“OCCUPY NIGERIA”: A Documentation of Human Rights Atrocities Perpetrated by Nigerian Security Operatives
Report Injustices Series
Spaces for Change
The voices have been raucous, vociferous and obviously damning. The voices have been those coming from the deepest recess of anguish, and from the most unexpected of quarters – professionals, elites, businessmen and women, public figures, celebrities, showbiz stars, clerics, pregnant women, nursing mothers, the disabled, the elderly, babes and sucklings – all joined their voices to the calls, and their feet to the marches. Far from the usual protest crowd of activists, opportunists, charlatans and hoodlums, this has indeed been an unusual crowd. National Mirror, Saturday, January 14, 2012
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Acknowledgements This report is a compilation of the one-on-one interviews, media reports, eye witness accounts and personal experiences of active participants in Spaces for Change’s online platforms in the social media who participated in the Occupy Nigeria protests in various parts of Nigeria between January 9 and January 16, 2012. The report was compiled by Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri and edited by Ndubuisi Victor Ogwuda. Special thanks go to Kayode Ogundamisi, Emmanuel Ajibulu, Pamela Braide, Swasun Gimba, and Ogbonnaya Sunday who helped to verify some of the personal eyewitness accounts.
Amnesty International Publications First published in 2009 by Amnesty International Publications
Table of Contents Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................................. 2 INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................................................... 4 CHAPTER ONE ......................................................................................................................................... 5 Maiming, Shootings, Killings: Reports from the States ............................................................................. 5 CHAPTER 2 ............................................................................................................................................ 16 FUEL SUBSIDY CUTS: An Economic Policy of Fiery Colours ...................................................................... 16 CHAPTER 3 ............................................................................................................................................ 19 THE USE OF EXTREME VIOLENCE: .......................................................................................................... 19 An analysis from the human rights perspective...................................................................................... 19 Requested Reliefs………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….25
INTRODUCTION Beginning from January 2, 2012, millions of Nigerians, especially the youth, thronged the streets to take part in nationwide strikes and protests in response to the Nigerian government's withdrawal of subsidies on Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) on January 1, 2012. Overnight, fuel pump prices monumentally leaped from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also doubled in a country where the majority of the population lives in abjectly poor conditions. Under the auspices of the powerful protests, dubbed "Occupy Nigeria", Nigerians were not just expressing anger and outrage at the astronomical increase in goods and services and soaring hardship the subsidy cuts have propelled, but seized the opportunity to vigorously challenge official impunity, corruption, and profligacy by the government and political leaders. Many believed that the cutting petro-subsidies at a period when the country was already facing growing youth unemployment, rising insecurity, ethnic tensions and violent schisms that have a religious undertone, was ill-timed. The Nigerian police, and other security personnel, were extremely violent and brutal in effecting their anti-protest operations – maiming, injuring and killing victims. The protests, which were generally peaceful, assumed frighteningly alarming dimensions when the government security operatives clamp down started on unarmed protesters, using excessive force, teargas canisters and lethal weapons to quell what they termed as violent riots. In many cases, security agents actively connived with state governments to unleash terror on citizens, in an effort to either intimidate or entirely prevent peaceful gatherings and assemblies protesting against the subsidy cuts. Human rights atrocities soared. About 20 persons died in different parts of the country; scores received life-threatening injuries, while over 500 were arrested and cramped in detention centers across the federation, without any formal charges preferred against them. Majority of the casualties were aged between 18 – 35 years. At the back of these cold, impersonal statistics are the heart-wrenching experiences of blood-and-flesh people in intricate circumstances that involved “torture, terrorization, extra-judicial killings, loss of jobs, businesses, and properties, as well as of limb, liberty, loved ones, and life itself, among other gross violations of human rights. This study aims to examine the disproportionate targeting of young persons with extreme violence and extra-judicial killings by government security agents during the “Occupy Nigeria” protests. It started by documenting the most important facts about what happened; but these facts are either already well-known or easily available to interested persons. Therefore, this study goes beyond the facts to identify and discuss their social, legal and human rights implications, complementing the necessary discussion around the identification of strategies for improving the dwindling expectations that the government would faithfully respect its obligations under the international human rights treaties that the country has ratified.
CHAPTER ONE Maiming, Shootings, Killings: Reports from the States
A. Lagos Throughout the six days the strike lasted, Lagos quaked under the overwhelmingly fiery, wellorganized peaceful protests in different parts of the metropolis, grinding social and economic activities to a standstill. From Surulere (National Stadium) to Ikoyi down to Ikorodu, Iyana Ipaja, Ogba and, most especially, at the Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ojota, a mammoth crowd of protesters adopted a carnival style, with popular musicians, celebrities, politicians, religious leaders, to protest against the subsidy cuts. Quite possibly influenced by the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street and anti-Putin protests, the crowd swelled each passing day, both in size and ferocity, as unyielding protesters extended the scope of their demands to the extermination of corruption and mind-boggling profligacy in governance. On the morning of January 9, 2011, Ademola Aderinto1 was assaulted by a team of heavily armed police men and, shortly thereafter, shot by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Pen Cinema Police Station, Mr. Segun Fabunmi. The killing allegedly took place during an attempt by the police officers to disperse a group of young people who had gathered near Yaya Abatan junction in the Ogba area of Lagos to show their support for the strike action. Three others2 received life-threatening gunshot injuries, and are currently receiving treatment in Nigerian hospitals.
