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December 3, 2020

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US-based professors urge Biden to sanction Nigerian officials implicated in attack on protesters

4 min read

Eighty-one scholars of African Studies have written a letter to the United States President-elect, Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, urging their incoming administration to impose a travel ban on Nigerian officials culpable in the attack by security personnel on peaceful #EndSARS protesters.

The scholars sent the letter to the Biden-Harris Transition Team on November 13.

They said the abuse of protesters’ rights demands unequivocal diplomatic condemnation from the United States.

“Such gross human rights violations require additional action by the United States to eliminate any complicity with official actions blatantly at odds with American foreign policy principles, to advance the work of democratic reform in Nigeria, and to reinforce our shared obligations to international human rights agreements,” the letter reads in part.

Signatories to the letter include Carl LeVan of the American University, Chiedo Nwankwor of Johns Hopkins-SAIS; Patrick Ukata of the Halsik Group, Rita “Kiki” Edozie of University of Massachusetts, Boston; and Olufemi Vaughan of Amherst College.

Others include John Campbell of Council on Foreign Relations, Steve Feldstein of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome of Brooklyn College – CUNY, Onwubiko Agozino of Virginia Tech, Matthias Chika Mordi of Johns Hopkins – SAIS; Brandon Kendhammer of Ohio University, Omolade Adunbi of University of Michigan – Ann Arbor; and Shobana Shankhar of Stony Brook, SUNY.

For several weeks last month, Nigerian youth protested against police brutality. Dozens of people, including protesters and police officers, eventually died in the violence that followed the protests.

On October 20, soldiers shot at protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. While eyewitnesses said many were killed in the incident, the state government said only two people died. A judicial panel on inquiry is now looking into the incident in Lagos.

But even as that investigation is ongoing, the federal government has begun a clampdown on promoters of the protests by seizing their international passports, freezing their bank accounts and arresting some individuals.

Not pleased with the development, the professors said the government has an obligation to uphold the right to non-violent protest and ensure the safety of protesters, in accordance with Chapter IV, Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution.

“Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also guarantee the right to peacefully assemble, and Article 5 prohibits torture and cruel and degrading treatment of persons.”

Professors’ demands

The dons said as the Donald Trump‘s administration nears its end, U.S. foreign policy must prepare to reset and revitalise relations with Nigeria, hence they want America to use the authority granted under the Global Magnitsky Act to place targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on politicians, officials and other Nigerians implicated in recent human rights abuses.

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“These incidents should include but not be limited to the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre, various attacks on protesters since October 8, and other abuses of Nigerians engaged in peaceful free speech activities.”

The scholars also sought “the suspension of security assistance and military sales to the Nigeria Police Force and security forces implicated in or broadly culpable for violence utilised against #EndSARS protesters until the Buhari administration fully complies with relevant laws and policies to ensure accountability for human rights violations.”

“Support the authorisation of a panel of experts under the United Nations Human Rights Council. The panel could investigate human rights violations by the Nigerian security services, identify alleged perpetrators and hold them accountable. Such a process could broadly engage Nigerian authorities alongside other stakeholders in order to achieve a public accounting that would promote truth, healing, and democratic reform.

“Support the International Criminal Court’s ongoing preliminary examination in Nigeria by offering assistance to a widened inquiry that includes the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre and SARS-related atrocities. A critical first step in providing such support is for the administration to immediately rescind the June 2020 Executive Order used to sanction the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and one of her senior officials.

“Thereafter, the U.S. should offer in-kind support to the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC in its efforts to gather evidence about individual perpetrators accused of atrocity crimes arising out of SARS abuses,” the letter read.



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