Former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has condemned the Lekki Tollgate incident, which resulted in a number of deaths, saying that any restrictions on the rights of Nigerians, including the right to peaceful assembly must follow the Constitution.
In a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, on Wednesday, Ekweremadu 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.
He spoke in the light of constitutional provisions which empower only the president to declare a state of emergency under which movements can be restricted in the face of security threats.
The lawmaker 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”.