Inset is a picture of deceased Ademola Aderinto
Samuel Ebujo, 23; Alimi Abubakar, 40 and Monday Idara, 16.
Mr. Fabunmi led the patrol team that monitored the location where Ademola was killed. Eye witness accounts disclosed that Fabunmi opened fire on the unarmed protesters after his subordinates declined to carry out his shoot-atsight directive. The police abandoned both the dead and the wounded in a pool of their own blood, without facilitating their access to any emergency medical assistance. Despite being in very critical health conditions, the wounded were denied treatment at the two private hospitals they were rushed to. The hospitals insisted on the production of police reports as a precondition for treating them. An age-old directive, issued by the Nigerian Police Force, prohibits private and public health institutions from offering medical services to victims of gunshot wounds until a clearance is issued by the police authorities. A senior police officer 3 explained that the directive forms part of a broader strategy to effectively track wounded armed robbers and gun runners who attempt to access to treatment following a bloody duel with security agents. The three wounded victims were only treated after a police report was obtained from the Area G Police Station in Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos. 4
Two protesters, Rotimi Joseph and Azeez Taylor, were allegedly apprehended on Third Mainland Bridge on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. The arrested were among a motley crowd of protesters angered by the fuel hikes and spikes in living costs. As of January 16, 2012, both young men were still in detention at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) office in Ikeja, Lagos (SARS) without any charges brought against them.5.
Monday Agbonika, Chief Superintendent of Police, Divisional Police Officer, Isokoko Police Station, Agege, Lagos Late Ademola was left in a pool of his own blood
The two men were released on January 17, 2012 by lawyers from the Bar Center @ Ikeja High Court led by Adebamigbe Omole Esq and Adeshina Ogunlana.
An unidentified man riding a motorcycle (popularly known as okada) was gruesomely killed by an over-speeding motorist in the morning of January 11, 2012 in Ketu, outskirts of Lagos. According to eye witnesses, the handle of the motorcycle got stuck on the moving vehicle following a collision, causing the okada rider to be dragged along the tarred road until he was shoved into bonfire set up by protesters. He was burnt beyond recognition. Two other persons on the motorcycle sustained severe injuries
THE OGBA SHOOTINGS: A FACT-FINDER’S PERSPECTIVE With an aim to independently verify the circumstances in which the January 9, 2012 killings and shootings, by armed security forces, occurred on January 17, 2012, Spaces for Change (S4C) visited Yaya Obatan junction in Ogba, including the adjoining Abeokuta and Aderinto streets, to gather firsthand information and evidence from eye witnesses regarding the incident. In addition to the three survivors of the shootings, S4C interviewed several eye-witnesses all of whom shared fairly uniform accounts of their ordeals in the hands of security operatives. Pa E.A. Aderinto and the district youth leader, Abdulrahman Oseni, guardian and friend respectively to the deceased Ademola Aderinto who was brutally murdered on January 9, 2012 by the divisional police officer of the Pen Cinema Police Station, Agege Lagos, ASP Segun Fabunmi, narrated how the late fashion designer was cut down at the age of 26. The deceased Ademola was a habitual reader of sports news at the popular newsstand at Yaya Abatan junction in Ogba, Lagos. On that fateful morning of January 9, 2012, he joined a crowd of “free readers’’ who clustered at the junction discussing and analyzing the state of the nation. Some youths who had used tyres to block some portions of the road were playing football at the time. He had hardly spent up to 40 minutes when a team of heavily armed police men in a Rapid Response Squad van, with registration number RRS101LA, suddenly stopped at the junction, and swooped on the gathering in commando style, beating and maiming them in the process. Several eye witnesses heard ASP Segun Fabunmi order his men, “why are you wasting time? Finish them!” Sensing that his subordinates didn’t want to comply with his shoot-at-sight directive, he grabbed a rifle from a Sergeant among them, and opened fire on the youngsters. Four people were felled by his bullets as the crowd of “analysts” fled in different directions. Ademola died a few minutes later, leaving behind four lucky survivors – Alimi Abubakar, 40; Samuel Ebujo, 23, and Idara Monday, 16 – all of whom survived, but sustained life-threatening injuries. The policemen abandoned the dead and the wounded in a pool of their blood, and immediately escaped from the scene without facilitating their access to emergency medical assistance. The wounded were denied treatment at the Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital and the privately-owned County Hospital in Ogba, on the grounds that a police report must be obtained as a precondition for treatment. It was only after the police report was obtained from the Area G police station that the Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital attended to them.
