The Center for Human and Socio-economic Rights (CHSR) on Saturday condemned the arrest of some #OccupyLekki protesters by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force.
At least 10 protesters expressing their misgivings over the proposed reopening of the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos were arrested by police on Saturday morning and taken to various detention centres in the state.
But the CHSR in a statement jointly signed by its National President, Comrade Alex Omotehinse and the General Secretary, Comrade Ewajane Osowo, and sent to Ripples Nigeria, demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all the protesters.
The police, according to the group, had no reason to arrest the peaceful protesters.
The statement read:
“The protesters were protesting against the reopening of the Lekki toll plaza, the venue of the 20th October 2020, shooting that led to the death of some #ENDSARS protesters and left several others injured.
“Information before us is that the arrested and brutalized protesters have been taken to the Adeniji Adele Police Station and the State CID, Panti.
“The situation that prompted this protest was the action of the Lagos State government to open the toll plaza when the judicial panel of inquiry it set up to look into the complaints of aggrieved persons is yet to round up their investigations.
“The basis of the #ENDSARS protest then was the current state of insecurity situation in the country, the high level of corruption, asking for free and qualitative education, and demanding accountability from those who are saddled with the responsibility of handling the country’s economy.
“Whereas any of these demands have not been addressed, the protesting youths have been turned into criminals with these arrests and we wondered how the protest has become a crime that warrants this undemocratic, unconstitutional, and unlawful arrest?
“It is a fact that there are still some petitions submitted to the panel by some who claimed to have lost relatives in the 20th October 2020, shooting and their cases have not been heard. We believe this may form part of the reasons they are demanding that the reopening of the Lekki toll gate should still wait till the panel rounds up and submits the report/outcome of their findings.
“Reports reaching us now claimed that over 10 innocent Nigerian youths have been arrested by the police at the toll gate and taken into custody and it was also reported that any passerby that passed through the toll gate without an identification card would be assumed to be a protester and arrested by the police.
“It is important to draw the attention of the police to yesterday (Friday) press release by the Lagos State Attorney General where, in one of the paragraphs, asked the Commissioner of Police to take note that the protesters have the right to protest as enshrined in Section 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Therefore, we urge the leadership of the Lagos State Police Command to call his men to order and to stop harassing innocent citizens who were demanding their rights legitimately without breaking any law.
“Nigerians have the right to peaceful protest, therefore, the idea of allowing themselves and their officers to be used by the state to attack innocent citizens is unacceptable.”