The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has called on protesters to be peaceful in conducting their protests and urged Nigerian security operatives to exercise restraint in the handling of protests.
This was disclosed in a statement by the organization on Tuesday and comes on the heels of statements by other International bodies and personalities, who have expressed worry over the nature of brutality meted on protesters, especially after the Lekki shootings.
— ECOWAS-CEDEAO (@ecowas_cedeao) October 27, 2020
“ECOWAS Commission notes with concern that demonstrations by Nigerian youth calling for Police reforms, particularly the abolition of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police force, accused of misconduct by those demonstrating, have turned violent,” they said.
The body said it recognizes the right to peaceful protests and also called for protesters to be peaceful, due to the rising reported cases of lootings post protests during the curfews.
“While ECOWAS recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and protests, it also wishes to stress that those rights should be exercised in a nonviolent manner.
“In this regard, ECOWAS calls on all protesters to remain peaceful in the conduct of their demonstrations. It also urges the Nigerian security operatives to exercise restraint in the handling of the protests and act professionally.”
The tone of ECOWAS’ message is different compared to the rest of other stakeholders including the statement of the Lagos State Governor, House of Reps Speaker, and the Vice President, who all acknowledged that the protests were peaceful and the protesters were attacked and that the violence from the curfews was not done by the protesters but by hoodlums.
The ECOWAS message is also the first statement by West Africa’s most important regional body since the #EndSARS protests started in the first week of October.