The militarization of Lagos State
On the 6th day of the strike, Monday, January 16, 2012, Lagos witnessed what appeared to be a planned militarization of the state. Stern-faced soldiers invaded the city, traversing the length and breadth of the metropolis in armoured tanks, and military trucks ready to quell any gathering protesting against the removal of fuel subsidies. A larger concentration of soldiers was seen at the popular Gani Fawehinmi Park that served as a protest ground for several days. The soldiers barricaded one side of the road, and totally cordoned off the entrance into the park to prevent the protesters from gaining access to it. Those who dared to enter the park were beaten, brutalized, and chased away. That same day, a group of NLC officials walking toward the protest ground at Ojota were accosted by soldiers at Palm Grove, along Ikorodu Road. The NLC officials and several protesters sustained varying degrees of bruises and injuries while fleeing from the scene after the soldiers released teargas canisters to dislodge them.
B. Abuja, Federal Capital Territory On January 2, 2012, operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) arrested former House of Representatives member, Dino Melaye, and some protesters. The former lawmaker and several protesters were tear-gassed as they were signing a protest register at the Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeriaâ€™s capital, to show their resistance to the removal of fuel subsidies. Over 670 persons had signed the register before the police invaded the protest ground. A detachment of a heavily-armed squad comprising policemen, soldiers, and SSS officials led by the Commander of Brigade of Guards, Brigadier General Emmanuel Atewe, and the Federal Capital Director of the SSS, Mr. Okojie, barricaded the entrance to the square to prevent aggrieved persons from registering their protests against the fuel subsidy cuts. After all the
efforts to prevent the protesters from signing the register failed, the security operatives shot teargas canisters to disperse the crowd, and then whisked away the former lawmaker, together with several others, including some journalists covering the protests. Armed men of the Antiterrorism Squad and anti-riot policemen later barricaded the all the roads leading to the Eagle Square with their trucks to restrain public participation in the peaceful demonstration.
C. Ogun State An unidentified youth was unlawfully murdered on Tuesday, January 10, 2012, in Ibafo, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State, South West Nigeria following a bloody clash between the police and a group of protesters. One of the victims was in a 14-seater bus when he was hit a stray bullet fired by one of the police officers that was shooting indiscriminately. The police immediately took the corpse away to an undisclosed location. 6 D. Kano In Kano, the Nigerian Police opened fire on demonstrators killing two persons that included a fifteen year old, and injured about 30 people. A large crowd of demonstrators milled into the streets and marched towards the Government House where the State Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso resides to formally register their dissatisfaction with the Federal Governmentâ€™s withdrawal of fuel subsidies. Trouble started when the gate to the Race Course ground originally slated for the protest rally was locked forcing the relocation of the rally to the Government House and the Silver Jubilee Square. Hundreds of protesters were severely hurt following excessive tear-gassing and indiscriminate shootings by security operatives along the BUK, Ibrahim Taiwo and State roads in Kano. As the crowd fled from the scene, a nine year old was reportedly crushed to death in the ensuing stampede. The police authorities labelled the dead and injured youths as hoodlums, claiming that they took advantage of the demonstration to unleash mayhem and vandalize public properties. The police also alleged that the youths resisted the attempts by security men to quell 6
An unidentified youth shot dead by the members of the Nigerian Police Force.
the riotous situation, resulting in violent clashes between security agents and the angry protesters. Several persons were hit by stray bullets when the police started shooting sporadically to disperse the crowd. Despite the Red Crossâ€™ disclosure that it had treated 20 out of the 30 injured persons the agency counted in Kano, including 18 with gunshot wounds, the stateâ€™s police authorities claimed that only one demonstrator was shot. "In our record only one person died and 7 injured. We arrested 24 persons (who) attacked the government house," Kano Police Commissioner Ibrahim Idris told a news conference. Contradicting the claims of the police, eye witnesses allege that about two hundred youths were arrested and remain in detention centres across the state. No formal charges have been brought against the protesters several days after their detention. The highhandedness and brutality by security operatives, witnessed on the first day of the protests, propelled labour unions to suspend further rallies, but urged the public to show their dissent through sit-at-home actions. The state government also imposed a night-time curfew in the city, restricting movement of persons and goods during the curfew period. On the third day of the protests, heavy presence of armed security personnel was seen at the Liberation Square in Kano to prevent the degeneration of protests, which resumed on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. The protesters in Kano had vowed to remain at the Liberation Square before anti-riot policemen aided by the vigilante group of the state government moved into the Square around 1.30 a.m. in the morning and again, tear-gassed the peaceful protesters. E. Kaduna Protests in Kaduna were generally peaceful as Christians and Muslims united in an uncommon display of unity, nay solidarity and purpose, to protest against fuel subsidy removal which saw the price of petrol skyrocket to an all-time high of N141, and upwards, per litre. In an effort to dislodge the motley crowd of peaceful protesters, members of the Nigerian police aimed directly at citizens killing one Abdulgafar Mohammed Hadis in the process. The fracas caused the state government to impose a curfew a 24 hour curfew, which was widely perceived by the public as a measure to suppress popular resistance. The state government also announced an indefinite ban on public rallies and assembly. On January 12, 2012, the Kaduna State Government further relaxed the 24-hour curfew earlier imposed in the Kaduna metropolis. The Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Ballah Nasarawa, announced that the curfew would now take effect from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. beginning from Friday, January 13, 2012 to Sunday. January 15, 2012. The curfew had earlier been relaxed by four hours on Thursday, January 12, 2012 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. by the state government.
