The United staes government has condemned the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos.
On an American delegation that met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Counselor of the US Department of State, Thomas Ulrich Brechbuhl; expressed condolences to the victims of these shootings and urged the government of Nigeria to abide by its commitment to hold those responsible accountable under the law.
In a statement, spokesperson of the State Department, Morgan Ortagus: said the US delegation visit was part of a previously scheduled delegation that included Assistant Secretary Robert Destro and Assistant Secretary Denise Natali, to raise U.S. concerns about ongoing violence in Nigeria, human rights, religious freedom, and trafficking in persons, and to hear from senior Nigerian Government officials how they are addressing those issues.
The Vice President and the Counselor noted that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles.
Counselor Brechbühl and Vice President Osinbajo emphasized the importance of U.S. and Nigerian collaboration on common goals of improving security cooperation and strengthening economic partnership to foster mutual prosperity.
The Vice President however believed the plan of both the Federal and State Governments to investigate police brutality and prosecute erring police officers, create new State-based Security and Human Rights Committees, as well as providing compensation to victims of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units, would be a game-changer in ensuring an end to impunity.
Osinbajo stated on Thursday that at least 13 states in the country including Lagos, have since established Judicial Panels “to seek justice and to compensate those whose rights have been breached.”
The VP also disclosed that the President has already supported the decisions of the National Economic Council.
It would be recalled that on October 12, the Council, which is chaired by the VP with all State Governors and FCT Minister as members, resolved on the immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings to deliver justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units.
According to Prof. Osinbajo, NEC also agreed on the provision of monetary compensation to victims and prosecution of erring officers.
While responding to the concerns of the US government on instances of impunity in the country, the Vice President noted that these efforts are part of the Nigerian government’s commitment to implement extensive police reforms adding that the establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry nationwide will further ensure that the Police and other security agencies ensure the protection of human rights of citizens.
He said, “The concerns around impunity are some of the concerns that informed the establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry across states. Each state is now required to establish judicial inquiry that will look into cases of impunity, excessive use of force, extrajudicial killings etc., especially by law enforcement agents.”
“Aside from two representatives of Civil Society groups, these Judicial Panels will have youth representatives and a representative from the National Human Rights Commission, among others. Each State is also required to have what is called the Special Security and Human Rights Committee to ensure that law enforcement and security agencies protect the Human Rights of citizens.”
“Government is paying attention. The point we are making is that protests are a means to an end, but they cannot be the end. We are very optimistic that what we have put in place would eventually yield the best possible results for us,” Prof. Osinbajo stated.
The VP also highlighted what he termed false narratives about Nigeria, including the herder-farmer crisis, especially in North Central states, and the politics behind the allegations.
According to the VP, the herder-farmer crisis was exacerbated mainly because of land and resources struggle than from the misinterpreted Christians-versus-Muslim narrative.
Members of the United States delegation from Washington DC offered to collaborate with the Federal Government on these issues, a suggestion welcomed by the Vice President hoping that such cooperation will create better understanding of the issues.