‘Epic Opportunity To Colossal Catastrophe’, Rights Lawyer Petitions US Delegation To Nigeria On #EndSARS Over Killings


The Oasis Reporters



October 24, 2020




The letter below was sent to the US Government delegation that visited Nigeria this week.



Dear Assistant Secretary Destro,



We commend your recent trip to Nigeria and your resilient and rapid response to the brazenly brutish brutality of the Buhari regime in massacring innocent protesters.

The fact that you chose to travel to Nigeria this week despite the ongoing #EndSARS protest underscores the reality that they were not considered a security threat.

Conversely, the fact that the government of Nigeria, despite your previously scheduled high level human rights mission to Nigeria, chose to massacre defenseless young citizens, shows the utter disdain and sheer contempt that the Buhari regime has for you and for its youth.

The #EndSARS protest is not just Africa’s George Floyd Moment – the Nigerian protests went from an epic opportunity to a colossal catastrophe.

Africa’s most populous nation is in the thrall of a fortnight of unprecedented protests. Tensions from striations in oil-rich poverty-wracked Nigeria predictably led here but it’s the how and who that befuddles observers – Nigeria’s youth have risen up against an older, interminable, fossilized generation!

Experts have long warned of the youth bulge potentially imploding the country in a “youth bomb” and this may well be it.

Much like the George Floyd murder by cop on video, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians filled streets in multiple cities to #ENDSARS – the brutal police squad that arrests innocent young adults accuses them of internet scams if they have iPhones and either extorts them or disappears them after much torture and punishment.

Unlike George Floyd, it’s arguable what one case stirred the firestorm but there is one recent incident that was especially egregious and could be Nigeria’s own Breonna Taylor.

Last month SARS raided the home of a young man but didn’t find him. Instead, they abducted his fiancée, a recent grad who just completed a mandatory year of service to the nation.
By the next day, her family were called to the morgue to identify the remains of their daughter Ifeoma Abugu. She had been sexually assaulted.

As horrific as her story is, the larger problem is that most Nigerian families not inured by political and economic dominance have a similar story to tell.

I have been a Human Rights lawyer for over a quarter century but the scale of the police brutality is mind boggling even for me and I have my own stories.

In 1996, I had issued a statement requesting an investigation into the assassination of a prominent female activist. I was whisked away and tortured by the dictator’s brutish Strike Force and the army till I was hospitalized. And I was the lucky one.

One night, one of my fellow detainees was taken away. The duty cop told us he wasn’t coming back. He’d been blindfolded and stuck in a trunk of a vehicle and driven away to be killed in the Bush, he stated matter-of-factly.

Over two decades later a victim of torture and detention told how a security official visiting his cell made a phone call. “Should I waste him?”. The answer must have been in the affirmative because the officer, there and then, shot him dead in his front. The victim I spoke to’s crime was becoming friends with the wrong official’s daughter.

If such killings have been going on for the last quarter century and the reports of bodies floating in rivers, an acid pit and mass graves are true, then the police brutality fatalities far exceed those by terror group Boko Haram. Ranked the world’s deadliest terrorists for year 2015, they had killed about 48,000 people by reliable accounts.

Needless to say, myself and other experts have warned about a Nigerian implosion for years but we thought it would be bifurcated by region or religion.
The Why however is different – brutality with impunity was the camel’s back breaker.

The Who is also different. While we surmised that viciously persecuted Christians could reach a breaking point, youth from all religions were the first to break (Nigeria is the deadliest place in the world to be a Christian going from 60% of global Christian deaths in 2012 to 90% in 2018.)

Then we come to the How. US threat assessments warned that the pandemic lockdowns could push millions of Nigerians who subsist on daily hustle in the informal economic sector into widespread robbery and looting for survival. This turned out not to be the case as the reports of Nigeria’s demise were greatly exaggerated to paraphrase Mark Twain.

The young generation that is standing up to an older generation is quite an anomaly in mostly gerontocratic Nigeria. In the last 21 years of democratic rule, Nigeria has recycled two former military dictators from the 70s and 80s – validating the joke that in Africa you have General elections – the General is elected!

Present ruler Major Gen. Buhari is in his 70s and been a governor and oil minister in his 30s. When I was in middle school then, we were taught that children were “the leaders of tomorrow.” Today my son is in university and Buhari is ruler again. There is legitimate concern over who stole “tomorrow.”

Despite the hellish misgovernance – lack of electricity, medical care, security, opportunity etc, the protesters have been generally and assiduously non-violent.

They have showered hostile policemen with food and drink – killing them with kindness in Abuja the capital where their protests cause light gridlock. However in Lagos , the sprawling mega city which has more people than New York, there were reports of anti-police violence.

Curiously, The Who is complimented by the Who Else in what is becoming the word’s first glocalized post-Covid revolution.

Twitter’s inventor is one of several international figures who have expressed support for the #EndSARS campaign. While it has not trended as much as #Bringbackourgirls in honor of the hundreds of Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, #EndSARS has been shorter on hashtags sphere but greater in actual action while #bringbackourgirls was greater in hashtags which helped release 100 of the schoolgirls (112 are still missing 6.5 years later.)

Buhari’s dinosauric regime is ill-quipped for the bit-coin using, social media savvy, kindly young folk him being more suited to shooting, gassing, killing and detaining. Add to the mix the shadowy hackers Anonymous who have joined the #EndSARS movement and hacked several of Nigeria’s governments’ corruptly overpriced websites (one agency spent $5000 to “create“ its Facebook page which is free.)

The young protesters’ peaceful approach is uniquely a great opportunity to course correct Nigeria without a bloody revolution.

But Gen. Buhari’s callous indifference and penchant for quashing critics with force while failing to defeat terrorists is an avoidable catastrophe.

The driver who picked us from the airport told how he had to reverse his car to flee a band of thugs who set cars on fire and beat motorists with sticks and machetes at 3am.
These Pro-government counter protesters were spotted in govt vehicles imported to attack the real protesters.

This chilling strategy of outsourced police brutality lends credence to suspicions that Buhari similarly enables the Fulani militia (or Private Militia Contractors)who have been slaughtering Christians.

The Lekki massacre Tuesday night of protestors in Lagos confirm the pincer strategy- sandwiched between the conscripted PMC and the deadly Nigerian army.

Therefore the Nigerian government has been consistently the most pervasive nationwide organized crime syndicate. The ruling APC disrupted the 2019 elections in Lagos with thugs and devastated the #EndSARS protest in Lagos with a military onslaught.

For now, the leaders of tomorrow say tomorrow is way past due and that is hopeful but their brutal shoot down is dreadful.

The Lekki protesters prayed in Islam on Friday and in Christianity on Sunday only for the government to spray them with bullets on Tuesday. The Nigerian government responded to police brutality with military barbarism.

Accordingly,

1. I urge you to provide support for a justice and accountability project to provide legal assistance to victims and ombudsmen with regard to adjudicating these human rights abuses.

2. I also ask that you support a Truth and Reconciliation Initiative in Nigeria as well as a Crimes Against Humanity Tribunal to address these atrocities

3. I ask for visa sanctions against administration officials over the citizens’ killings.

4. I ask for technical support for a victim compensation fund.

In conclusion, Joseph Fiberisima is the name of my fellow detainee abducted from PortHarcourt in 1996 and brought to Abuja where he was extrajudicially executed by the Nigerian Police.

Supporting initiatives such as the above will bring justice or closure to families in the dark on their missing loved ones just like Joseph’s.



E. Ogebe
Special Counsel
Justice for Jos Project

US NIGERIA LAW GROUP


Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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