Nasarawa said the curfew was relaxed following the restoration of peace in the city. He also hinted that security agencies would review the curfew again on Monday, January 13, 2012 for possible lifting “if normalcy returns to the city”. F. Ibadan, Oyo State In spontaneous reaction to the sharp increases in fuel prices, massive protests and riots spread across different parts of the state in opposition to the government’s unannounced ending of fuel subsidies. One person, Olurin Olateju, was shot by a police man, on January 2, 2012 when he joined a massive gathering of students aggrieved by the astronomical hike in petroleum prices. Students of the various institutions, based in Ibadan, had embarked on peaceful demonstrations, in collaboration with the Coalition of Youths Against Fuel Subsidy Removal in the state. The protesters marched from Bodija market through Mokola roundabout and berthed at the Governor's Office in Agodi, Ibadan where they presented a letter to Governor Abiola Ajimobi for onward delivery to President Goodluck Jonathan. The shootings occurred after – while the students were on their way back from the state house. As the protests resumed again on January 9, 2012, the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, imposed a 12 hour curfew between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and restricted protests to hold only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. G. Enugu State Residents of Enugu were prevented from organizing protest rallies by security operatives in compliance with an order by the executive governor of the state, Governor Sullivan Chime, which outlawed public protests and street assemblies. In defiance to the order, residents and the labour union trooped to the streets to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to peaceful assembly and association. Security operatives however prevented the angry crowd from moving beyond a 100 meter radius arena which was surrounded by armoured tanks. Not done with the ban on street protests, the state governor had the labour leader, Festus Ozoeze, arrested and tried at a “tribunal” he set up at the Police Criminal Investigation Department where he was clamped in a cell. H. Minna, Niger State In Minna, the state capital of Niger State, violence snowballed into disturbing dimensions when demonstrators reacted angrily to the use of force and teargas by security operatives. Comprised mainly of very young persons, the protesters reacted violently to the police brutality by besieging and torching the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and seriously wounding one of the police officers attached to the Commission, Inspector Jibrin Yunusa. Confrontations between protesters and the police in Lambata area of Niger State on January 12, 2012 turned bloody following the shooting of two boys, named Yahaya Abubakar Adamu
and Rabiu Abubakar, by members of the police force. An Assistant Superintendent of Police was allegedly injured. 212 persons were arrested, and are currently languishing in detention centres without trial. Young men suspected to be street miscreants also vandalized some bill boards and the entrance gate of the Etsu Nupe Bida’s palace in Niger State.
Benin City, Edo State On January 9, 2012, three persons, suspected to be hoodlums, were reportedly7 shot dead by security operatives while attempting to loot some shops. The killings allegedly occurred when they engaged the police in a shootout. Many shops were burnt opposite the University of Benin (main gate) along Ugbowo Road. In a related development, persons believed to be street urchins hijacked the protests and invaded a popular bureau de change located at Erie Street end of Sakponba Road where they destroyed wares and looted large sums of money in foreign currency. At Ibiwe Street, a motorcycle was set ablaze and the windscreens of some vehicles parked along the road were smashed. The situation in Benin was so charged that the state government had to evacuate nonindigenes to the state police headquarters and 4 Mechanized Brigade.
The police shot and injured one of the protesters assembled at the King’s Square in Benin. They carried a mock coffin as a mark of disaffection with President Jonathan’s insensitive economic policies. Protesters refused to heed the orders of the police to vacate the protests ground. The police responded to their resistance, with violence, injuring many of them, in the process.
Vanguard Newspaper, January 10, 2012 @ 5; Compass News, January 10, 2012
J. Ilorin, Kwara State On January 3, 2012, protesters peacefully marched through Emir Road, Adangba area, Ibrahim Taiwo Road and the popular Post Office junction in Ilorin. However, the peaceful protest took a dramatic twist, around the Post Office junction, when the protesters were tear-gassed by armed security operatives, who shot several canisters to disperse them, causing panic and pandemonium. 23-year-old Muyideen Mustafa, was gruesomely shot dead by a policeman attached to the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Ilorin, while participating in the national protest against the removal of subsidy. The NLC stated8 that the perpetrators of this crime were armed policemen from the Area A Division, close to UBA Ilorin and the state police command along Sulu Gambari Road, Ilorin. The police authorities confirmed the death of the young protester. Denying its role in the shootings, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Dabo Ezekiel, alleged the protester was stabbed to death by a motorcyclist when he refused to join the protest. He absolved the Nigerian Police of any blame in the protesterâ€™s death However, several eyewitnesses discredited his account. K. Uyo, Akwa Ibom State The sudden increase in transportation costs saw drivers clashing with enraged passengers along the busy Oron road by Plaza, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Tuesday, January 10, 2012. But for the prompt intervention of security operatives and passers-by, the clash might have resulted in large scale violence. A stampede following the clash between the taxi drivers and their passengers resulted in injury to passers-by. Security operatives successfully brought the situation under control, using extreme force on the warring parties. L. Bayelsa Mobile policemen deployed to quell a demonstration by angry youths, numbering about 300, fired teargas canisters to disperse them, injuring many in the process. As early as 7 a.m., the protesters allegedly blocked the ever-busy Warri-Port-Harcourt highway, where they chanted songs condemning the suddenness of the subsidy removal by President Goodluck Jonathan without adequate, and open, consultations with relevant stakeholders and Nigerians. JTF spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Timothy Antigha, while confirming the incident, said the youth were not really protesting against removal of subsidy but were clamouring for their inclusion in the third phase of the amnesty programme.
