Joseph Jibueze, The Nation
A GROUP, the Concerned Professionals, on Wednesday accused the Federal Government of dictatorship and a betrayal of trust by hounding #EndSARS protesters rather than addressing the issues they raised.
It faulted judges who granted orders freezing the bank accounts of the protest coordinators and abridging their rights.
The group warned the government against forcing the youths into exile because they demanded good governance, saying intimidation will only increase tension in the polity and scare away foreign investors.
In a statement by Dr Muiz Banire (SAN), Dr Isuwa Dogo, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, Olutola Mobolurin and Prof. Pat Utomi, the Concerned Professionals said it was “unfortunate” that the Federal Government has embarked on a “witch-hunt” and “victimisation” of the #EndSARS protesters.
The statement reads in part: “It is unfortunate that rather than developing trust in the youths that their complaints would be convincingly addressed as promised when the protests were on, the government has embarked on victimisation and witch-hunting of the sponsors of the protests by seizing their passports, arresting and detaining them sometimes with no or on spurious charges and freezing the accounts of the said sponsors.
“Sadly, the government that is not trusted by the people, which led to the elongation of the protests, is behaving in a way that further undermines the people’s trust in government. There is clearly a betrayal of trust and breach of good faith in the negotiation with the EndSARS youths.
“It is the promise to look into the complaints of the youths that made many people counsel an end to the protests. The recent approach of the government is a reinforcement of the lack of trust the youths have about the government from the onset.”
The group faulted the freezing of the #EndSARS promoters’ accounts for six months, saying the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) lacked the right to obtain such order.
The statement added: “It is regrettable that some magistrates and judges are being used to deny citizens their fundamental rights of hearing and sanctioning illegality by denying bail for ordinarily bailable allegations and freezing orders of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by way of ex parte application to freeze the accounts of the leaders of the protesters for six whole months!
“It is certain that the CBN lacks the locus to trigger such a process in the context of these events. The courts are being manipulated by those who feel threatened by the awakening of the youths.
“We expect the judiciary to appreciate the issues involved in the cases before them and be part of the social re-engineering of the country by treating cases in a pragmatic manner.
“We have seen all this before and we know where it will take us. A dictatorship is obviously being slowly but obdurately unwrapped.
“We condemn the victimisation efforts being visited on the EndSARS protesters in totality, urge maturity on the part of the government and stop the adoption of undemocratic and inhuman methods in dealing with the aftermath of the EndSARS protests.
“The protest is a constitutional and democratic right which cannot earn the kind of victimisation going on.
“We, therefore, urge the government to implement the five-for-five accepted demands of the youths and engage them genuinely.
“No amount of intimidation or harassment will work as it will only exacerbate tensions in an otherwise fragile polity.
“We also urge the traditional rulers and progressive politicians to avoid them being used to sanctioning these acts by conflating the EndSARS protests with the criminal arson and looting that followed the protests.
“These rounds of regional meetings of traditional rulers and political leaders smack of manipulation to create a pseudo-national consensus on the continuing and planned violation of the rights of citizens. Fundamental human rights are universally cherished rights.
“The country, especially in its current economic straights, should avoid becoming a pariah state as its youths are forced into exile as in the NADECO days.
“The news of the appearance of one of the activists of EndSARS in Canada is ominous. Our youths must not be made exiles just for speaking up. Neither must they come to harm in the country.
“We cannot turn our youths into Zombies. They are assets to us and they are the future we dream of and the hope of those who seek the lost glory we sought in our youth but dashed by the poor governance choices we made in the last 30 years. We must give them a voice and a chance to recapture what we lost.
“Our pauperised citizens need a country engaged in cooperation with the rest of the world and investments from investors, both domestic and international. The fear of instability drives away investment, local and foreign.
“Even without the recent problems Nigeria ranks higher than Ghana in the index of failing nations and is not surprisingly rewarded with higher Direct Foreign Investment.”