Statement of the Problem
October 20 2020 was marked with bloodshed which can be described as extra-judicial killings. The Nigeria Army had opened fire on a group of peaceful protesters at Lekki toll gate, Lagos state. The protesters with the twitter hash-tag #EndSars had metamorphosed from a cyber outcry to the physical gathering following the Nigeria Police brutality on young people. The Nigeria Police unit called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) had been accused of the excessive use of force in discharging their duties. They have earned an ill-reputation as a unit in the Nigeria Police force that have hunted the youths of Nigeria and exude so much commitment to extortion, abuse, assault and eventual killings of Nigeria youths. SARS unit had failed in its duty of ensuring a society free of kidnapping, armed robbery and other heinous armed related crimes. The SARS unit has failed in the protection of life and property. They have consequently abused their office severally over the years, thereby giving room for the protest by the Nigeria youths to end the SARS unit.
Nigeria youths took to the streets (starting from Lagos state which later spread to other states in Nigeria) to protest against police brutality and killings. The protest had lasted for days which led the federal government to accept the demands of the protesters to end the unit. However, the protesters continued the demonstration when the federal government represented by the Inspector general of police ordered the doing-away of the SARS unit and the quick initiation of the Special Weapons and Tactical Squad (SWAT). This initiative did not sit well with the Nigeria youths who perceive the new unit as a new decoration on an old devil. This situation further triggered the protest as the demonstrators took the social movement to public places including the Lagos state Toll gate. At the night of 20 October, 2020 at exactly 6:50 pm the Nigeria Army fired live bullets at the protesters resulting to deaths of the armless protesters. According to theconversation.com (2020) at least 12 people were killed by the Nigeria Army as a result of direct use of firearms. The governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had denied any death of protesters, however after one week, he admitted that two people were killed (Businessday, 2020). According to peoplesgazette.com (2020) the Nigeria police was called upon to take possession and morgue registration of nine dead bodies by the Nigeria Army. The Nigeria police believed that the bodies were from the Lekki Massacre.
While the Nigeria Army has continued to deny its action, eye witness to the event, insisted that the Nigeria Army opened fire on the harmless protesters. The focus of this study therefore is to highlight, expatiate and establish the position of the Law both domestic and internationally on the subject of protest and the use of force during protest.
Objective of the study
The sole aim of this study is to expatiate and amplify the position of the law on protest and civil disobedience with respect to the Lekki toll gate extra-judicial killings.
- What is the position of the law on the use of force during protest and civil disobedience?
- Do the Nigeria law freely allow peaceful protest and empower citizens to pursue such?
Significance of the study
This study is carried out to in order to enlighten the research audience on the laws guiding protests and peaceful demonstration. It also seeks to shed light on the complexities of the laws in Nigeria on peaceful assembly and protest. It also seeks to reveal the vague nature of the Nigeria Law on the use of force during protest and porosity of laws guiding protest in Nigeria.
Scope and Limitation of the study
This study is limited to the Lekki Massacre, although reference to extra-judicial killings by the Nigeria Army are referenced. This study collects its facts and evidences purely from secondary sources and the laws examined in this study are limited to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), 1979 Public Order Act, 1960 Criminal Procedure Code, Nigerian Police Force Order 237, Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Nigeria (2019), and ACHPR Concluding Observations on Nigeria (2015)
Definition of terminologies
Massacre: an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of many people
Violation: a breach or infraction, as of a law, right, or obligation; transgression. an act of infringing.
Human Rights: Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected in municipal and international law.