NLC press stamen issued on January 4, 2012
In a related development, security operatives stopped a fuel subsidy removal protest by organized by the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) in Bayelsa State from holding on the streets of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital on Monday, January 9, 2012. The reason advanced was that the protests could spiral into violence. Despite obtaining an earlier approval to convene the rally scheduled to commence at 7:00 am at the Opolo junction, and terminating at the Ovom Government House, the police authorities suddenly withdrew its approval over an alleged security report that it could be hijacked by hoodlums to breach the existing peace in the state. Armed policemen backed by armoured personnel carrier were deployed to the Opolo axis, the supposed take off point of the protest rally. Addressing a news conference at the NUJ secretariat, the civil society groups in the state led by the Vice Chairman Bayelsa chapter of CLO, Engr. Williams-Odonmini Flint, said they were forced to retreat to the council premises because the police prevented them from going ahead with the protest. M. Abia State Abia State chairman of NLC, Comrade Sylvanus Eyeh, narrowly escaped being lynched by angry protesters who accused him of sabotaging the ongoing nationwide strike in the state. On Eyehâ€™s directive, workers assembled at the School Road Primary School, Aba in preparation for the rally to demonstrate their displeasure with the fuel subsidy removal policy. While the crowd of protesters waited impatiently for the commencement of the rally, Eyeh and other labour leaders, including the TUC chairman, were invited to Government House by Governor Theodore Orji who appealed to them to shelve the rally for fear that it would be hijacked by hoodlums alleged to have infiltrated the state. Violence ensued when Eyeh and his team arrived at the venue of the rally and announced the suspension of the protest rallies. Apparently infuriated by the alleged double-speak of their leader, the workers descended heavily on him, but he managed to escape in an unmarked vehicle. N. Owerri, Imo State A peaceful rally, dubbed 'Occupy Owerri', was organized by the coalition of the labour, civil society organizations and some physically challenged persons at Okigwe Road junction in response to developments in the country. The Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Owerri, Archbishop Anthony Obinna led opening prayers and speeches were delivered by eminent statesmen in the state, including Prof. Mark Odu. Prior to the rally, the conveners had met with the state governor, Rochas Okorocha who directed that the protests must be peaceful. A detachment of stern-looking and gun-wielding, anti-kidnapping squad, comprising mainly of police officers and members of the civil defence corps, were deployed to the scene to provide
security. Some way into the peaceful protests, the protesters were attacked by thugs while the anti-kidnapping squad stood by, and watched, without taking any steps to contain the situation. O. Sokoto State In spite of the heavy presence of security operatives around government buildings and other strategic places, some youths alleged to be members of opposition parties in Sokoto State took advantage of the protest to raze the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) located in Bodinga, about twenty kilometres from Sokoto metropolis. The incident which took place around 4 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2012, affected nearby shops close to the office at the junction of Danchadi village road. Lost to the inferno were vital documents, electronics, printers, office furniture, batteries and generators. Calm was restored in the town following the deployment of policemen to safeguard lives and property while patrol operations were intensified. Sokoto State police commissioner, Alhaji Baba Adisa Bolanta, confirmed the incident, adding that an investigation had been launched to fish out the perpetrators. P. Port Harcourt, Rivers State Port Harcourt, Rivers State was a theatre of pro and anti-subsidy removal protests, street marches, rallies and occupations by various groups and bodies. Allegations crowd-renting by politicians were rife. A group of people allegedly rented to organize rallies in support the removal of fuel subsides on Friday, January 13, 2012 intimidated and threatened oil workers, especially under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigerian (PENGASSAN) members and citizensâ€™ organisations and activists in a manner designed to provoke violence. A Port Harcourt-based source told Spaces for Change that the pro-subsidy removal group, suspected to have arrived from Abuja in customised T-shirts and face-caps took over some streets in Port Harcourt, conducting themselves in ways that instilled in fear in residents. A similar pattern of divisive protests were witnessed in Onitsha, Anambra State and Warri, Delta State as pro and anti-subsidy removal protesters took over the streets. They reportedly marched their separate ways, carefully avoiding each other. Minor skirmishes were recorded along the Okumagba Avenue/Estate axis in Warri which saw pockets of protesters and onlookers harassed. Violent clashes between protesters and heavily armed police officers were recorded in other parts of the country such as Lokoja, Jalingo, Maiduguri and one Raheem Mojeed in Osun State.
