Former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Senator Betty Apiafi, on Wednesday condemned the Lekki Tollgate incident, which resulted in a number of deaths.
Ekweremadu in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Uche Anichukwu, said that any restrictions on the rights of Nigerians, including the right to peaceful assembly must follow the Constitution.
He called for justice for everyone, who had fallen victim of government’s actions or inactions in the face of the nationwide protests.
He said the rights to peaceful assembly remained guaranteed by the Constitution and any unilateral imposition of curfews was unconstitutional.
He, however, stressed the need to arrest and prosecute criminals, who had taken advantage of the protests to cause loss of lives and properties.
Ekweremadu said: “The events at the EndSARS protest at the Lekki Tollgate and use of maximum force on unarmed protesters last night is another low for our nation and her democracy and should be condemned by men and women of conscience across all political divides.
“Therefore, my heart goes out to the wounded and the families of the dead. Everyone involved in this irrational and horrendous act must be held accountable in order to preserve the sanctity of human lives, our democracy, and what is left of our dignity in the comity of civilised nations”.
In calling for restraint and constitutionalism in dealing with the protests, Ekweremadu said: “Times like this call for dialogue and restraint on the part of government and utmost patriotism and professionalism on the part of those charged with securing lives and property. Anything to the contrary may be tantamount to pouring petrol on a raging inferno.
“Unfortunately, government in dealing with the present situation, has taken even more dangerous steps by deploying soldiers as well as by imposing restrictions on the rights of Nigerians without following the provisions of Sections 45 and 305 of the 1999 Constitution.
“And doing so exposes both those who are deploying the soldiers and those engaging in human rights abuses under such extra-constitutional restrictions to trial by the International Criminal Court in future.
“The 1999 Constitution is very clear on how to deal with matters like this if government perceives genuine threats to the lives and properties of Nigerians. But to wake up and impose curfews is a residue of military rule that has no constitutional backing.
“Also, hoodlums, who capitalised on the protest to commit violent crimes that resulted in loss of lives and burning down of public and private properties and businesses must be fished out and made to face the law”.
He appealed for calm and restraint by all.
Senator Apiafi who represents Rivers West in a statement in Abuja, said: “Today is a sad day for Nigeria.
“How can a democratically elected government use the military to kill Nigerian Citizens, the same people who elected us into positions, the same people we swore to protect as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution?
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 as amended provides for the fundamental human rights of its citizens.
“Section 13 which talks about the fundamental objectives of Government, clearly states that it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of the chapters of this constitution.
“Section 14 further provides that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. It further declares that;
“(a) the sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its power and authority.
“(b) the Security and Welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
She added that Section 40 also states that “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 association for the protection of his interests”.
From the constitutional provisions above, the gunning down and massacre of young, unarmed and defenseless peaceful EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, on Tuesday 20th October 2020, by the military is unconstitutional.
“As the Chairman Senate Committee on Women Affairs, and a Mother, I join all mothers to say that we find the maiming and massacre of defenseless Nigerian Youths as an inhumane act on the part of the government under a supposed democratic dispensation.
“These youths were only demanding that government lives up to its responsibilities of protecting their lives from Police brutality, and for a better future for the Nation.
“Sadly, the government which negotiated with Terrorists dispatched Soldiers and massacred defenseless youths, even while holding the Nigerian flag and singing the National Anthem.
“I believe Tuesday 20th October, can be described as the darkest day in the year 2020 and a travesty of constitutionally guaranteed right to life, and the most profound surprise of all is the stoic silence of our President, Muhammadu Buhari.
“My heart bleeds, and I condemn this callous act in all ramifications. And I implore the President, Muhammadu Buhari to stop this heinous crime, investigate and ensure that the military officers responsible for the Lekki massacre are brought to book,” Apiafi said.