The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 116 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to arrest soldiers and police officers responsible for the assault and killing of peaceful #EndSARS protesters in 2020.
The group and the Nigerians are asking the court to “direct and compel President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate steps to ensure the arrest of soldiers and police officers indicted by the Lagos #EndSARS panel report for the shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll-gate, and police brutality cases.”
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1482/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP is also asking the court to “direct and compel President Buhari to bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible for the shooting of peaceful protesters, and to ensure access to justice and effective remedies for victims, including adequate compensation.”
This was disclosed in a statement by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare on Sunday.
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “It is in the interest of justice to grant this application, as it would improve respect for Nigerians’ rights, the rule of law, and public confidence in government institutions, as well as reduce the growing culture of impunity of perpetrators.”
Also according to SERAP, impunity for crimes committed against protesters in the country is growing and failure to bring perpetrators of the crimes to justice will further embolden them.
“A failure to bring to justice those indicted for the shooting of peaceful protesters is, in itself, a violation of the rights to life and human dignity,” it added.
SERAP said, “The flagrant lack of accountability for past violations of the rights of protesters has given rise to a growing sense of powerlessness, and resentment not only among victims and their families but among the general public.
“The failure to promptly arrest, and bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for the shooting of peaceful protesters, and to ensure access to justice and effective remedies for victims and their families amounts to a travesty of justice, as justice delayed is justice denied.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to ensure that those still being detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights are immediately and unconditionally released, and all charges against them are dropped.”
It is further seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to ensure full and effective respect for the human rights of everyone across the country, including the rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”
Joined in the suit as Respondent is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi reads in part: “The Buhari administration has the constitutional responsibility to allow victims of human rights violations to find out the truth in regard to acts committed, to know who the perpetrators of such acts are, and to obtain justice and adequate compensation.”
It further reads, “The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a set of principles relating to states’ obligations to the victims of serious violations of international human rights law that makes clear that states are obligated to investigate violations of international human rights law thoroughly and impartially, and where appropriate, take action against those allegedly responsible.
“States also have the duty to investigate and, if there is sufficient evidence, the duty to submit to prosecution the person allegedly responsible for violations.
“President Buhari has a constitutional duty, being the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation and the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, to ensure access to justice and effective remedies for victims, and that there is no impunity for allegations of human rights violations.
The suit followed the submission of the Lagos #EndSARS panel report on the Lekki shooting incident and police brutality cases to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The leaked report is said to have indicted some soldiers and police officers for “the shooting of protesters, leading to grievous injuries and deaths”.
The panel reportedly found that “the shooting of protesters at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020, was unwarranted, excessive, provocative and unjustifiable in the circumstances of the state of the protests, which was peaceful and orderly.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.