FUEL SUBSIDY CUTS: An Economic Policy of Fiery Colours
Many Nigerians find themselves in a precarious situation. What was previously a subject of intense engagement suddenly mutated into a frightening reality: the Federal Government went ahead with its plans to cut subsidies on PMS, which saw the price the petrol suddenly jump from N65 to N141 – and higher in some parts of the country. The abrupt withdrawal represents an ignoble contradiction from avowals and statements by public officials that the cuts would take effect from April 1, 2012. Notwithstanding its arguable economic logic, the fuel subsidy removal policy of President Goodluck Jonathan, ostensibly acting on advice from his economic management team, is widely acclaimed to be undemocratic, particularly its ill-timed nature and unilaterally-conceived implementation regime, painting the policy in fiery colours. Not even the House of Representatives’ resolution passed on Sunday, January 8, 2012, which advised a reversal of the fuel price to N65 could move the Federal Government to rescind its stance, and save the country from an imminent impasse – with the attendant human, material, and economic losses. Withdrawing fuel subsidies at a time when most people had travelled for the Christmas and New Year holidays, and were still stuck in different parts of the country, ignited fury and widespread outrage, as high and unaffordable transportation costs made people’s return to their base quite challenging. Prices of staple foods, general goods and services increased by over 200%, while small businesses, most of which largely depend on fuel to meet their energy needs, groaned under the new fuel price regime. The situation degenerated into open confrontation between the government and the governed, comprising mainly of labour unions, civil society groups, youth movements, traditional institutions, professional and religious organizations, grassroots’ movements, and diverse informal economy operators. Never have Nigerians been so strongly united in radical condemnation, common purpose and collective determination to challenge a policy extensively believed to be inhuman, insensitive, anti-poor, unilateral, and autocratic. Poverty is rife in Nigeria. Most state governors refused, or failed, to pay workers the recentlyreviewed minimum wage pegged at N18,000 ($112) p.a. In the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) annual Human Development Report, quality of living in Nigeria has consistently been among the most lowly-ranked in the world despite the country’s enormous oil wealth. Just a few months ago, enthusiasm, hopes and expectations were high that the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan, as the elected president of Nigeria, will usher in unprecedented transformation, and a marked increase in the social and economic wellbeing of the Nigeria’s predominantly poor people. Just only eight months into President Goodluck
Jonathan’s administration, Nigerians are having cause to compare and contrast their present experiences with the villainous political and socio-economic conditions endured under the military era. Nothing necessitates this comparison more than the vociferous volcano of public outrage which erupted in the form of “Occupy Nigeria” nationwide protests that started on January 2, 2012 in response to the Federal Government’s sudden, upward adjustment of fuel prices on New Year day. In the most despicable display of brute force and hostility, heavily-armed security operatives, with customary disregard of their Constitutional rights toward unarmed civvies, unleashed mayhem, terror, and violence on unarmed protesters in an effort to either repress or stop the demonstrations entirely. This first sign of the impending catastrophe was the riot act read to the Nigerian public by the Inspector General Police, Hafiz Bayero Ringim, on the eve of the January 9, 2012 planned strikes and protests led by the NLC, the Trade Union Congress, the civil society groups. He minced no words in warning that his men will decisively contain any acts of violence resulting from the strike actions and protests. In reaction to the statements, threats and counter-threats that flew back and forth between the federal government and police authorities on one part, and labour and civil society movements on the other part; the tension was terrifying. Ostensibly energized by this stern directive from their boss, police officers across the country garbed themselves with the cloak of overzealousness, perpetrating massive human rights atrocities and gross misconduct, unexpected in a civilian regime. As the accounts above indicate, security agents employed extreme force in effecting what they termed as anti-riot operations, deploying heavily armed troops of the police, the mobile police, the civil defence corps, the state security service, in trucks, armoured tanks, and on horseback. In some cases, their aim was to disperse protesters; in some other cases, they seemed to be on a deliberate mission to maim, harass, suppress and subdue peaceful protesters comprised mainly of unarmed young people. Except for a few known tremendously positive actions taken by some state police commands, denials and counter-claims by the respective state governments and the police authorities have trailed both the individual and community-wide reports of the reckless shootings and killings. On those few occasions, certain promising steps were reportedly taken to redress some acts of police brutality. In Lagos, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Yakub Alkali apologized for the killing of Ademola Aderinto by one of his men at Abatan, Ogba; he had the suspect arrested and investigation commenced. Kano State police commissioner toed the same line by identifying the erring police officer, and initiated steps towards his immediate prosecution and trial. The Kwara State government ordered a full scale investigation into the circumstances that led to the killing at Ilorin. Although the exemplary and professional handling of the carnage by some state police commands do not translate to justice for the bereaved families of the deceased, it represents an acknowledgement of the injustice perpetrated against innocent youths, and of the government’s legal and moral obligation to remedy the situation. It was potentially an important driver to move
the federal government to take concrete steps towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling its political, legal and human rights obligations to the citizenry as espoused under national, regional and international standard setting instruments.
THE USE OF EXTREME VIOLENCE: An analysis from the human rights perspective
The right to life Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
As an institution directly: Probably because the Nigerian Police Force is directly under the control and command of the Presidency: the federal government, NLC had held the Jonathan administration liable for the mass murders, and strongly demanded the government to take concrete measures to ensure that any police officers, or other law enforcement agents, involved in, or responsible for, any unlawful killing and abuse is brought to justice as required by, and in accordance with, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria and other regional and international human rights instruments to which Nigeria subscribes. The Nigerian 1999 Constitution totally outlaws the deprivation of life, and guarantees the right of every Nigerian citizen to life. Section 33 of the constitution provides as follows:
(1) Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
Similar guarantees are enshrined in Articles 4, 5 and 6, respectively, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights9, which Nigeria has ratified and adopted. Articles 4, 5 and 6 of the African Charter provide in relevant part: Article 4: Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.
