WITH the formal opening of preliminary investigations of the shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters by military personnel at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020 by the International Criminal Court, ICC; hope has now risen over the prospects of justice for the victims.
On the fifth day of the two-week protest, a petition asking the ICC to prosecute the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for allegedly ordering his men to disperse the protest with live bullets was signed by over 100,000 people.
The involvement of the army in forcefully quelling the protest at Lekki just hours before a curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government took place also precipitated another round of petitions to the ICC by a myriad of social advocacy and human rights groups in Nigeria.
The Court’s Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, twitted that her office was monitoring the events in Nigeria. This investigation will enable the Court to determine whether those accused of crimes against humanity have a case to answer.
It is highly relieving that the ICC has stepped into this matter. Although the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, NHRC, and many state governments have set up panels of inquiry into the needless carnage and anarchy that it sparked off nationwide, Nigerians have very little faith in the ability of these efforts to do justice.
In Nigeria, such panels are used to bury problems rather than solve them. The Federal Government and the military authorities had already denied involvement in the Lekki shootings and have been sowing doubts in the minds of people even though the shooting was recorded live and broadcast on television, the social media and by international networks.
This is where the involvement of the ICC (which has successfully dealt with the highest cadres of human rights offenders from Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo Democratic Republic, Serbia, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan and others) in the extant Nigerian case is welcome.
We expect those who gave the order to shoot unarmed protesters with live firearms and those who carried out the order to be exposed and fully sanctioned under international law since our own laws are incapable of giving us justice.
We also hope that the ICC will look into other mass killings that have been taking place under this dispensation since 2015. These include the over 300 Shiite Muslims massacred and buried in Zaria, the 150 pro-Biafra unarmed protesters extra-judicially killed across the South East between 2015 and 2016 as documented by the Amnesty International, AI, and other episodes of bloodletting under the current regime.
It is our hope that the ICC’s belated but welcome interest in Nigeria’s situation will help curb the excesses of leaders and armed state agencies, and protect the right to life of lawful protesters.