Human Rrghts activists have told the Nigerian Government not to criminalise peaceful protests by citizens calling for good governance.
They described the plan by security agents to clampdown on #ENDSARS protesters on Wednesday in Abuja as an attempt to subvert democratic tenets in the country.
According to the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo Dare Atoye, who spoke with SaharaReporters on Wednesday, #ENDSARS protesters had the right to return to the streets to protest.
He condemned the undue persecution of participants and members of the #ENDSARS movement by the government with indiscriminate arrest and freezing of bank accounts.
He said, “We have not seen any commitment on the part of government and they must take these demands seriously. The #ENDSARS protesters has every justification to return to the streets.
We have recorded situation where people have been unfairly treated and government is not responding and they are going after the protesters one by one.
“It is possible that #ENDSARS people are coming out to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters who have been unduly profiled and being persecuted by government.
“They have every legitimate reasons as guaranteed by the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria to stage protest to organise rally when they so deem fit.
“They have right to assemble and make their demands and tell government to stop persecution of their colleagues.”
Atoye said some decisions recently made by the government coupled with the increment in the price of petrol were enough to trigger another round of protest.
He, therefore, called President Muhammadu Buhari to call the security agents particularly the police to order to stop the threat against unarmed citizens and allow the peaceful protest to hold.
Another activist and member of #BringBackOurGirls Movement, Ms Maureen Kabrik, berated the government for attempting to stifle the civil space, adding that protest was not a crime.
She said that protest was a constitutionally guaranteed right of citizens all over the world and any attempt to criminalise it would be resisted by Nigerians.
She said, “The truth of the matter is that protest is not a crime and people are free to protest for anything as long as it remain peaceful. This democracy that we have today some people actually died for it while some of them were jailed just for us to have democracy.
“It is only tyrant and despotic government that are afraid of protest. The government have nothing to fear or to hide. Government who communicate and articulate its stand on issues clearly to the citizens have nothing to worry about.
“For people to come out and protest, it is their freedom as guaranteed in the constitution. The President we have today was on the street several time. So precedent have been set, so don’t let us take ourselves back to the dack day.
“Protest is a right and no one can criminalise it even all over the world. The #ENDSARS protesters have rights if they want to come back to the streets, no one should stop them from expressing themselves. I don’t see any sincerity on the part of this government. They have never been an administration that can be trusted.”
SaharaReporters, New York