.” African [Banjul] Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, 1520 U.N.T.S. 217, entered into force Oct. 21, 1986.
Article 5: Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited. Article 6: Every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person. The right to life is widely recognized by many of the world’s international instruments and institutions, to which Nigeria is a party. For instance, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) provides in Article 6(1): “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” 10 The United Nations Human Rights Commission has stated that the right to life is “the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted even in time of public emergency” and is a right that “should not be interpreted narrowly. 11” The Nigerian courts and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have held that extrajudicial executions constitute a violation of section 33 and Article 4. The African Commission (the Commission) held in Malawi African Association and Others v. Mauritania that “there can be no more direct violation of this right than the intentional or reckless endangerment and destruction of life12. Like the right to life and 10
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 999 U.N.T.S. 302, opened for signature Dec. 16, 1966.
See Human Rights Comm., General Comment No. 6: The Right to Life (Sixteenth session, 1982).
See Comms. 54/91, 61/91, 98/93, 164-96/97 and 210/98 (ACHPR 2000), 13th Annual Activity Report ¶¶ 12, 120
integrity of the person, the right to human dignity and to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment guaranteed by Article 5 is central to the African Charter and to the enjoyment of other rights. This right encompasses acts that cause serious physical or psychological suffering, including beatings and other physical violence. 13 The United Nations Human Rights Committee14also stressed: State parties should take measures not only to prevent and punish deprivation of life by criminal acts, but also to prevent arbitrary killing by their own security forces. The deprivation of life by the authorities of the State is a matter of utmost gravity. Therefore, the law must strictly control and limit the circumstances in which a person may be deprived of his life by such authorities. Based on the above judicial authorities, the resulting torture, assaults, shooting and killings that occurred during the anti-protest policing activities of the Nigerian Police Force and other agents of the state constitute violations of section 33 and article 4, 5, and 6 of the African Charter. Security operatives engaged in widespread physical violence against unarmed protesters, especially young persons, killing and injuring many. Various police commissioners and state governments confirmed the deaths and injuries perpetuated by security agents. The government carried out their alleged “anti-riot” operations without regard for the safety of the protesters by using excessive force, tear-gassing and opening fire directly at them, causing countless deaths and injury to several persons across the country. These actions deprived many Nigerians of their lives either intentionally or through an intentional or reckless disregard for their lives, inherent human dignity, and the integrity and security of their persons, and therefore constitute a violation of their rights under Articles 4, 5 and 6 of the Charter. Nigeria will not be able to proffer excuses or justifications to absolve itself of these violations of the fundamental human rights provisions of the Constitution, regional and international human rights treaties that the country is party to – as a signatory. Second, deaths that resulted from stampedes, and from injuries sustained during the quelling of “riots”, may be regarded as a violation of Article 4 in light of the broad interpretation of article 4 exhibited in the Ogoni decision. In this decision, the Commission intimated that exposure to pollution and life in extreme environmental degradation constituted a violation of article 4.
The right to health
Malawi African Ass’n, Comms. 54/91, 61/91, 98/93, 164-96/97 and 210/98, ¶ 115-18; Constitutional Rights Project, Civil Liberties Organization and Media Rights Agenda v. Nigeria, Comms. 140/94, 141/94, 145/95, 13th Annual Activity Report (ACHPR 1999) ¶¶ 45-48. 14
ICCPR treaty monitoring body
Section 17 (3) d) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution encapsulating the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy obligates all states of the Federation to direct their policies towards ensuring that there is adequate medical and health facilities for all persons. Re-echoing the same safeguards even stronger, Article 12(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) obligates State Parties to the Covenant to recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The Red Cross treated over 600 persons, across the country, who were severely injured by the police and armed security operatives during the nationwide protests. Throughout the period of the unrests, many hospitals remained closed, meaning access to health services to those in critical need of same was denied – particularly the injured.,. In most cases, victims of gunshot injuries were denied treatment based on the non-production of police reports. In Kano State, hospital sources confirmed the avoidable death of two persons owing to the delay in bringing them to the hospital. Several patients in a general hospital in Gombe were reportedly15 evacuated by their relatives following the absence of doctors, nurses to attend to them. When the state fails to prevent systematic denials or violations of citizen’s right to healthcare, especially in periods of emergency, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a private or public practitioner, this failure is a fundamental human rights violation. The retention of regressive health policies – such as the requirement for a production of a police report before treatment that hinder citizens in critical health conditions from accessing healthcare, or impedes private and public health institutions from responding to the particular needs of vulnerable and marginalized groups amount to gross violations of the right to health. Section 339 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act (Failure to supply necessaries) provides that any person who is charged with the duty of providing another with necessaries of life who fails to do so without a lawful excuse may be guilty of a felony and imprisoned for three years if the life or health of the other is endangered or permanently injured. This provision directly implicates health care practitioners whose profession calling demands them to provide necessaries for others who cannot provide same for themselves as a result of their sickness. The failure, or refusal, by certain health care professionals to perform this duty, which resulted in risks to life or health of the afflicted parties is a criminal omission for which the offending hospitals personnel, may be arrested, prosecuted, and punished. The severity of the crime (a felony which may garner a sentence as long as three years) further underscores the severity of such omissions and imposes an obligation on the state to take action by launching investigations, suing and prosecuting the offenders, and seeking compensation and justice for the victims. According to the Inter-American Court, when a State
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allows private actors to “act freely and with impunity to the detriment” of recognized rights, that state is violating the rights of its citizens 16.
