern the escalation of acts of violence, incidents of lootings and attacks on property by non-state actors taking advantage of the prevailing tense situation in the context of the protest that has been ongoing since early October.
The Commission welcomes the steps taken by Nigerian authorities. The Commission encourages the Government of Nigeria to build on the steps it has taken earlier, including the dissolution of SARS and announcements of the establishment of commissions of inquiry both at Federal and States levels, for listening to the voices of the protesting youth and addressing their grievances. While the Commission recognizes the need for upholding law and order, it underscores the human rights imperative of ensuring that force is used only as a last resort measure and in compliance with the principles of proportionality and necessity.
Given the deterioration of the situation in Nigeria, the Commission calls on the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to:
1. Take immediate action against the military unit that was involved in the use of live ammunition against protestors and initiate urgently transparent and independent investigation into the reported excessive use of force that led to death and injury at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos;
2. Take further appropriate measures for the de-escalation of the situation by withdrawing military forces deployed for policing the situation and end the use of the military forces in the enforcement of curfews;
3. Heed the call by the Commission and others for ensuring that security institutions do not resort to the use lethal force as a means of policing protests and carry out the policing of assemblies and enforcement of law and order in full compliance with the principles of minimum use of force as a last resort measure, necessity, precaution and proportionality as provided for in the Commission’s Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly;
4. Initiate a process for amicable resolution of the situation by giving due hearing to the voices of the protesting youth and based on applicable human rights standards and principles as a necessary measure for averting any threat to the peace and security of Nigeria and depriving criminal actors and other opportunist elements from exploiting the situation to the detriment of the stability of Nigeria; and
5. Implement the measures for comprehensive reform of law enforcement and security institutions in Nigeria proposed in the Commission’s statement of 14 October 2020 based on consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including the youth and civil society, with a view to make the laws, doctrine, training and practice of law enforcement and security institutions conform with human rights norms.
The Commission reiterates its readiness to accompany Nigeria in its effort to ensure compliance with the standards of the African Charter by its law enforcement institutions.
Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso
Country Rapporteur for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Commissioner Maria Teresa Manuela
Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa
Commissioner Ndiamé Gaye
Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty, Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa
22 October 2020