The right to peaceful assembly The freedom of association; participation
One issue that has been thrown to the front burner is the capacity of security agencies to contend with civil protests in a democratic environment. From Enugu to Edo, to Kano, Kaduna, Abia, Imo and in many other locations, the deployment, by federal and state governments, of heavily armed security forces to suppress peaceful assemblies protesting against the removal of fuel subsidies were rife. State governors such as Enugu Governor, Sullivan Chime, placed total bans on public gatherings despite the absence of civil strife or security threats. Several rallies, and protest marches organized by youth coalitions, labour unions, traders, religious and traditional institutions were frequently met with reprisals characterized by excessive use of force and serious human rights violations. By virtue of section 40 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests. Likewise, Section 17 (2) c) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, provides that “in furtherance of the social order, governmental actions SHALL be humane. There is hardly any sign that showed that security operatives were humane in dealing with the situation, nor acted in ways consistent with what is generally accepted in a civilian regime. In particular, on the last day of the strike, January 16, 2012, soldiers cordoned off major highways and protest grounds to silence and prevent people from embarking on peaceful protests. These actions by security forces constitute egregious human rights infringements. In fact, the scale and intensity of the human rights violations that occurred during the six days of the strike actions do not only amount to gross violations of the Constitution and several human rights treaties that protect the right to peaceful assembly, but are of such a nature that require them to be classified as crimes against humanity. Total denial, or non-disclosure, of information related to the casualties or circumstances of the protests reinforces the perception that the state governments were acting in connivance with the police authorities. In cases where hoodlums allegedly hijacked the protests, security forces used excessive force to contain the situation without regard to the impact on the local population.
The right to an adequate standard of living The right to food
Velasquez Rodriguez Case, Inter-Am Ct. H.R. OEA/Ser. L/V/III.19, doc 13, #164 (Aug. 31, 1988))
Nigeria is a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which obliges state parties to take steps, to the maximum of available resources, with a view to achieving the progressive realization of economic and social rights and citizens. Pursuant to article 11.1 of the Covenant, States parties recognize “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions”, while pursuant to article 11.2 they recognize that more immediate and urgent steps may be needed to ensure “the fundamental right to freedom from hunger and malnutrition”. This right imposes a minimum core obligation on states to refrain from taking retrogressive steps which roll back gains made in the enjoyment of social and economic rights. Introducing policies and economic measures that increase the costs of living, trigger hardship and poverty in a country where majority live in abject poverty – less than 2 dollars a day - place government in violation of its international human rights obligations. Nigerians are desperate for a government that responds to their most basic needs: personal security and improvements in the standard of living. They are outraged that government policies and expenditures undermine the provision of both. Of specific significance is the spiralling effect of the fuel subsidy removal policy on the access of the poor to food. The effect of the subsidy cuts propelled extremely sharp increases in food prices, thereby frustrating the realization and enjoyment of the fundamental right to freedom from hunger and malnutrition. The prolonged nature of the strikes created a critical shortage of food and other household supplies, threatening the survival of the civilian populations. The protests cost the country an estimated 600 million dollars a day, with threats to shut down in production of ~200,000 barrels of oil per day. The UN Committee17 affirms that the right to adequate food is indivisibly linked to the inherent dignity of the human person and is indispensable for the fulfilment of other human rights enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights. It is also inseparable from social justice, requiring the adoption of appropriate economic, environmental and social policies, at both the national and international levels, oriented to the eradication of poverty and the fulfilment of all human rights for all 18.
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR treaty monitoring body
Substantive Issues Arising in the Implementation Of The International Covenant On Economic, Social And Cultural Rights: General Comment 12 (Twentieth Session, 1999) The Right To Adequate Food (Art. 11)
Spaces for Change (S4C) urges the government of Nigeria to address the serious and massive violations of the rights to life, dignity, security of person, property, health and food through the following measures:
Launch high-level investigations across the states, including the Federal Capital Territory with a view to establishing the identity of the security officials and perpetrators of the shootings killings, arson, looting and destruction of properties.
Initiate legal action and prosecution of all persons indicted in various criminal activities and human rights violations throughout the period of the “Occupy Nigeria” protests.
Immediately order the release of all persons imprisoned, or detained, in connection with the fuel subsidy removal protests.
Immediately withdraw soldiers from the streets of Lagos and bring an end to the reign of terror, fear and intimidation across the state.
Cease all threats and actions by both the state and federal governments to prevent, suppress and intimidate protesters participating in peaceful assemblies demonstrating their resistance to the removal of fuel subsidies.
To compensate all person and families for the loss of lives of family members.